Guide to the Joan Mencher papers, 1920-2011

Summary
Collection ID:
NAA.2011-08
Creators:
Mencher, Joan P., 1930-
Dates:
1920-2011
bulk 1956-1993
Languages:
Most of the collection is in
English
; some of Mencher's field notes appear to be in
Malayalam
, the official language of the Indian state of Kerala.
Physical Description:
42.5 Linear feet
104 document boxes, plus 3 oversize boxes, and 2 map drawers
Repository:
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Joan Mencher. The files from her extensive career as a field researcher make up the majority of the collection. These materials include field notes, diaries, charts, tables, maps, interviews, questionnaires, scholarly papers and publications of other scholars, genealogical charts, sets of analyzed data, computer printouts, and digital files. The collection also contains copies of most of Mencher's published writings.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Joan Mencher. The files from her extensive career as a field researcher make up the majority of the collection. These materials include field notes, diaries, charts, tables, maps, interviews, questionnaires, scholarly papers and publications of other scholars, genealogical charts, sets of analyzed data, computer printouts, and digital files. The collection also contains copies of most of Mencher's published writings.
The materials in this collection document Mencher's decades-long career as a scholar of Indian culture. The primary areas of research represented are agricultural development, family planning, the roles of men and women in the family and in the community, nutrition, housing, caste, and land ownership. Most of her work was conducted in the two south Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with a brief interlude in the state of West Bengal.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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
Collection is organized into 7 series: 1) Kerala Field Research, 1956-2000; 2) Tamil Nadu Field Research, 1961-93; 3) West Bengal Field Research, 1963, 1979-84; 4) Writings, 1962-2011; 5) Computer Files, 1970-91; 6) Maps, 1920-22, 1959-65; 7) Photographs, 1958-1980

