Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology

By Sally Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Writing Afro-Brazilian Culture in New York

RUTH LANDES was adrift in New York in the winter following her return. Her nomadism was beginning to affect her work. War had broken out in Europe. Reuniting with Edison Carneiro was unlikely. Elmer Imes had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in Nashville. Ruth Benedict had decided to stay in California for her sabbatical.

Having spent most of the years 1932—36 in Ojibwa, Sioux, and Potawatomi communities, 1937—38 at Fisk, and 1938—39 in Brazil, Landes barely recognized the anthropological world in New York. It did not help that her research contract with the Myrdal Commission was for only three months (later extended to four) and the terms were vague: "Nobody knows what he wants, except 'Negro ethos' ” (RL to RB, August 20, 1939, RFBP), she wrote Benedict. There were few job openings in universities. She turned to two unlikely candidates for mentorship: Melville Herskovits and Margaret Mead. On her own initiative, Landes approached Herskovits as one of the few American anthropologists interested in Afro-Brazilian culture, as a colleague of Arthur Ramos and Edison Carneiro, and as the only other cultural anthropologist hired by Gunnar Myrdal for the "Negro in America” Project. 1

At Benedict's suggestion she contacted Mead (RB to MM, August 24, 1939, RFB). Mead, at 38, was happily preoccupied with her first pregnancy and a poor choice for Benedict's surrogate. On October 22, 1939, she wrote Benedict that "[Ruth Landes] does seem to have a very definite capacity to learn, and I can see how you think she is worth taking trouble over [but] I still find her personally trying” (MMP, box B1). Landes, however, was unaware of Mead's criticism and had written to Benedict just a few days earlier: "I'm very grateful for all your attention, and for Margaret's.... I've seen Margaret a lot.... She has been generous and stimulating, and lovely

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Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ruth Landes - A Life in Anthropology *
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations *
  • Series Editors' Introduction *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One - Beginnings *
  • Chapter One - Immigrant Daughter *
  • Chapter Two - New Woman *
  • Chapter Three - Student at Columbia *
  • Part Two - Apprenticeship in Native American Worlds *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Four - Maggie Wilson and Ojibwa Women's Stories *
  • Chapter Five - Lusty Shamans in the Midwest *
  • Part Three - She-Bull in Brazil's China Closet *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Six - Fieldwork in Brazil *
  • Chapter Seven - Writing Afro-Brazilian Culture in New York *
  • Chapter Eight - The Early Ethnography of Race and Gender *
  • Conclusion - Life and Career *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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