50 years ago in anthropology

Browsing through a 50-year-old online issue of the American Anthropological Association’s Fellow Newsletter, volume 2 number 7, September 1961. Some highlights:

  • Reported on plans for the upcoming 60th annual conference, to be held at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 16-19 1961. The AAA was expecting 265 papers for that conference, and not all of these would be able to be read in full because the program was too full. An opening plenary session on “Sex and Culture” was planned, including a paper by none other than William Masters and Virginia E Johnson entitled “The Cycle of Sexual Response of the Human Male and Female.” Also notable was the the Society for Ethnomusicology held their meetings jointly with the AAA that year.
  • Announced the impending launch of Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, under the editorship of George P. Murdock (of HRAF fame). This was to be a quarterly journal with an annual subscription price of $5.
  • Graduate student Roger Keesing received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. (Keesing conducted fieldwork among the Kwaio of the Solomon Islands, went on to author the much-used text Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, and was Professor of Anthropology at the Australian National University for over fifteen years before moving to McGill University in 1990. He died of a heart attack at the dinner & dance of the 1993 Canadian Anthropology Society conference.)
  • And this job ad: “University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada. Social or cultural anthropologist. Instructor or assistant professor rank. Ph.D. preferred. Salary $5,500 and up. Summer teaching available and possibilities of ethnological and archaeological field work. Address applications to Dr. A.G. Bailey, Dean of Arts, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada. I’d like to know who got that job, as it pre-dated the official formation of an anthropology/sociology department at UNB.

Interesting to look back at a frozen moment in the history of our discipline to get a sense of what has changed, and what has remained the same (or similar). This year’s AAA conference is being held in Montreal on almost the same dates as in 1961, November 16-20. They expect to attract over 5000 registrants, with over 300 paper sessions (most with 3-6 papers per session). My former PhD supervisor at the Australian National University, Ian Keen, is giving a paper in a session on kinship that also includes a paper investigating the “Implications of Keesing for European Kinship”. So the discipline has grown substantially, but there are still lots of interesting connections to be made.


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