Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz/Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology/California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
(530-898-6220; 530-898-6192; FAX: 530-898-6824)

30 December 1998

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© This paper was originally presented on February 28, 1970, at the Anthropology Section of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Oregon Academy of Science, Eugene, Oregon; it is being placed on the WWW on January 25, 1999 as an "example" of my early writing and ideas at the time; the text below is essentially unchanged from the original 1970 paper (the additions being indicated in [ ]'s below) and the only "new" items are the various "links" (since the World Wide Web did not exist in 1970!), available by clicking here.

Although for years I have requested that my students include an EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/ABSTRACT as well as SECTION HEADINGS and specific CONCLUSIONS in their papers, it is obvious that I did not do that in 1970 (but they have been added below in appropriate [ ]'s)!

As an historical footnote: I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1942, graduated high school in 1960, and after attending New York University in 1960-1961, I enlisted for four years in the United States Air Force (1961-1965), was Honorably Discharged, and eventually received the B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology in 1967 from Western Washington State College (now Western Washington University). I began Graduate Work in Anthropology at the University of Oregon in September 1967 and received the M.A. in Anthropology in 1969 and in July 1970 I went (with my wife) to do fieldwork in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga and received the Ph.D. in 1972: for a complete résumé, please see I taught in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota in 1972-1973 and joined the faculty of California State University, Chico, in August 1973 and have been happily here ever since! This February 1970 paper (written in my third year of graduate school when I was twenty-eight years of age) demonstrates, in my mind (at least) that "reflective" thinking, more than twenty-eight years later, is not new.

Were I to rewrite this paper "today" I would "clean-it-up" and eliminate certain phrases (and rewrite others) but the basic ideas presented below remain the same: just as the history of every discipline is important, the history of anthropology is the most important course in anthropological training (please see and ).

In our "History and Theory" course (ANTH 296) at California State University, Chico, I utilize various texts, including Ute Gacs et al., (1989) Women Anthropologists: Selected Biographies, as well as P. Golde (1986) Women in the Field: Anthropological Experiences, and J. Helm (1966) Pioneers of American Anthropology, as well as M. di Leonardo (1991) Gender At The Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era, to compensate for some of my own potential biases about my profession.


Mother Nature, Father Culture...




This paper will be (1) brief, (2) merely suggestive (as opposed to dogmatic), and (3) more of a discussion of a potential inter- and intra-cultural problem rather than a finished statement. Rather than present a composite of "anthropological analogues" or "ethnographic esoterica" consisting of statements pertaining to "nature" and "culture" in various societies (and hold myself up to the one who will surely say: "but my people don't say it that way"), I am more concerned with the tradition of the discipline itself and the anthropologists who make and reflect that tradition. I am also concerned with the current position of the discipline and how it views culture and how it viewed it in the past; what it has done with this concept of culture and what it appears to be doing with it now, and what it might do with it in the future. All of these questions or statements, refer to the other term in my title as well, nature. Nature and culture, two ends or (perhaps) ideal types of a continuum have always played key roles in anthropological research and theorizing, but perhaps one more strongly than the other, and a treatment of them is part of the study of the discipline.



The concern with the tradition of the discipline if perhaps a new approach in anthropology (or an old approach rekindled). Scholte (n.d., p.8) has called for a "wissenanthropologie" or an ethnology of anthropological traditions: a call for a study of how the theory of the discipline has developed over time. Others in the field have called for such an analysis as we.. Hallowell (1965) has written of "the history of anthropology as an anthropological problem" and A. G. Smith (1964) attempted such a thing on a specific point in the anthropological tradition: the Dionysian innovation as developed first by Ruth Benedict and subsequently modified and reinterpreted by several anthropologists. The concern with the history of the discipline is not new and the concepts of nature and culture can provide us with a useful heuristic (perhaps haruspication?) for a select analysis of the anthropological tradition.

Although the "anthropos" and the "logos" of the anthropologist appear as far back as Aristotle's Ethics (Haddon, 1934: 1), the first appearance of "anthropology" in English doesn't appear until 1593 (Deutsch, 1967: 88) although the Latin cognate "anthropologium" appeared in 1501 (in Magnus Hundt's Anthropologium de dominis dignitate....). Culture itself, that key word of anthropologists, comes to us in its earliest acceptable form in 1871 with the now "classic' definition by Edward Burnett Tylor which was "that complex whole" that went into the makeup of man: that was his culture. Nature provided Tylor with a broad philosophy for culture (1871, I: 241). But one should not be so naive to believe that culture first appeared fully defined upon the scene (much akin to Minerva out of the head of Zeus, fully armed) with Tyler--for culture was there before that.