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Joan Mencher is an anthropologist best known for her extensive field research in southern India. She earned her BA in physics and math from Smith College in 1950 and then went on to Columbia University to study anthropology. She received her PhD in 1958.
Mencher began her field research in India in 1958. She received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research on child rearing and family life in the south Indian state of Kerala. This was the first trip of many Mencher would take to India over the next 50 years. Her primary areas of research include agricultural development, land ownership, rural housing, gender roles, and family planning. Most of Mencher's research took place in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, two south Indian states. She also spent some time in the state of West Bengal. She often conducted multiple research projects at once, taking the opportunity to interview her informants on a variety of topics in one session. This resulted in a very comprehensive look at rural Indian life over the course of several decades. Mencher has published her findings in numerous books and articles.
In addition to her active research pursuits, Mencher taught at several universities. She taught anthropology at Hofstra College from 1960-1961, at Cornell University from 1964-1965, and at Columbia, her alma mater, from 1967-1968. Her longest teaching position was at CUNY where she taught at both Lehman College and the Graduate Center. Her tenure there was from 1967-2004.
In the early 2000s Mencher founded The Second Chance Foundation, a non-profit that works to support rural grass-roots organizations that work with poor and small farmers in India and the United States on issues of sustainable agriculture. She runs the day-to-day operations of the organization, writes grant proposals, leads fundraising efforts to support small farmers in India, and makes public presentations about sustainable agriculture.
Sources Consulted:
Cambridge Who's Who. 2007. Joan P. Mencher's Biography. http://www.cambridgewhoswho.com/Members/NY/Joan-Mencher-1035277.html, accessed December 2, 2011.
Mencher, Joan. 1974. The Caste System Upside Down, or the Not-so-Mysterious East. Current Anthropology 15(4):469-493.
Sayeed, Vikhar Ahmed. 2009. Interview: The Right to Food. Frontline 26(26). http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2626/stories/20100101262608900.htm, accessed December 2, 2011.
Chronology
1930
Born
1950
Earned BA in Physics and Math from Smith College
1958
Earned PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University
1958-1960
Field work in South India. Received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research on child rearing and family life in Kerala.
1960-1961
Taught anthropology at Hofstra College
1962-1963
Worked in South India. Looked at ecological issues and the differences between Tamil Nadu and Kerala and looked at how changes in ecology affected agriculture and social life
1963
Conducted a study of land, agriculture, power and conflict in Tamil Nadu
1964-1965
Taught anthropology at Cornell University
1966-1967
Returned to Tamil Nadu
1967-1968
Taught anthropology at Columbia University
1967-1969
Conducted field research in South India
1967-2004
Taught at Lehman College and the Graduate Center at CUNY
1970
Engaged in a research project under the auspices of Columbia University and the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, financed by the National Science Foundation. The study dealt with the relationship between social structure and modernization, focusing on problems of family planning, agricultural development and rural housing
1974
Was a co-principal investigator, with Conrad Arensberg and K. R. Unni, on a comparative study in Tamil Nadu and Kerala
1975-1977
Conducted a study with Dr. P. G. K. Panikar on the socio-economics of rice cultivation in different parts of Kerala
1978-1980
Rockefeller Foundation Post-Doctoral Program
1979-1985
Conducted a comparative study of women in rice cultivation in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal
1984-1990
Conducted an in-depth study of the lives of over twenty women by collecting oral histories
1993-1995
Let the Women Talk, a two-part study of the effects of change both planned and unplanned in the south Indian villages studied in 1979-1982
2000s
Founded the non-profit The Second Chance Foundation, which works to support rural grass-roots organizations that work with poor and small farmers in India and the United States on issues of sustainable agriculture
2002-2003
Received a pre-proposal grant from the City University of New York to explore interest and to develop a proposal to conduct a study of sustainable agricultural projects in southern India
Selected Bibliography
1962
Changing Familial Roles among South Malabar Nayars. Southwestern Journal of Anthroplogy 18(3):230-245.
1966
Kerala and Madras: A Comparative Study of Ecology and Social Structure. Ethnology 5(2):135-171.
with André Béteille. Review of Caste, Class, and Power: Changing Powers of Stratification in a Tanjore Village. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 367:174-175.
1967
with Helen Goldberg. Kinship and Marriage Regulations among the Namboodiri Brahmans of Kerala. Man 2(1):87-106.
1970
Family Planning in India: The Role of Class Values. Family Planning Perspectives 2(2):35-39.
1974
Conflicts and Contradictions in the "Green Revolution": The Case of Tamil Nadu. Economic and Political Weekly 9(6/8): 309+311+313+315+317-319+321+323.
The Caste System Upside Down, or the Not-so-Mysterious East. Current Anthropology 15(4):469-493.
1978
Agriculture and Social Structure in Tamil Nadu: Past Origins, Present Transformations and Future Prospects. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Why Grow More Food?: An Analysis of some Contradictions in the "Green Revolution" in Kerala. Economic and Political Weekly 13(51/52):A98-A99+A101-A104.
1982
with K. Saradamoni. Muddy Feet, Dirty Hands: Rice Production and Female Agricultural Labour. Economic and Political Weekly 17(52):A149-A153+A155-A167.
1997
with Judy Brink, eds. Mixed Blessings: Gender and Religious Fundamentalism Cross Culturally. New York: Routledge.
1999
NGOs: Are They a Force for Change? Economic and Political Weekly 34(30):2081-2086.
2001
The United States, India and GM Foods. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 15(1):31-33.

Administration
Author
Christy Fic
Sponsor
The papers of Joan Mencher were processed with the assistance of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to Joan Mencher.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Joan Mencher.
Processing Information
The papers of Joan Mencher arrived at the archives organized into labeled record storage boxes, file card sized boxes, and poster tubes. The majority of the papers were in clearly labeled folders. Research materials were arranged by state and village. The processing archivist kept these existing groupings and organized the collection into six series. Original folder titles were retained. Folder titles assigned by the archivist are indicated by square brackets. Oversized materials were placed in oversize boxes. Rolled maps were removed from their original poster tubes and wrapped in acid free paper. Folded maps were unfolded and placed in oversize folders. Copies of Mencher's curriculum vitae have been added in the Appendix at the end of the finding aid. Her contact information was removed to protect her privacy. Restricted materials were removed and placed in separate manuscript boxes.
Processed by Christy Fic
Encoded by Jocelyn Baltz, June 2012

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Certain topics of Mencher's research such as psychological testing and family planning contain sensitive medical information. Field notes and data containing content related to birth control measures, operations, illnesses, medications taken, and psychological tests have been restricted.
For preservation purposes, Mencher's digital files are also restricted.
Access to the Joan Mencher papers requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact repository for terms of use.

More Information

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
South Asia Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kerala (India) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tamil Nadu Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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