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Leslie A. White: Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology [Hardcover]

William J. Peace
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 2004 Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology
Few figures in modern American anthropology have been more controversial or influential than Leslie A. White (1900–1975). Between the early 1940s and mid-1960s, White’s work was widely discussed, and he was among the most frequently cited American anthropologists in the world. After writing several respected ethnographic works about the Pueblo Indians, White broke ranks with anthropologists who favored such cultural histories and began to radically rethink American anthropology. As his political interest in socialism grew, he revitalized the concept of cultural evolution and reinvigorated comparative studies of culture. His strident political beliefs, radical interpretive vision, and often combative nature earned him enemies inside and outside the academy. His trip to the Soviet Union and participation in the Socialist Labor Party brought him to the attention of the FBI during the height of the Cold War, and near-legendary scholarly and political conflicts surrounded him at the University of Michigan.
 
Placing White’s life and work in historic context, William J. Peace documents the broad sociopolitical influences that affected his career, including many aspects of White’s life that are largely unknown, such as the reasons he became antagonistic toward Boasian anthropology. In so doing, Peace sheds light on what made White such a colorful figure as well as his enduring contributions to modern anthropology.

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Review

"The biography's strength is in explicating White's views in the context of his personal experiences and his engagement in politics, both ideological and academic. Peace avoids adulation, despite sympathy to White's lifelong struggles; the book sagely illustrates a controversial figure in American anthropology. It will interest political scientists and historians of intellectual ideas as well as anthropologists."—Choice


“An illuminating portrait of a complex figure whose ideas were ahead of their time—one whose critical role in the recent history of anthropology has been too little appreciated as other theoretical currents have gained sway.”—American Ethnologist


“William Peace is to be congratulated for dealing with a set of complex issues and dilemmas which pervaded a very complex personality. As both an intellectual historian and anthropologist, Peace’s scholarship is impeccable, and his footnotes are as interesting as the text.”—Journal of Anthropological Research


“William Peace has provided a thoroughly documented and carefully balanced biography of Leslie A. White.”—The Michigan Historical Review


“Peace’s biography is a fine contribution in a number of respects.”—Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences


"Peace's biography of Leslie White. . . . is a welcome contribution to the history of anthropology."—Left History

About the Author

William J. Peace is an independent scholar and lives in Katonah, New York. He has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University.

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Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In Peace's preface he writes of anthropology's historians Geo Stocking and Dick Handler "failures to consider the political beliefs and actions" of the anthropologists they chronicle--a charge that well summarizes the central devastating shortcoming of the history of anthropology for the past 30 years. This biography goes a long ways towards suggesting how anthropologists can reintegrate politics back into their disciplinary histories. Peace builds an interesting historical account of White and establishes the deep impact of Marx and socialism on White's life and theory.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating biography March 26 2004
Format:Hardcover
Author Peace has done a masterful job in exploring the work of this eccentric and complicated anthropoligist.
His work and personality are examined and startling facts sensitively revealed.
It is well written, informative and shows a true understanding of the man's personality and brillaint theories.
Well worth reading!
Kathy Boncuk
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatly Appreciated! Nov. 26 2007
By Frederick J. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My gratitude to Dr. Peace for writing this biography of Leslie A. White is tremendous. I am not a professional in the social sciences, although I discovered Leslie White's writings in the early 1970's while attending college. To say they intrigued me is an understatement. On and off through my whole life I studied White's writings, and followed up on many of his sources, such as Emile Durkheim.

Not being a professional in the social sciences, and being so 'taken in' by White's theories and rhetoric, I wondered considerably about how White's writings were received in his own field, that is anthropology. In my questioning of various professors I learned that White was 'a Marxist', and left unsaid was the supposition that 'therefore - should be disregarded'. This never set well with me, as I was totally convinced of the validity of his arguements, irregardless of their ultimate intellectual source.

Basically, I read this book from cover to cover in two or three days over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2007. It answered all my questions about Leslie White. It portrays the picture of a brilliant man pursuing in single minded determination his desire to understand the human condition. I'd very highly recommend this book to anyone like myself who wishes to understand and learn about this brilliant man. Thank you very much Dr. Peace!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards ending the history of anthropology coverup April 9 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In Peace's preface he writes of anthropology's historians Geo Stocking and Dick Handler "failures to consider the political beliefs and actions" of the anthropologists they chronicle--a charge that well summarizes the central devastating shortcoming of the history of anthropology for the past 30 years. This biography goes a long ways towards suggesting how anthropologists can reintegrate politics back into their disciplinary histories. Peace builds an interesting historical account of White and establishes the deep impact of Marx and socialism on White's life and theory.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating biography March 26 2004
By Kathy Boncuk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Author Peace has done a masterful job in exploring the work of this eccentric and complicated anthropoligist.
His work and personality are examined and startling facts sensitively revealed.
It is well written, informative and shows a true understanding of the man's personality and brillaint theories.
Well worth reading!
Kathy Boncuk
4.0 out of 5 stars Not fond of Leslie White but an essential biography Sept. 19 2013
By Rosemary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is lovely. I'm not a fan of Leslie White but I still look forward to reading Peace's book.
5.0 out of 5 stars LESLIE WHITE - REVOLUTIONARY ANTHROPOLOGIST Sept. 15 2012
By Pauline Kaldelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kudos to Wm. Peace for undertaking the difficult biography of American Anthropologist Leslie A. White. Long a controversial figure, Prof. White stimulated the field for 35 years from his position at the University of Michigan. His name elicits highly charged and mixed reactions, and his Marxist leanings also colored his influence in the field. He was, however, always in the forefront of this developing science. Dr. Peace has produced a thorough and unbiased work in presenting the many sides of this complicated figure in Academia. As a student of White's in the '60's, I enjoyed studying under his influence, majored in Anthropology, and to this day attribute to him my understanding of culture and evolution.
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