Anthony Leeds was born January 26, 1925 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Because of his parents' strong ties to Europe (both were of Jewish descent, with kin in Germany and England), Leeds spent a fair amount of his childhood in Vienna and Switzerland, where he became fluent in French and German. His father, a businessman and lawyer, died when Leeds was only three years old. Though his family returned to the United States in 1933 due to political unrest in Europe, Leeds continued to be exposed to world cultures and politics through his family. For instance, Leeds' mother was an actor, translator, and psychoanalyst who once studied at Freud's Psychoanalytic Institute in Vienna. His stepfather was not only a sculptor and musician, but also a political activist. This rich familial environment fostered an interest in the social sciences and the arts from a young age.
Leeds also got a taste for rural life when his mother moved to a working farm in Clinton Corners, New York in 1935. For the next nine years Leeds intermittently helped his mother with the farm work and attended a small high school in the area. Of his time spent at Clinton Corners, Leeds felt a strong sense of community which would make a profound influence in his understanding of rural settings as an anthropologist.
Leeds eventually attended Columbia University in New York City and received a B. A. in Anthropology in 1949. He then went directly into the graduate program at Columbia, where his fellow anthropology colleagues included Marvin Harris and Andrew P. Vayda. Some of his favorite professors and later influences were Alfred L. Kroeber, William Duncan Strong, and Karl Polyani. His dissertation was a study of the politics behind cocoa production in the Bahia region of Brazil. Conducted in 1951-1952, Leeds' investigation was one of four in Bahia supervised by Charles Wagley and Brazilian anthropologist Thales de Azevedo. This study led to his dissertation, "Economic Cycles in Brazil: The Persistence of a Total-Cultural Pattern: Cacao and Other Cases," in which Leeds analyzed the topic from a Marxist viewpoint.
After receiving his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1957, Leeds embarked on his primary career as a university professor. For the next 32 years, Leeds taught at a variety of institutions--first at Hofstra University and City College in New York City, then the University of Texas, and later at Boston University. In between, Leeds found the time to spend two years (1961-63) as the chief of the Program of Urban Development at the Pan-American Union (PAU) in Washington, D.C. He also spent a year (1972-73) at the Latin American centers in England associated with Oxford University and the University of London.
It was during his university years that Leeds focused on urban studies and urban analysis. Though he did conduct a brief study of the Yaruro peoples of Venezuela in 1958, the majority of his field work thereafter concerned urban development and its effects on society as a whole. Leeds made several field trips to Brazil and other areas of South America while working at the University of Texas; he specifically traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Lima, and Santiago de Chile to study the cultural and political cultures of squatter settlements. From 1965 to 1966, Leeds received funding from the Social Science Research Council and the Ford Foundation to conduct a study of twelve specific favelas (squatter settlements) in Rio de Janeiro. For this fieldwork, Leeds organized Peace Corps volunteers, local community workers, academics (both foreign and Brazilian), and favela residents to help collect and analyze the data. It was during this trip that Leeds met Elizabeth Plotkin, a Peace Corps community action worker, who would later become Leeds' second wife and one of his most important collaborators. Together they wrote a book in Portuguese titled
A Sociologia do Brasil Urbano
(1978), based on their favela research.
In the 1970's Leeds and Plotkin made seven different trips to Portugal to follow different lines of research regarding the area. Leeds specifically researched the labor migration movements from the rural areas to the cities. He later wrote a book on his studies titled
Minha Terra, Portugal: Lamentations and Celebrations (The Growth of an Ethnography and a Commitment)
, though it would go unpublished.
In his later years, Leeds not only took a more active role in various anthropological organizations (specifically those concerning the study of urban development), but he also became an active mentor to many students at Boston University. Leeds supported a variety of graduate student research in anthropology at Boston, as well as student research from other neighboring New England universities. In addition, Leeds began a "Thursday Night Group" that regularly met at his home in Dedham, Massachusetts to discuss a variety of anthropological subjects.
On February 20th, 1989, Leeds died of a heart attack in his Randolph, Vermont farmhouse.
Sieber, Timothy R. "The Life of Anthony Leeds: Unity in Diversity." In
Cities, Classes, and Social Order
, by Anthony Leeds, edited Roger Sanjek, 3-26. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Born January 26 in New York, New York
Earns B.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University
Conducts disseration field work in the Cacao region of Bahia, Brazil, where he studies the political economy of cocoa production
Teaches at Hofstra University and later City College, both in New York City
Completes dissertation, titled "Economic Cycles in Brazil: The Persistence of a Total-Cultural Pattern: Cacao and Other Cases"
Conducts brief field work studying the Yaruro people in Venezuela
Head of the Program of Urban Development at the Pan-American Union (PAU) in Washington, D.C.
Professor at the University of Texas-Austin
Organizes Peace Corps volunteers, Brazilian and foreign academics, and local residents to conduct an intense study of twelve favelas (Brazilian squatter settlements) in Rio de Janeiro
Spends a transitional year teaching at the Latin American centers at Oxford University and the University of London
Professor at Boston University
Takes several field trips to Portugal with his second wife, Elizabeth Plotkin Leeds; there he studies Portuguese labor migrations
Sociologia do Brasil Urbano, co-written with Elizabeth Plotkin Leeds, is published
Leeds dies of a heart attack on February 20 in Randolph, Vermont at the age of 64
Leeds, Anthony. "Brazilian Careers and Social Structure: An Evolutionary Model and Case History."
66 (1964): 1321-47.
Leeds, Anthony and Andrew P. Vayda.
Man, Culture, and Animals: The Role of Animals in Human Ecological Adjustment
. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1965.
Leeds, Anthony. "The Anthropology of Cities: Some Methodological Issues." In
Urban Anthropology, Research Perspectives and Strategies
, edited by M. Fried, M. Harris, and R. Murphy, 31-47. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1968.
Leeds, Anthony. "The Culture of Poverty Concept- Conceptual, Logical, and Empirical Problems, with Perspectives from Brazil and Peru." In
The Culture of Poverty, A Critique
, edited by E. Leacock, 226-284. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.
Leeds, Anthony and Elizabeth Leeds. "Accounting for Behavioral Differences: Three Political Systems and the Responses of Squatters to them in Brazil, Peru, and Chile." In
The City in Comparative Perspective: Cross-National Research and New Directions in Theory
, edited by J. Walton and L. H. Masotti, 193-248. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1976.
Leeds, Anthony and Elizabeth Leeds.
A Sociologia do Brasil Urbano
. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar Editora, 1978.
Leeds, Anthony. "Forms of Urban Integration: "Social Urbanization" in Comparative Perspective."
8, no. 3/4 (1979): 227-27.
Leeds, Anthony. "Low Income Urban Settlement Types, Processes, Structures, Policies." In
The Residential Circumstances of the Urban Poor in Developing Countries
, edited by United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, 21-61. New York: Praeger, 1981.
Leeds, Anthony. "Cities and Countryside in Anthropology." In
Cities of the Mind
, edited by Lloyd Rodwin and Robert M. Hollister, 291-311. New York: Plenum, 1984.