- Collection ID:
Spiro, Melford E., 1920-2014
Collection is primarily in
. Contains materials written in
- Physical Description:
9.6 Linear feet
Melford E. Spiro was a psychological anthropologist whose career included fieldwork on the Pacific Atoll of Ifaluk, on kibbutzim in Israel, and in Burma. His research topics included child rearing, cooperation, aggression, and supernatural beliefs. His papers, dated 1943-2003, primarily document these periods of fieldwork in relation to these topics. The collection consists of field notes, personality data and analysis, photographs, interview tapes and transcriptions, ephemera, subject card files, and research files. It also includes limited material related to his teaching and writings in the form of course outlines and research, lecture notes, annotated articles, drafts, and book reviews.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Melford E. Spiro papers, 1943-2003, primarily document his periods of field work on the Ifaluk Atoll, on kibbutzim in Israel, and in Burma. The collection consists of field notes, personality data and analysis, photographs, interview tapes and transcriptions, ephemera, subject card files, and research files. It also includes limited material related to his teaching and writings in the form of course outlines and research, lecture notes, annotated articles, drafts, and book reviews.
The collection includes a great deal of the data Spiro collected at all three field sites, including Rorschach and Thematic Apperception tests (TAT) and the subsequent analysis, sentence completions, drawings by children, and autobiographies of informants. The majority of the interview transcriptions and questionnaires in the collection are from Israel and are written in Hebrew. Translations in English do not exist within this collection. The photographs include black-and-white snapshots of people and landscapes on Ifaluk and color slides taken in Burma and other locations in Southeast Asia.
This collection is arranged in 4 series: Series 1. Ifaluk, 1947-1988, undated; Series 2. Israel, 1951-1981, undated; Series 3. Burma, 1943-1978, undated; Series 4. Teaching and writing, 1953-2003, undated.
1920 April 26
Melford Spiro born in Ohio
BA Philosophy, University of Minnesota
Studied at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York
Field work in Ifaluk (Caroline Islands atoll)
PhD in Anthropology, Northwestern University
Start of field work in Israel
Taught at Washington University, St. Louis, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Washington
Began teaching at the University of Chicago
Started at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a founding member of the Anthropology department
Chair of the Anthropology department at UCSD
Summers: Worked with Burmese refugees in Thailand
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Appointed UCSD's first holder of the Presidential Chair
Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
Melford E. Spiro was a psychological anthropologist whose career included fieldwork on the Pacific Atoll of Ifaluk, on kibbutzim in Israel, and in Burma. His research topics included child rearing, cooperation, aggression, and supernatural beliefs. He was renowned for his "careful, insightful, and insistent emphasis upon motivational and psychological underpinnings of human behavior…and upon the need to take them into account in cross-cultural analysis." (Jordan)
While a PhD student at Northwestern University, Spiro was introduced to psychological anthropology by A. Irving Hallowell, who became a lifelong mentor and friend. After receiving his PhD in 1950, he went on to teach at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Universities of Connecticut, Washington, and Chicago before becoming the founding chair of the anthropology department at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1968. He recruited the department's first faculty members in 1969 including Roy D'Andrade, Marc J. Swartz, Theodore Schwartz, Robert I. Levy, David K. Jordon, and Joyce Bennett Justus. Spiro also received training in psychoanalysis after arriving in San Diego and practiced as a lay analyst while establishing links to the medical school to provide anthropology graduate students with general psychiatric training.
Spiro served terms as president of the American Ethnological Society and the Society for Psychological Anthropology (SPA). He was one of the founders of
, the SPA's journal. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships and an Einstein Fellowship from the Israel Academy of Science. He also received an Excellence-in-Teaching award from the Chancellor's Associates at UCSD based on his mentoring of anthropology graduate students.
Sources consulted: Jordan, David K. "In Memoriam, Melford E. Spiro." Anthropology News 56, no. 11-12 (December 2015): 26-27.
Avruch, Kevin. "Biographical Memoirs, Melford E. Spiro." National Academy of Sciences. 2015. Accessed April 4, 2016. http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/spiro-melford.pdf.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
Original file titles were retained when possible. When handwriting was indecipherable, titles are followed by a question mark and a copy of the original folder was placed with the material.
Processed and encoded by Katie Duvall, 2016.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Melford Spiro's son, Jonathan Spiro, in 2015.
Ghosts, Ifaluk, and teleological functionalism. [Indianapolis]: [Bobbs-Merrill].
Kibbutz: venture in Utopia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Children of the kibbutz. New York: Schocken Books.
Burmese supernaturalism; a study in the explanation and reduction of suffering. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Buddhism and society; a great tradition and its Burmese vicissitudes. New York: Harper & Row.
Kinship and marriage in Burma: a cultural and psychodynamic analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Gender and culture: kibbutz women revisited. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Gender ideology and psychological reality: an essay on cultural reproduction. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Conditions Governing Access
The Melford E. Spiro papers are open for research.
Access to the Melford E. Spiro papers requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Melford E. Spiro papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Film and sound reels have been transferred to the Smithsonian's Human Studies Film Archive, accession number 2016-009.
National Anthropological Archives
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