(As an aside, I shall purposefully avoid any massive attempts at defining culture, for anthropologists are notorious for their varied definitions--see the excellent work by Kroeber and Kluckhohn, 1952). Although I am concerned with how individuals have defined and treated culture and nature, this is merely a programmatic and suggestive paper, not definitive.)

The earliest etymological designation that I am aware of for the term "culture" dates from approximately the 15th century when the word came to England from France and was meant to be a "synonym for tillage of husbandry" (Levin, 1965: 1). It was so utilized that way in England for several centuries until it was necessary to append the prefix "agric-" to culture. Thus culture, in the original meaning of the word (and the word "meaning" is fraught with meaning) was directly related to the soil, to the earth, or to the nature which which in interacted. Nature, that most abundant element, was key to defining culture, and culture and nature existed in interaction.



Of the earliest references to nature (documented), nature is personified in the feminine guise. This occurs in the eighth century B.C. [when the] poet-philosopher Hesiod, who in his Theogeny (or the genealogy of the gods) wrote of the feminine earth who produced not only the waters and the mountains but the entire range of the gods. In the beginning was the void or chaos, and then "broad-bosomed Earth, the solid and eternal home of all" from which all came--then "she produced" everything (see Brown, 1953: 56). (Other aspects of the animate feminine aspects of nature appear in mythology: the feminine "Universal Mother" [in] Campbell, 1949, 1956: 113). Nature was the origin of all, including culture (however defined). Literature, as well, provides us with personifications of nature in a feminine guise: Victor Hugo had nature "like a kind and smiling mother" lending herself to our dreams, whilst Milton, Wordsworth, Pope and many others all likewise personify the feminine side of nature. And although I am purposefully avoiding anthropological definitions for nature (for the "not my people" syndrome), as well as a bias I hope to make clear, there are instance: this Kluckhohn and Leighton (1946, 1962: 308) have written of the Navaho that they "accept nature and adapt themselves to her demand as best they can...."

Nature and culture, both ideal types, interacting to create, in essence, one another: for without the raw materials of nature (the earth, the universe, the cosmos) there would be no culture; without the words of culture there would be no way in which to recognize the elements of nature. Following Lévi-Strauss I hold that nature and culture, or the distinction between nature and culture is purely methodological (1962, 1966: 241) since one could not have nature without culture or vice versa. Nature and culture, in effect, are like the two sides of the penny which cannot exist one without the other; or perhaps nature-culture is like the one sided Möbius strip.

Although nature and culture are inextricably interwoven to provide is with something unique, name Man--nature often comes through in the feminine guise and culture merely comes through as something with which to describe nature, even though each is necessary to perceive the other. Perhaps the title of this paper could have been "father nature" and "mother culture" but I don't believe so: for I believe that nature and culture, mother nature and father culture are unconsciously reified concepts which we (people in general) have developed in order to deal with the world or the universe that we interact with. There is nothing feminine about nature just as there is nothing masculine about culture, but they are not treated in neutral terms.



To some, a new development within anthropology is the "field" of "cognitive anthropology" (although it is not too clear just what is non-cognitive), wherein the attempt is made to answer two basic questions: "what material phenomena are significant for the people of some culture; and how do they organize these phenomena?" (Tyler, 1969: 3). If one attempts a wissenanthropologie of the discipline, one immediately comes up with a plenitude of "fathers" of the discipline, but noticeably enough, no "mothers" of the discipline. (And the terms father, founder, and mother are important "material phenomena" of the anthropological culture.) Thus where Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917), the classic founder of the culture concept (but see Stocking, 1963 in 1968, for a different view) has been cited many times as the "father" of anthropology (Marett, 1914: 167) or "social anthropology" (Radcliffe-Brown, 1923: 134), or the "father of evolutionary anthropology" along with Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) (Goldenweiser, 1924: 215), or as the "founder" of modern ethnology (Lévi-Strauss, 1962, 1966: 164) or the "founder" of anthropology (Lang, 1907: 6), Tylor himself referred back to James Cowles Pritchard (a physician: 1788-1848) as the "founder of modern anthropology" (Tylor, 1910/11: 108).

