The Collected Works of Edward Sapir - Vol. 3

The Collected Works of Edward Sapir - Vol. 3

The Collected Works of Edward Sapir - Vol. 3

The Collected Works of Edward Sapir - Vol. 3

Excerpt

Sapir is so well remembered for his work in linguistics that his role in cultural anthropology, represented by a much smaller number of publications, has been overshadowed. It is clear, however, that he hoped to make a major contribution to anthropological theory and to the social sciences in general, and that many of his contemporaries looked to him to do so. When Ruth Benedict invited him to address a symposium on anthropological theory in 1938, the invitation reflected Sapir's reputation as cultural anthropologist, and the increasing interest theoretical issues in anthropology and other social sciences had come to have for him in the preceding dozen years. Unfortunately, by 1938, Sapir was too ill to take up the invitation. Many of his ideas remained unpublished at the time of his death in 1939. Although the bibliography of his published writings reflects the importance these subjects held for him in the late 1920's and throughout the 1930's, this output does not represent the sum of what he had planned to produce.

For many readers today, Sapir's status as a cultural anthropologist probably rests on an even smaller corpus: the papers appearing in David Mandelbaum 's (1949) Selected Writings of Edward Sapir. We are pleased to be able to assemble a more complete set of materials here, including some important items never previously published.

The present volume contains all of Sapir's publications, as well as all of his recorded lectures, not previously published, on the concept of “culture,” and on its relationship to the individual as a member of society. These works derive from the second half of his career, when he was less engaged in fieldwork than in earlier years and more engaged in teaching. It was a period in which social scientists and other American academics increasingly interested themselves in psychology and psychiatry. These trends paralleled events in Sapir's personal life as well (see Darnell 1990, Chapter 7). It was a time, too, when the Boas school of anthropology, of which Sapir was without question a core member, began to shift its focus from a strong emphasis on culture history and regional comparisons toward the patterning of culture as an integrated system and the impact of culture on the individual personality. Even the label of the subdiscipline changed, from “ethnology” to “cultural . . .

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