The Derek Freeman Papers in the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego

By Sather, Clifford | Borneo Research Bulletin, January 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Derek Freeman Papers in the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego


Sather, Clifford, Borneo Research Bulletin


The personal papers of the late Derek Freeman, including correspondence from 1938 to the time of his death, field notes, and documents concerned chiefly with Samoa and the so-called Mead-Freeman controversy, but also covering other aspects of his career, have been deposited in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego. The acquisition of this collection began in 2000, a year before Derek Freeman's death, and was largely completed in 2002.

When I visited the Library with my wife on 3-5 September 2002, the greater part of the Papers were already catalogued, except for the most recent acquisitions and a collection of personal diaries and journals that are still in the possession of Monica Freeman, Derek's widow. Among the latter, of special interest, is Monica Freeman's own journal which she kept during the years 1949-51, when she and Derek lived with the Baleh Iban in what is now the Kapit Division of Sarawak. By singular good fortune, Monica and her daughter Jennifer were in San Diego at the time of our visit, staying with Professor Donald Tuzin and his wife, and we were able to enjoy a delightful picnic lunch together, all of us, on the University of California-San Diego campus, under the shade of eucalyptus trees in an especially Canberra-like setting. Professor Tuzin is a former student of Derek's and will, many of us hope, become, in the future, his intellectual biographer. With the encouragement of Professor James J. Fox, Monica Freeman is currently editing her Sarawak journal for eventual publication by the Australian National University's Pandanus Press.

While the Tun Jugah Foundation library in Kuching, Sarawak holds the original copies of Derek Freeman's Iban field notes, together with photographs, pencil sketches, tape recordings, and other documents relating to Freeman's Iban field research, there are a number of things in the Mandeville Collections of special interest to those concerned with the Iban and, more generally, with Sarawak. Included in the Freeman Papers, for example, are drafts of a number of published papers, including Freeman's Curl Prize essay, "On the Kindred," which centrally concern the Iban, but which also have exerted notable influence on the analysis of other Bornean societies.

The Derek Freeman Papers are divided into two parts: a "first accession (2001)" and a "second accession (2002)." The first accession documents much of Freeman's research and publication career, covering his training in the tradition of British social anthropology at the University of London and Cambridge University and also reflects, in particular, his later shift of interest towards a synthesis of human biology and anthropology. The first accession also includes most of Freeman's Samoan research materials. After completing his B.A. degree at Victoria University, New Zealand in 1939, Freeman became a language teacher in Western Samoa, where he remained until 1943. During that time he made frequent visits to a Samoan village called Sa'anapu, and in 1948 he wrote a M.Phil. thesis based on his study of Sa'anapu entitled "The social structure of a Samoan village community." Between 1966 and 1968 he returned to Samoa for further research. The second accession contains his thesis and all of the remaining research materials and field notes not included in the first accession. Like his Iban field notes, Freeman's Samoan notes were originally kept in ring-binders, arranged alphabetically by subject and cross-referenced. Again, as with his Iban research notes, there were also special binders for primary sources, indigenous texts, historical material, charts, drawings, and statistical data, all carefully cross-referenced by Freeman himself. While the extent of Freeman's Samoan material is impressive, his Iban material is even more impressive, reflecting the fact, as he himself acknowledged, that of the two peoples, he always felt a stronger affinity to the Iban. …

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