Guide to the Marvin Harris papers, 1945-2001

Summary
Collection ID:
NAA.2009-27
Creators:
Harris, Marvin, 1927-2001
Dates:
1945-2001
Languages:
Multiple languages
English
; Some materials are in
Portuguese
or
Spanish
, and a few are in
French
,
Italian
,
German
, or
Chinese
.
Physical Description:
42.27 Linear feet
85.5 document boxes, 1 oversize box, 4 record storage boxes, 90 computer disks, 19 cassette tapes, 1 7" sound reel, 3 vinyl records, and 1 map folder
Repository:
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Marvin Harris. Harris was a prominent anthropologist, best known for developing the controversial paradigm of cultural materialism. He authored several important books in the field of anthropology and taught at Columbia University and The University of Florida. The papers include correspondence, research materials, his publications, unpublished manuscripts, conference papers, lectures, subject files, teaching files, computer files, and photographs.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Marvin Harris. The papers include correspondence, research materials, his publications, unpublished manuscripts, conference papers, lectures, subject files, teaching files, computer files, and photographs.
His research files document his ethnographic field work in Rio de Contas, Brazil, both for his dissertation and his racial categorization project; his research on forced labor in Mozambique; his videotape study in New York City households; and his India sacred cattle research. The collection also contains his research on food preferences and aversions, his files as a research consultant for the McKinsey Global Institute, and photos from his field work in Chimborazo, Ecuador and Arembepe, Brazil.
Over the course of his career, Harris also participated in several conferences and invited lectures. The collection contains some of the papers he presented as well as audio recordings of his lecture "Levi-Strauss and the Clam: An Open and Shut Case" and a recording of a radio interview. Also present in the collection are materials relating to conference sessions and symposiums that he organized, including the 1967 AAA session on Anthropology and War and his 1983 Wenner-Gren symposium on Food Preferences and Aversions.
Additional materials that may be of interest are materials documenting Harris' activism in the 1960s at Columbia University, which include his anti-Vietnam War activities, as well as his involvement in the student protests of 1968 at Columbia University. The collection also contains Harris' CIA, FBI, and Department of State records that he obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, photographs from Harris' service in the army in the 1940s, and photos taken in Brazil by Pierre Verger.
Harris corresponded with several prominent anthropologists, many of whom were Latin American specialists. Some of his noteworthy correspondents include Napoleon Chagnon, Derek Freeman, Morton Fried, Conrad Kottak, Sidney Mintz, Anthony Leeds, Claude Levi-Strauss, Darcy Ribeiro, Anisio Teixeira, Charles Wagley, and Karl Wittfogel. Also of special interest is his correspondence with leading figures in the Mozambique and Portuguese liberation movements, including Antonio Figuereido, Eduardo Mondlane, and General Humberto Delgado.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection is arranged in 10 series: (1) Correspondence, 1952-2001; (2) Research, 1949-1997; (3) Writings, 1955-2001; (4) Professional Activities, 1960-1999; (5) Name Subject Files, 1951-2001; (6) University, 1947-1999; (7) Biographical Files, 1954-1999; (8) Writings by Other People, 1961-2000; (9) Photographs, 1945-1996; (10) Computer Files, 1980-2000

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Marvin Harris was a prominent anthropologist, best known for developing the controversial paradigm of cultural materialism. He authored several important books in the field of anthropology, most notably
The Rise of Anthropological Theory
(1968) and
Cultural Materialism
(1979) as well as books that reached a wider audience, such as
Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches
(1974) and
Cannibals and Kings
(1977).
Harris was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 18, 1927. After serving in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps (1945-47), he received his B.A. (1948) and Ph.D. (1953) from Columbia University. His first anthropology course was taught by Charles Wagley, who was influential in Harris' decision to become an anthropologist. Harris joined the faculty at Columbia University after earning his doctorate and served as chair of the Department of Anthropology from 1963 to 1966. In 1980, he left Columbia for a position as Graduate Research Professor at University of Florida, where he stayed until his retirement in 2000.
