Goodrich C. White Professor, Department Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Office: 210 Anthropology
- PhD, University of Chicago, 1977
- Symbolic and psychological anthropology
- Oceania, Polynesia and U.S.
My early research in Western Samoa focused on the study of conflict and conflict solution. My approach was interpretive anthropology, the attempt to understand Samoan practices in relation to Samoan cultural models of person, and action. The result (as described in my 1982 monograph SALA'ILUA: A SAMOAN MYSTERY) was one of the early studies of ethnopsychology-- an ingenious framework of models underlying beliefs and practices. The notion of person and self was understood as a cultural construct. More recently, my work has turned to the very notion of cultural models itself as a significant way to reconceptualize the concept of culture in anthropology. In my 1996 monograph CULTURE IN MIND: COGNITION, CULTURE AND THE PROBLEM OF MEANING, I outline using detailed ethnographic case studies a theory of culture that links the anthropologist's concern with social action and institutions with the psychologist's concept of mental models. This view of culture as models has been developed largely in cognitive anthropology, but in my recent work has been repositioned to respond to many of the recent critiques of traditional notions of culture and reformulate in a powerful way a conception of culture that will bridge anthropology and cognitive science.