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Against his daughters’ wishes, however, and to the dismay of many colleagues who had heard rumours of its controversial contents, his widow published a translation under the title (Routledge 1967).It would become the most infamous, most nakedly honest document in the annals of social anthropology.His best ethnographic writing is a stylistic confection of vivid description, reflexive anecdote, methodological prescription and theoretical aside.
Malinowski’s first and most celebrated Trobriand monograph, (1922), is a richly-illustrated account of the ceremonial exchange of manufactured shell valuables through which the Trobriands are linked to other island groups of eastern New Guinea.
A colourful scientific travelogue, takes its readers on a canoe-borne voyage around the so-called Kula Ring of islands.
The ultimate aim of social or cultural anthropology is to convert knowledge of other modes of life into wisdom: Though it may be given to us for a moment to enter into the soul of a savage and through his eyes look at the outer world and feel ourselves what it must feel to him to be himself – yet our final goal is to enrich and deepen our own world’s vision, to understand our own nature and to make it finer, intellectually and artistically.
In grasping the essential outlook of others, with the reverence and real understanding, due even to savages, we cannot but help widening our own.
The ‘Ethnographer’ of his books is a somewhat outlandish character (‘a Savage Pole’ in one guise) who never allows his reader to forget that not only was he present at the scene as a participant observer, but that he is also the one, in a fully contextualized first-person sense, who is doing the writing.
Malinowski’s ethnographic persona – curious, patient, empathetic yet ironic – was given a tentative outing in his first ethnographic report, , ‘the writer is his own chronicler,’ he reminds us, and scolds those whose works offer ‘wholesale generalizations’ without informing the reader ‘by what actual experiences the writers have reached their conclusion’.Following (1926), a short but path-breaking book which described how ‘law and order’ was maintained in the Trobriands through various sanctions, including the threat of sorcery.His insights into the working of ‘the principle of reciprocity’ in everyday exchanges and his pioneering use of the case method laid the foundations of legal anthropology.It is for his corpus of ethnographic writings on the Trobriand Islanders, however, that Malinowski is revered and best remembered.Most of his books remain in print and continue to be taught, critiqued, and studied as exemplars of anthropological modernism.With its moral struggles, its Dostoevskian moods, its Conradian allusions, its Freudian subtext of mother-love and frustrated sexual desire, its misanthropic and racist outbursts, the abundantly revealed some unpleasant aspects of Malinowski’s character.In unmasking his personal weaknesses and prejudices it appeared to give the lie to his professional image as an empathetic fieldworker whose methodological slogan was ‘participant observation’.The author’s “Introduction” (which has been dubbed the Book of Genesis of the fieldworker’s Bible) contains twenty-five of the most influential pages in the history of social anthropology.Malinowski’s intention was to raise ethnographic fieldwork to a professional art.(1927) contested Freudian dogma concerning the universality of the Oedipus complex.Malinowski proposed that the matrilineal configuration of the Trobriand family cast a boy’s mother’s brother rather than his father in the role of resented authority figure, and his sister rather than his mother as the object of a boy’s incestuous desire.