It was in
The Rise of Anthropological Theory
that Harris coined the phrase "cultural materialism," a subject he further elaborated on in
Cultural Materialism
. Cultural materialism, Harris explains, is a scientific research strategy "based on the simple premise that human social life is a response to the practical problems of earthly existence" (1979, xv). Harris applied the paradigm to explain various cultural patterns, such as food preferences and taboos, changes in U.S. family structure, and the collapse of Soviet and East European state socialism. One of his most controversial theories was that the Hindu prohibition of slaughtering and consuming cows in India arose because it was more economically beneficial to use cattle as draft animals than as meat. He challenged Napoleon Chagnon's views that Yanomami men were inherently more aggressive and violent by explaining that it was the pursuit of animal protein that was the cause of Yanomami warfare. Harris similarly argued that protein deficiency was the reason why the Aztecs practiced cannibalism.
Harris presented his theories beyond academic circles to a general audience by contributing a monthly column to
Natural History Magazine
. He also authored several popular books. In addition to
Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches
and
Cannibals and Kings
, Harris also wrote
America Now
(1981),
Good to Eat
(1985), and
Our Kind
(1989). Harris also authored and edited several editions of two college-level introductory textbooks:
Culture, People, Nature
(first published as
Culture, Man, and Nature
in 1971) and
Cultural Anthropology
(first published in 1983, later editions coauthored with Orna Johnson). According to Harris, the 1975 edition of
Culture, People, Nature
"was the first anthropology textbook to be written cover to cover in a gender-neutral mode of discourse" (12/3/93 letter from Harris to Deborah S. Rubin, "Furlow - [The Teaching of Anthropology]", Series 3. Writings, Marvin Harris Papers).
Although Harris is primarily known for his work as a theoretician, he also conducted ethnographic fieldwork throughout his career. Harris traveled to Rio de Contas, Brazil in 1950-51 to conduct research for his dissertation, "Minas Velhas: A Study of Urbanism in the Mountains of Eastern Brazil." This research was also the subject of his book
Town and Country in Brazil
(1958) and his chapter, "Race Relations in Minas Velhas, a Community in the Mountain Region of Central Brazil" in
Race and Class in Rural Brazil
(Charles Wagley, 1952). He continued his research in Brazil in 1953-54 while serving as a research advisor for the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro. As field leader of the Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program, Harris returned to Brazil in 1962 to study fishing villages in Arembepe. Prior to that, he also served as field leader for the program in Chimborazo, Ecuador in 1960.
In 1956-57, Harris conducted field research in Mozambique, at the time under Portuguese rule. He initially intended to study the influence of Portuguese rule on race relations, comparing the race relations in Brazil and Mozambique. He soon became aware, however, of the political brutalities that the Portuguese government was imposing on the people of Mozambique. Consequently, Harris decided to focus his research on labor exploitation in the colony. Antonio de Figueiredo, who later became an important figure in the Mozambique liberation movement, served as an informal assistant to Harris. Harris was also friends with Eduardo Mondlane, president of FRELIMO, the Mozambican Liberation Front. Because Harris was openly critical of the Portuguese government, he was forced to leave Mozambique before he completed his research. When he returned to the United States, Harris published
Portugal's African "Wards"
(1958), a critical evaluation of Portugal's colonialism. His publication was influential in eradicating the forced labor system in Mozambique a few years later.
Harris' activism extended to the social and political unrest at home during the 1960s. He was vice-chairman of Vietnam Facts, an organization of professors in the United States who were against the Vietnam War, and was one of the organizers of the Ad Hoc Teaching Committee on Vietnam. In 1967, he brought an academic focus to war by organizing a symposium on the subject with Morton Fried and Robert Murphy at the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) annual meeting. Together, they edited
War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression
(1968), a compilation of the papers presented at the conference. During the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University, Harris was one of the few faculty members that openly sided with the students. Harris criticized the actions of the university administrators in his article, "Big Busts on Morningside Heights" (1968).