As an aside, it might be interesting to note that although "anthropology" had been talked about for many centuries by many men, the first doctorate "with anthropology as a major subject" was not awarded until 1888 in Munich (again to a physician, George Buschan) (Hallowell, 1960:102; Tracy, 1889: 174). The first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States was awarded to A.F. Chamberlain in 1892 by Franz Boas (1858-1942) at Clark University. (Meggers, 1946: 176); Hallowell, 1960: 103). Boas himself, who was later to be recognized as the "father of contemporary professional anthropology in the United States" (Leacock, 1963: lxv) had received his own doctorate in Physics from Kiel in 1881 (with the title of Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Farbe der Wasser or Contributions To The Understanding of the Color of Water) (Kluckhohn and Prufer, 1959; Kardiner and Preble, 1961, 1963: 119).

As to "fathers and founders" of anthropology: Darwin (1809-1882) has been called (by one at least) not the father of evolutionary social anthropology but "its wealthy uncle" (Burrows, 1963: 141). And although it might have been Tylor who was the father and "grand old man" of anthropology at Oxford University (Hays, 1958, 1964: 107), it was Alfred Cort Haddon (1855-1940) who became the father and grand old man of anthropology at Cambridge (Hays, 1958, 1964: 107), whilst it was James George Frazer (1854-1941) who to Jarvie (1964, 1969: 1) represents "not the intellectual father of social anthropology" but is "certainly the father of institutionalized academic social anthropology." In true fashion, according to Jarvie, Frazer begat two noted sons, Malinowski (1884-1942) and Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955) who in their turn became respected leaders of their respective sub-disciplines, with Malinowski becoming the "dean of British anthropological fieldworkers" (Belshaw, 1965: 12), much as Kroeber (1876-1960) was later (or simultaneously) the "dean of American anthropologists" (Kardiner and Preble, 1961, 1963: 163). Hortense Powdermaker (b. 1903) has pointed out in her astute work Stranger And Friend (1966, 1967: 43) that some British anthropologists of this day appear to belong to an "ancestor cult" on their reverence, respect, and ridicule (depending on who is doing what) of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. It is interesting to read in this connection Gluckman (1965: xvii) referring to Frazer, Tylor, and Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) as "academic grandparents" to him! If anthropologists do not establish cults of worship, they somehow manage to include the antecedent anthropologists in the family: grandfathers, fathers, sons, and uncles, are all there!

The thing that must surely strike the reader or student of the discipline is: what became of all the "mothers" (or grandmothers, or aunts or daughters) who helped to sire the discipline by all of these fathers??? Where were (or are) all of the grand old mothers of anthropology (or ethnology) at Cambridge, Oxford, Columbia, or Berkeley? There were women doing what was designated as anthropology in those days (and there are still women anthropologists) but apparently the women did not make that large a contribution to the development of the discipline, and someone must surely contradict that point. What ever became of the contributions of such women anthropologists as Powdermaker, Zelia Nuttal, Mrs. Seligman, Dorothy Demetracopolous Lee, Cora Du Bois, Lucy Mair, Frederica de Laguna, Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Bunzel, even the (in)famous Daisey Bates?! What ever became of these women? Of course there is always Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) and her most famous graduate student, Margaret Mead (whose highly respectable career probably would subjectively cause her to be the "mother" of the discipline), but there were other women anthropologists. In the most recent 1968 International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences there are three articles (out of seventy three) dealing with women (apparently) classified as anthropologists: Ruth Benedict, Alice C. Fletcher (1838-1923) and Elsie Clews Parsons (1875-1941). (An increase of three from the fifty-eight biographical articles on anthropologists in the Encyclopedia of the Social Science in the 1930s!) One would have hoped that Powdermaker in her book would have mentioned the early women anthropologists, but at least she did treat of the "fathers" in appropriate marks ("") (Boas, Rivers: 1864-1922; Haddon; Radcliffe-Brown; and apparently Malinowski is obvious) (1966, 1967: 34).

If one wishes to look at the professionalization of the discipline, the women "anthropologists" were among the first to organize professionally, forming the "Women's Anthropological Society of America" in 1885 (Lamb, 1906: 577, Lurie, 1966: 31), which was subsequently incorporated by the Anthropological Society of Washington (D.C.) in June of 1899, which was apparently formed by an all-male group in 1879. So there were women anthropologists in the nineteenth century.

