National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Walter P. Zenner papers, 1935-2001

Summary
Collection ID:
NAA.2002-30
Creators:
Kasdan, Leonard
State University of New York at Albany
Zenner, Walter P.
Dates:
1935-2001
Languages:
English; Some materials are in
Arabic
and
Hebrew
.
Physical Description:
16.5 Linear feet
Repository:
The Papers of Walter Zenner document his extensive career as a teacher and scholar of cultural anthropology. Through articles, correspondence, clippings, drafts, field notes, research notes, and other documents, the papers record Zenner's work on a variety of anthropological subjects including Middle Eastern ethnic groups, Jewish communities, immigrant groups, and the concept of a 'middleman minority' or a distinct ethnic population which serves the needs of the majority by filling a vital economic or cultural niche.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Papers of Walter Zenner document his extensive career as a teacher and scholar of cultural anthropology. Through articles, correspondence, clippings, drafts, field notes, research notes, and other documents, the papers record Zenner's work on a variety of anthropological subjects including Middle Eastern ethnic groups, Jewish communities, immigrant groups, and the concept of a 'middleman minority' or a distinct ethnic population which serves the needs of the majority by filling a vital economic or cultural niche.
Walter P. Zenner was born in Germany in 1933, but the Zenner family soon immigrated to the United States. Correspondence and legal documents, some in German, record their negotiations with the U.S. Immigration Service, assistance from the Rothschilds, and the family's eventual settlement in Chicago. (Series V.) Zenner remained in the Chicago area for college, attending Northwestern University. An assortment of the syllabi, class notes, papers, and correspondence document his undergraduate career as well as his graduate study at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. (Series IV.)
Zenner spent the majority of his professional life in the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany, where he taught from 1966 until his retirement in 2002. Class materials including syllabi, handouts, exams, lecture notes, departmental memos, and correspondence among faculty document his long and successful tenure there. Zenner taught a wide variety of courses, from introductory surveys to graduate proseminars in specialized topics such as the ethnology of religion. His particular interests in teaching, however, were Judaism and Jewish communities, folklore, and urban anthropology. (Series IV.) A significant number of folders in this series are restricted because they contain student work, grades, and social security numbers.
The areas of cultural anthropology that Zenner specialized in teaching shared some commonality with his major research interests: Middle Eastern ethnic groups, the Jewish Diaspora, and immigration. He produced many publications on these subjects, as shown by the manuscript drafts, correspondence, and reprints in the Papers. (Series I, Subseries 1.) Zenner's subject files (Series I, Subseries II) provide a record of his research both in libraries and in the field. A significant amount of typed and handwritten notes and correspondence document Zenner's field work in Isfiya, a Druse village in Israel that he visited in 1967-8 while working with the Cross Cultural Study of Ethnocentrism directed by Northwestern University and again while on sabbatical in 1973-1974. An extensive collection of clippings from the Jerusalem Post provides further context on inter-ethnic relations in Israel at the time. A small collection of photographs (Series VI) also documents the 1973-1974 work in Israel. Other fieldwork projects documented include a study of Syrian-American Jewish religious life in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a study of Soviet Jewish immigrants to Albany in the early 1980s, and an examination of proceedings in Immigration Court in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Arranged into 6 series: (I) Research (1954-2001) [Bulk 1965-1990]; (II) Teaching (1969-2001); (III) Professional Organizations (1971-2000) [Bulk 1989-1995]; (IV) Education (1951 - circa 1965) [Bulk 1951-1954]; (V) Personal (1935-1958); (VI) Photographs (1973-1974)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Walter P. Zenner was born on October 18, 1933 in Nuremberg, Germany to Justin and Hertha Zenner. In 1939, Zenner came to the United States with his parents and his older sister Eve to escape the Nazi regime. The family settled in Chicago, where the elder Zenners and Eve would remain for the rest of their lives.
Zenner earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 1955, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1958 and 1965 respectively. He also earned an M.H.L. (Master of Hebrew Letters) from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1960. After a brief stint at Lake Forest College, Zenner joined the Anthropology Department at the State University of New York at Albany, where he taught until his retirement in 2002.
In the mid-1960s Zenner met and married his wife, Linda. They had two daughters, Rachel and Abigail.
Walter P. Zenner died in Albany on March 17, 2003.

Administration
Author
Sarah Heim
Processing Information
The Papers of Walter Zenner arrived at the National Anthropological Archives arranged in rough groups according to function. For example, most of the material documenting Zenner's teaching at SUNY was together. Many folders had no labels, however, and the collection contained a significant number of loose papers. The archivist drew on the original functional groups to establish six series. When arranging documents within series, the archivist retained original order when possible, and imposed alphabetical or chronological arrangement when necessary. Original folder titles were retained when possible, and sometimes edited for clarity. Preservation measures undertaken included removing all staples and paper clips, replacing them when necessary with archival quality stainless steel paper clips, separating newspaper clippings from other materials with acid-free paper, refoldering all materials, and rehousing them in document cases.
Zenner's field notes and photographs from his 1958 study of the religious life of Syrian Jews in Syria and America were found in Conrad Arensberg's correspondence in October 2011 when the Conrad M. Arensberg Papers were processed. Zenner had left these materials with Arensberg for safekeeping until he could return to New York. These materials were added to the collection in November 2011.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish or quote from portions of this collection must be obtained from the Zenner Family until 2032.
Preferred Citation
Walter P. Zenner Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Materials
Additional material documenting Zenner's work on Sephardic Jews is held in the Syrian Sephardic Project files of the American Sephardic Foundation, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Arabs Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Druzes Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jews Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sephardim Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropology -- teaching Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York (State) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Middle East Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Israel Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Syria Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ethnic relations Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Immigrants -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Refugees Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ethnology -- Arab countries Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Judaism Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Field notes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746
naa@si.edu