Due to his experiences in Mozambique, Harris also began to think about the distinctions between emic and etic perspectives, which he discusses in his book,
The Nature of Cultural Things
(1964). During the 1960s-70s, Harris experimented with the use of video recordings as an etic approach to collecting ethnographic data. He collaborated with the Bronx State Hospital to videotape domestic life in two Puerto Rican and two African American families. He also videotaped and coded behavioral streams of two Caucasian and two African-American families in New York City for his NSF funded project, "Patterns of Authority and Subordination in Low-Income Urban Domiciles." In 1965 and 1992, Harris returned to Brazil to study racial categorizations and identifications, specifically the emic and etic differences in the perception of race. He published several papers on the subject, including "The Structural Significance of Brazilian Racial Categories" (1963), "Referential Ambiguity in the Calculus of Brazilian Racial Identity" (1970), and "Who are the Whites?" (1993).
During the 1980s, Harris was troubled by the rising popularity of postmodernist theory within anthropology. He believed that anthropology was a science and was concerned about the harmful consequences of postmodernist theory to the field. He organized a AAA session on postmodernism called "Anti-anti Science" in 1989 and participated in multiple conference sessions on the subject, including a 1993 session on "The Objectivity Crisis: Rethinking the Role of Science" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. "Anthropology and Postmodernism," a revised version of his AAAS paper was published as a chapter in
Science, Materialism, and the Study of Culture
(Martin F. Murphey and Maxine L. Margolis, 1995). Harris also criticized postmodernist theory in his final book,
Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times
(1999).
While Harris thought that postmodernism was moving anthropology further away from science, behavior scientists began to see the relevancy of cultural materialism in their own research. In 1986, Harris was invited to give an address at the annual conference of the Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA). His paper was titled, "Cultural Materialism and Behavior Analysis: Common Problems and Radical Solutions." He also participated in a symposium on "The Integration of Cultural Materialism and Behavior Analysis" at the 1991 ABA annual meeting.
From 1988-90, Harris served as president of the General Anthropology Division of AAA. In 1991, he was given the honor of presenting the Distinguished Lecture at the AAA annual meeting. His talk was titled, "Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the Collapse of Soviet and East European Communism." That same year,
The Rise of Anthropological Theory
was designated a Social Science Citation Classic.
Harris died at the age of 74 on October 25, 2001.
Sources Consulted
Margoline, Maxine L. and Conrad Phillip Kottak. "Marvin Harris (1927-2001)."
American Anthropologist
. 105(3) (2003): 685-688.
Curriculum Vitae. Series 7. Biographical Files. Marvin Harris papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism is Alive and Well and Won't Go Away Until Something Better Comes Along." In
Assessing Anthropology
,edited by Robert Borofsky, 62-76. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.
Chronology
1927
Born August 18 in Brooklyn, New York
1945-1947
Served in U.S. Army Transportation Corps
1948
B.A. from Columbia College
1950-1951
Field research in Brazil
1953
Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University
Field research in Brazil
1953-1954
Research Advisor, National Institute of Pedagogical Studies, Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian Ministry of Education
1953-1959
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1956-1957
Field research in Mozambique
1959-1963
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1960
Field leader of Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program in Chimborazo, Ecuador
1962
Field leader of Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program in Arembepe, Bahia, Brazil. NSF
1963-1980
Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1963-1966
Chair, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1965
Field Research in Brazil
1965-1972
Video Tape Methodology and Etic Ethnography
1969-1974
Principle Investigator, Videotape Studies of Urban Domiciles
1968-1969
Visiting Distinguished Professor, Central Washington State College
1976
Field Research in India
1980-2000
Graduate Research Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
1983-1984
Consultant, United Nations Fund for Population Activities
1984
McMurrin Professor, University of Utah, Fall
1991-1992
Consultant, McKinsey and Company Global Institute
1991
Presented AAA Distinguished Lecture, "Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the Collapse of Soviet and East European Communism"
The Rise of Anthropological Theory
designated Social Science Citation Classic
1992
Field Research in Brazil
2001
Died October 25
Selected Bibliography
1952
Harris, Marvin. "Race Relations in Minas Velhas." In
Race and Class in Rural Brazil
, edited by Charles Wagley, 51-55. Paris: UNESCO, 1952.