There is a definition, perhaps apocryphal, attributed to Malinowski by Robert Ranulph Marett (1866-1943) by Field (1953, 1967: 23): "Anthropology is the study of Man, embracing Woman." And this I believe to be the approach utilized by many: women are to be considered something apart from M-A-N, although this is sheer nonsense! A culture is complete only by the dynamic interaction of masculine and feminine elements; one of each is necessary for the present and the future, as it was for the past (Tiger's work, 1969, notwithstanding). The same is true for an anthropological theory on culture: there is not only a "sex-less" anthropological view, concerned (perhaps) with universal processes of thought (vide Barnett, 1953; Lévi-Strauss, 1962, 1966), but there is also a feminine point of view as well as a masculine point of view pertaining to culture, a culture. Yet men have provided much, if not most, of the information utilized in anthropological reports, and have given us (hopefully) accurately the world of men as viewed through their eyes, but as for the world of women...this may be something different again. There are numerous reports in the literature of "thanks to my wife, who helped me gain rapport with the women..." but what does one do with the honesty of a Richard C. Thurnwald (1869-1954) who writes: "I am sorry to state that I was unable to collect terms from women directly. Therefore it may well be in this regard some features of the [kinship] system escaped my investigation" (1916: 250). At least Thurnwald pointed this out and we can perhaps compensate accordingly, but what does one do in reading a report if it is not clear from whom the data originated? All male? Male view of female world? Actual female view of female world? And what do the women think about the men? (I am not opting to be a suffragist, for I am not too sure what the word means in the context of this day, but I am asking for clearer reports and reporting, and a different approach to the feminine role in anthropology; if not, we are faced with an academic backlash much akin to NOW, SCUM, and WITCH, as observers of the women's group meetings at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association can attest to, or polemic publications, or propaganda, like Problems of Women's Liberation, Reed, 1969).

The anthropological distinction between male and female points of view is nothing new, of course, as there are numerous references in the literature: Clark Wissler pointed this out (1933: 23) in the "forward" to Powdermaker's Life In Lesu; Louise B. Spindler's work (1962) among the Menomini Women pertaining to culture change, wherein support was found for A. Irving Hallowell's earlier hypothesis that "women do not adapt in the same manner as do men to the specific impact of an alien culture" (page 98); Nancy L. Solien González's recent article 91970) on her own field work made clear the different in data-gathering techniques for male and female researchers among women (page 159), as well as the problems connected with the differences in age and status and role and position of the individual investigator--potential problem points that are seldom covered in the monograph reports. (Was Radcliffe-Brown short or tall? Boas? Malinowski? Malinowski is more of a "real person" now, in my opinion, since the posthumous publication of his diary concerning his field experiences.)

In brief, the personality of the anthropologist is an important part of the research and data gathering, as Powdermaker's extremely perceptive remarks (1966, 1967: 42) on the influence of the personalities of Malinowski (friendly) and Radcliffe-Brown (aloof) on their work and theories. This would appear to be a validation of Anne Roe's psychological studies on research scientists, where she wrote that the "kind of person" that goes into psychological and anthropological work "may have had a biasing effect of the theories produced" with cultural and social anthropology offering:

"an ideal vocation to the person whose conviction of personal superiority is not accompanied by asocial characteristics; they permit a somewhat Jovian survey of their own society as well as others, and maintain the social scientist in a state of superiority just because he [stress appeared in the original 1970 paper] is able to make the survey." (Roe, 1953: 50; also see Roe, 1952)

In short, then, the personality of the anthropologist in interaction with the people under study is probably a major part of a report.



IN SUMMARY: This paper began on "Mother Nature, Father Culture...." and should end close to that theme: nature and culture which I believe have been unconsciously reified to the status of masculine and feminine, irrespectively. This unconscious masculine viewpoint of culture may pervade reports and is one reason there have been few "purely" anthropological definitions in this brief paper. The total (to my knowledge) absence of "mothers" of the discipline (in print) in conjunction with many, many "fathers" fostering not only schools of thought (and some "sons" but see Leach, 1965, 1966, and Jarvie, 1966, in regards to Frazer--Malinowski--Radcliffe-Brown) tends to support this hypothesis. Perhaps as Durkheim established society as god (1912, 1915) and Freud (1913) set up culture as the father figure, with nature (who is currently in danger of annihilation) as female.

