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Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884–1920

Michael W. Young

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Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) was one of the most colorful and charismatic social scientists of the twentieth century. His contributions as a founding father of social anthropology and his complex personality earned him international notoriety and near-mythical status. This landmark book presents a vivid portrait of Malinowski’s early life, from his birth in Cracow to his departure in 1920 from the Trobriand Islands of the South Pacific. At the age of 36, he had already created the innovative fieldwork methods and techniques that would secure his intellectual legacy.

Drawing on an exceptionally rich array of primary documents, including Malinowski’s letters and unpublished diaries and manuscripts, Michael Young provides significant new information about the anthropologist’s personality, private life, and career. The author describes Malinowski’s restless life of travel, connections with intellectuals and artists, Nietzschean belief in his own destiny, and legendary fieldwork. The singular man who emerges from these pages fascinates on every level—as a volatile friend and lover, a provocative colleague, a passionate diarist, and a brilliant thinker who pioneered radical change in the field of anthropology.

Michael W. Young is a visiting fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra.

“By far the most ambitious and successful biography of an anthropologist ever written.”—Donald Tuzin, University of California, San Diego

"[A] fine-scaled, true-to-the-record account. . . . Young calls this a literary and psychological biography, both orientations reflecting the nearly compulsive and relentless interests of its subject. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

“An outstanding scholarly biography written in an eminently readable style, this is highly recommended for biography and anthropology collections.”—Library Journal

“A tour de force of biographical exploration. . . . A wonderfully rich portrayal of a talented but awkward and vulnerable young man.”—Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

"[Young's] vivid descriptions and penetrating interpretations . . . enable the reader to grasp much more firmly and fully what motivated [achievement].The first volume of the official Malinowski biography is every bit as brilliant as expected. . . . Michael Young is to be warmly congratulated on what can only be described as a monumental acheivement. . . . Besides its undoubted appeal to anthropologists wishing to know all about a famous founding father, this book offers a satisfying read to all lovers of biography who want their subject to be depicted in all their complexity and vitality, but also placed firmly in their place and time, and made whole and comprehensible by sensitive and insightful interpretation."—Robert Tokinson, Anthropological Forum

"Michael Young has written an extremely detailed and rich biography on the first 35 years of Bronislaw Malinowski. It is fascinating to read this literary biography and to see how the biographer manages to present to his readership Malinowski's 'point of view, his vision of the world'. Michael Young has to be congratulated for this biography 'in the strict sense of the term'—and I am sure I am not the only one who is eagerly waiting for the publication of the second volume of Young's Malinowski biography."—Gunter Senft, Oceania

“This book strikes a nice balance between illustrating personal information about Malinowski’s formative period … while examining in considerable detail the [theoretical] implications of this budding career … remarkably easy to read … For some time to come, it will be by far the most comprehensive survey of the vast archive of … writings surrounding this pioneer fieldworker … essential reading to those interested in Malinowski studies but … [also] highly informative to anyone interested in the history of anthropological thought.” - Patrick Laviolette, Reviews in Anthropology, Vol. 37

Nominated for the first selection stage for the 2005 British Academy Book Prize

Shortlisted for the 2005 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, awarded by the University of Edinburgh.
ISBN: 9780300102949
Publication Date: July 11, 2004
720 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
42 b/w illus.