1956
Harris, Marvin.
Town and Country in Brazil
. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956.
1958
Harris, Marvin, and Charles Wagley.
Minorities in the New World
. New York: Columbia University, 1958.
Harris, Marvin.
Portugal's African "Wards"
. New York: The American Committee on Africa, 1958.
1959
Harris, Marvin. "The Economy Has No Surplus?"
American Anthropologist
51 (1959): 189-199.
Harris, Marvin. "Labor Emigration Among the Mozambique Thonga: Cultural and Political Factors."
Africa
29 (1959): 50-56.
1963
Harris, Marvin, and Conrad Kottack. "The Structural Significance of Brazilian Racial Categories."
Sociologia
25 (1963): 203-209.
1964
Harris, Marvin. "Racial Identity in Brazil."
Luso-Brazilian Review
1 (1964): 21-28.
Harris, Marvin.
The Nature of Cultural Things
. New York: Random House, 1964.
Harris, Marvin.
Patterns of Race in the Americas
. New York: Walker and Company, 1964.
1965
Harris, Marvin. "The Myth of the Sacred Cow." In
Man, Culture and Animals
, edited by A. Vayda and A. Leeds, 217-228. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1965.
1966
Harris, Marvin. "The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle."
Current Anthropology
7 (1966): 51-66.
Harris, Marvin, and George Morren. "The Limitations of the Principle of Limited Possibilities."
American Anthropologist
58 (1966): 122-127.
1967
Harris, Marvin, Morton Fried, and Robert Murphy, eds. "The Anthropology of War and Aggression." Special Supplement,
Natural History
(December 1967): 30-70.
1968
Harris, Marvin. "Big Bust on Morningside Heights."
The Nation
206 (1968): 757-763.
Harris, Marvin.
The Rise of Anthropological Theory
. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968.
Harris, Marvin, Morton Fried, and Robert Murphy, eds.
War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression
. New York: Natural History Press, 1968.
1970
Harris, Marvin. "Referential Ambiguity in the Calculus of Brazilian Racial Identity."
Southwestern Journal of Anthropology
26 (1970): 1-14.
1971
Harris, Marvin.
Culture, Man and Nature: An Introduction to General Anthropology
. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971.
1974
Harris, Marvin.
Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture
. New York: Random House, 1974.
1976
Harris, Marvin, and William Divale. "Population, Warfare, and the Male Supremacist Complex."
American Anthropologist
78 (1976): 521-538.
1977
Harris, Marvin.
Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Cultures
. New York: Random House, 1977.
1979
Harris, Marvin.
Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture
. New York: Random House, 1979.
1981
Harris, Marvin.
America Now: The Anthropology of a Changing Culture
. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981.
1982
Harris, Marvin, A. Vaidynathan, and K.N. Nair. "Bovine Sex and Species Ratios in India."
Current Anthropology
23 (1982): 365-383.
1983
Harris, Marvin.
Cultural Anthropology
. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
1984
Harris, Marvin. "Animal Capture and Yanomamo Warfare: Retrospect and New Evidence."
Journal of Anthropological Research
40 (1984): 183-201.
1985
Harris, Marvin.
Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture
. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
1987
Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism: Alarums and Excursions." In
Waymarks: The Notre Dame Inaugural Lectures in Anthropology
, edited by Kenneth Morre, 107-126. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1987.
Harris, Marvin, and Eric Ross, eds.
Food and Evolution: Toward a Theory of Human Food Habits
. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.