It is interesting to note the cascading (and quite appropriate) concern with pollution of the environment: individuals (or factories) do not merely destroy nature (although we are in danger of destroying culture), but the environment is "raped" or the hillside "ravaged" by Man, and culture. Words replete with imaginary illicit fornicating overtones to indicate the severity of the nature-culture situation.

What then is the answer for the anthropologist? Perhaps, as Campbell (1951, 1967: 335) suggests, we should look to the "mythological archetypes" (or Bastian's Elementargedanken) which cut across boundaries. Perhaps we should also realize that nature and culture are merely constructs which Man has created, and we cannot have one without the other: without the raw elements of nature, one cannot develop culture--without the words of culture, one could not recognize nature for what it is. On female and male anthropologists, it is interesting to read Ann Fischer and Peggy Golde writing on the "position of women in anthropology." They sum up their brief paper, containing statistics on Ph.D.'s in anthropology for men and women for the years 1920 to 1965 with the following:

"In summary, women who are not perceived in terms of their salient characteristics as women [! - in 1970 paper] and most free [!! - in 1970 paper] from professional disadvantages; that is, they are in a better position to avoid discriminatory conditions if they continue steadily in the profession." (1968: 343)

That there are male-female differences is obvious; that one should be subordinate to the other, in a job or research report, does not seem proper.

For a wissenanthropologie perhaps an analysis of nature and culture, and founders (and fathers) as written for professional peers and patrons (vide Smith, 1964) is in order, to see who is termed what and where. As one final point, perhaps anthropology really has no history or tradition per se, only individual anthropologists (female and male):

"who make, manifest, transform, and reflect the discipline (what it was, what it is, what it could be, and what it will be) through their own personalities. If this is the case then it is difficult to reconcile an approach to the study of the discipline (or some studies within the discipline itself) which does not take into account the idiosyncrasies and position of the individual, an individual, within the psychosociocultural system." (Urbanowicz, 1970: 12)

Though I have stated this before, it seems worthwhile in repeating it again when writing about "Mother Nature, Father Culture...." (Lest I be criticized later, perhaps I should at this point partially recant for an earlier paper, Roth & Urbanowicz, 1968.)

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Reed, Evelyn, 1969, Problems of Women's Liberation (Merit Publishers, NY).

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Stocking, George W., Jr., 1963, Matthew Arnold, E.B. Tylor and the Uses of Invention. Originally in American Anthropologist, Vol. 65, pages 783-799; reprinted in Race, Culture And Evolution (1968 Free press Edition), pages 69-90.

Thurnwald, Richard, 1916, Bánaro Society: Social Organization And Kinship System of a Tribe in the Interior of New Guinea (Memoir No. 3 of the American Anthropological Association).

Tiger, Lionel, 1969, Men In Groups (Random House).

Tracy, P., 1889, Note. American Anthropologist, Vol. 2 (O.S.), page 174.

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Urbanowicz, Charles F. [with D. Roth], 1968, Scale Analyses and the Elaboration of Menstrual Taboos. (For the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Seattle, Washington, November 21-26.)

Urbanowicz, Charles F., 1970, A Selective View of Lévi-Strauss' Intellectual Antecedents. (For the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 20-24.)

WORLD WIDE WEB SITES which might prove of value in the 1990s include: [Anthropological Theories: A Guide Prepared for Students by Students} University of Alabama]] [Theory in Anthropology} Indiana University] [Lewis Henry Morgan] [Herbert Spencer] [The Development of Herbert Spencer's Concept of Evolution] [Edward Burnett Tylor] [A Massive Anthropology site!]

Urbanowicz, Charles F., 1992, Four Field Commentary (Originally published in the Anthropology Newsletter [Washington, D.C.], Vol. 33, No. 9: 3)

Urbanowicz, Charles F., 1997, Charles Darwin: Reflections - Part One: The Beginning, (Seventeen Minute Instructional Videotape: Reflections: Part One, Produced by Ms. Donna Crowe: Instructional Media Center, CSU, Chico).

Urbanowicz, Charles F., 1998a Darwin: From The Origin (1859+), To The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation To Sex (1871), And The Expression of Emotions...(1872) To Today! For PHIL 108 (Ethics And Human Happiness), at CSU, Chico, December 2.

Urbanowicz, Charles F., 1998b Comments On Tasmanian Publications of 1884 and 1973/1974.

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