• Bronislaw Malinowski Literary Biography

    by  • 11/10/2012 • Biography

    Seen as the father of fundamentalist anthropology as well ethnographic research, Bronislaw Malinowski did much to develop and advance the field. He expanded the discipline from an evolutionary study into one that covered sociology and psychology. During his years of research, he wrote numerous papers and essays, the most important of which are listed below.

    Bronislaw Malinowski

    Malinowski’s Early Life and Education

    On April 7 1884, Bronislaw Malinowski was born in the town of Krakow in Poland which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    He attended Jagiellonian University in Krakow, originally focusing on mathematics and the physical sciences. He then became ill. While recovering, he read The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by James Frazer. This text sparked his interest in ethnology leading him to take up additional courses in philosophy and psychology as well. In 1908, he graduated with a PhD in Philosophy, Physics and Mathematics.

    Malinowski then enrolled in the University of Leipzig, focusing on physical chemistry. He studied under Wilhelm Wundt who provided further influence in Malinowski’s interest in psychology and philosophy.

    In 1910, he traveled to the UK where he enrolled in the London School of Economics. He studied under C. G. Seligman and Edvard Westermarck, and was awarded a PhD in Science in 1916.

    Malinowski Book: The Family among the Australian Aborigines

    In 1913, Malinowski published his first book, The Family among the Australian Aborigines. Created during his time as a student at the London School of Economics, this text looks at courtship, marriage, sex, home life and kinship of the Australian Aborigines. Drawing on various sources, Malinowski compiles a picture of family life among these tribal people. He also points out the discrepancies, contradictions and vagueness of the referenced ethnographic studies.

    Malinowski’s Global Travels

    As a result of his interest in ethnography, Malinowski traveled frequently to the Pacific Region. In 1914, he made expeditions to the Mailu Island and the Trobriand Islands in Papua. During this time, World War One broke out and he was forbidden to return to Europe. Although Polish, he was still a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Despite this, the Australian government allowed him to study the locals in Melanesia where he conducted research on the people of the Trobriand people of Papua.

    Malinowski’s Return to England

    After the war, Malinowski returned to London. In 1916, he received a PhD in Science from the London School of Economics. In 1919, he married Elsie Rosaline Masson with whom he had three children. In 1922, he received a doctorate in the science of anthropology. At the same time, he began teaching at the London School of Economics. He was appointed as Reader of Anthropology in 1924 and took up the Chair of Anthropology in 1927. During this time, he developed the school, eventually transforming it into one of Europe’s finest anthropological centers. He was granted British citizenship in 1931.

    Malinowski Book: Argonauts of the Western Pacific

    After a lengthy study of the Trobriand People of Papua New Guinea, Malinowski published Argonauts of the Western Pacific in 1922. This book focuses on the economics of the Kula exchange system. The text also covers aspects such as social organization, mythology and beliefs. It was one of the first documents to paint an overall picture of the people being researched. It also covers the methods of ethnography, defining and developing this method of participant observation in a manner that had previously never been attempted.

    Malinowski Essay: Mutterrechtliche Familie und Ödipus-Komplex

    In 1924, Malinowski published Mutterrechtliche Familie und Ödipus-Komplex. This paper in German has not been translated, but the title is approximately Matriarchical famlies and the Oedipus complex.

    Malinowski Essay: Myth in Primitive Psychology

    In his 1926 essay, Myth in Primitive Psychology, Malinowski looks at the origin of myths and their intimate connection to the rituals of tribal society. This paper was written using research done on the Trobriand Islanders.

    Malinowski Book: Crime and Custom in Savage Society

    Also in 1926, Malinowski continued his examination of the Trobriand Island tribes in his book Crime and Custom in Savage Society. In the first chapter, he describes their obligations for law and order, in particular how they are connected to economics, social structure, marriage and religion. The second chapter deals with crime and punishment, examining the legal systems and influences within these tribes.

    Bronislaw Malinowski

    Malinowski Book: Sex and Repression in Savage Society

    Malinowski continued his analysis of the Trobriand Islanders in his 1927 book, Sex and Repression in Savage Society. This text is divided into four parts:

    • Part One deals with puberty, childhood sexuality and maternal roles.
    • Part Two covers myth and taboo with relation to the family.
    • Part Three compares psychoanalysis with anthropology stating that the two reach very different conclusions about the human mind. Specific mention is made to the Oedipus complex and how it is not present within the Trobriand Island tribes.
    • Part Four looks at humanity’s transition from animals to ordered society. This section also studies how taboos have to be enforced.

    Bronislaw Malinowski Book: The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia

    In his 1929 text, The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia, Malinowski again examined the personal lives, rules and taboos of the Trobriand tribes. In this text, he focused on how sexuality was structured in a social context. He also studies the parent-child relationship as well as the family structure. This book was the second in a trilogy that began with Argonauts of the Western Pacific.

    Malinowski in America

    Malinowski traveled to the United States for both research and lecturing. He studied the Pueblo Indians in 1926 and lectured at Cornell University in 1933. His wife died in 1935. Malinowski continued to travel to the US afterwards. During one of his visits in 1939, World War Two broke out. As a result, he decided to stay in the US, taking up a teaching role at Yale University.

    Malinowski Book: Coral Gardens and Their Magic

    In 1935, Malinowski finished his trilogy on the Trobriand Islanders with his book, Coral Gardens and Their Magic. This two volume set is divided into seven parts. Volume One is titled The Description of Gardening and details the tribe’s methods of land cultivation including social organization, magic rituals and gift obligation. In the Second Volume, titled The Language of Magic and Gardening, he begins with a study of the Trobriander’s language, extending that to the field of gardening. He also describes the language used in magic incantations and provides an analysis of a few spells that were common in this society.

    Malinowski’s Final Years

    In 1940, he married his second wife, Anna Valetta Hayman-Joyce. In 1942, he founded the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America taking up the role of chairman of the board. While preparing to conduct research in Oaxaca, Mexico, Bronislaw Malinowski died of a heart attack on May 16, 1942, at the age of 58.

    Malinowski Book: A Scientific Theory of Culture and Others Essays

    Published posthumously in 1944, A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays is a series of three essays written by Malinowski during his life. The first and second, A Scientific Theory of Culture and The Functional Theory look at anthropology from a functionalist standpoint. The third is an appreciation for Sir James George Frazer and his contributions to the anthropological field.

    Malinowski Book: The Dynamics of Culture Change

    The posthumous publication, The Dynamics of Culture Change was published in 1946. In it, Malinowski examines African society and the role that white man has played in changing it. He specifically looks at the differences between western promises of development and the tribal viewpoint of the people whose lands are being occupied.

    Bronislaw Malinowski Book: Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays

    Published in 1948, Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays is a collection of three essays written by Malinowski during his life. These are:

    • Magic, Science and Religion
    • Myth in Primitive Psychology
    • Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands

    Each focuses on the Trobriand Islanders and the roles that science, religion, myth and magic had within their society.

    Malinowski Book: A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Word

    A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Word was published in 1967 and contained Malinowski’s diaries from his field trips to Papua from 1914 to 1915 and again from 1917 to 1918. It is an honest account of Malinowski’s feelings for the work that he did, detailing the personal and physical hardships that he had to endure. It created controversy on its publication as it contains Malinowski’s often unflattering views about the native men and women whom he studied.