Harris, Marvin, and Eric Ross.
Death, Sex and Fertility: Population Regulation in Preindustrial and Developing Societies
. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.
1988
Harris, Marvin.
Why Nothing Works: The Anthropology of Daily Life
. New York: Touchstone, 1988.
1989
Harris, Marvin.
Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, and Where We're Going
. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.
1991
Harris, Marvin. "Anthropology: Ships that Crash in the Night." In
Perspectives on Social Science: The Colorado Lectures
, edited by Richard Jessor, 70-114. Boulder, CO.: Westview, 1991.
Harris, Marvin, Thomas Headland, and Kenneth Pike, eds.
Emics and Etics: The Insider/Outsider Debate
. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991.
Harris, Marvin. "The Evolution of Human Gender Hierarchies: A Trial Formulation." In
Sex and Gender Hierarchies
, edited by Barbara Miller, 57-79. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
1992
Harris, Marvin. "Distinguished Lecture: Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the collapse of Soviet and East European Communism."
American Anthropologist
94 (1992): 295-305.
1993
Harris, Marvin, Josildeth Gomes Consorte, Joseph Lang, and Bryan Byrne. "Who are the White? Imposed Census Categories and the Racial Demography of Brazil."
Social Forces
72 (1993): 451-462.
1994
Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism is Alive and Well and Won't Go Away Until Something Better Comes Along." In
Assessing Anthropology
, edited by Robert Borofsky, 62-76. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.
1995
Harris, Marvin. "Anthropology and Postmodernism." In
Science, Materialism, and the Study of Culture
, edited by Martin Murphy and Maxine Margolis, 62-77. Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1995.
1999
Harris, Marvin.
Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times
. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1999.

Administration
Processing Information
The papers of Marvin Harris arrived at the National Anthropological Archives as a single accession in 2010. With the exception of the name subject files and some correspondence, the collection arrived in a largely unorganized state. The majority of the materials were loose and intermixed with unrelated materials. Some materials were in labeled folders, although the folder labels did not always match the contents. Although a concerted effort was made to organize the materials in a logical manner, the researcher may come across materials that are misfiled.
Whenever possible, original folder titles were retained. Folder titles assigned by the archivist are indicated by square brackets. Most, but not all, of the files were rehoused in acid-free folders.
Publications by other people were removed from the collection unless there were significant annotations by Harris or inscriptions by the authors. Most of the books were donated to libraries in various countries. Some were transferred to the Anthropology Library at George Mason University and to the Smithsonian Institution's John Powell Library.
The processing archivist would like to thank David H. Price and intern Blair Smith for their help in processing this collection.
This collection was processed with the assistance of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to David H. Price.
Catalog record created, 2011 July 27, Lorain Wang
Processed by Lorrain Wang, July 2011
Encoded by NAA Staff
Separated Materials
An open reel video from the collection was transferred to the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA 2011.10.1). The video relates to Series 2: Research; Sub-series 2.6: Videotape Research--"[Macy's Santa Claus study]"
Author
Lorain Wang
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Marvin Harris were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by his daughter, Susan Harris.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
Access to student records (consisting of graded materials and student recommendation letters), grant proposals sent to Harris for review by grant agencies, and part of his faculty recruitment files are restricted until 2081. Series 10. Computer Files are also restricted due to preservation concerns.
Preferred Citation
Marvin Harris papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
More of Marvin Harris' correspondence can be found in the papers of William Duncan Strong. Researchers may also want to consult the Human Studies Film Archives, which holds video oral histories of Charles Wagley (HSFA 89.10.5) and Lambros Comitas (HSFA 89.10.20), both of whom discuss Harris in their interviews.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
New York (N.Y.) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Food habits Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mozambique Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rio de Contas (Brazil) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Race Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arembepe (Brazil) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chimborazo (Ecuador) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cattle -- India Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Columbia University Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of Florida. Department of Anthropology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland 20746
naa@si.edu
http://www.anthropology.si.edu/naa/