Anthropological Talks in South Tyrol Third Biennial Symposium
The Malinowskian Legacy in Ethnography
September 21-22, 2017, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (Italy), main campus, Piazza Università 1
More informationMore information

The life and works of Bronislaw K. Malinowski (1884-1942) inspire a reflection on the complex connections between ethnography and intimacy.

A view of the veranda of Malinowskis' house in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta
A view of the veranda of Malinowskis' house in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta

On the one hand, Malinowski formulated ethnography as a specific scientific method that entails becoming familiar with a different culture by observing both public and private spheres of action and taking part in the intimate daily life of people. (See the introduction to the “Argonauts”, 1922). On the other hand, his intimate troubles in fieldwork became emblematic, since his private diary was published post-mortem in 1967, revealing the personal conflicts and problems of the ethnographer. While he was trying to penetrate into the culture of the Trobriand Islands, he remained strongly attached to his own European world, made of memories and visions, ghosts and people, who influenced him and contributed directly or indirectly to his work. Above all, Elsie R. Masson (1890-1935), Malinowski’s first wife, helped him to elaborate the collected ethnographical data, prepare the presentation of his papers and write his articles and monographs.

Bronislaw Malinowski and Elsie Masson: a two-person single career?

Starting from a wider reflection about the multiple relations between ethnographies and intimacies, our research aims firstly to take under consideration the figure and the works of Elsie Masson and her role in the career of her famous husband. Using theoretical concepts concerning with intimacy, family style and gender, we will investigate the many issues of the Malinowski-Masson collaboration.     

The Malinowskis in South Tyrol

After their marriage, in 1922 Bronislaw and Elsie Malinowski moved to Oberbozen-Soprabolzano, on the Ritten-Renon Mountain, directly above Bolzano-Bozen, in South Tyrol, thanks to a suggestion of a friend from Vienna.

Malinowskis' house in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta
Malinowskis' house in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta

They bought here a cottage, which became their “home” for the next ten years and which still belongs to their heirs. A further aim of the MFEA research project is collecting evidences of the Malinowskis’ presence in South Tyrol and documents that show their point of view on the local society and cultures in a dramatic historical period, marked by the Italian Fascist dictatorship and the rise of the Nazism in Austria and Germany.

 

The Malinowskis’ network between several worlds

The Malinowskis’ house in South Tyrol became a point of connection between the many knots of their social network, which included Malinowski’s students, academics and above all friends. Many of these friends were artists, intellectuals or adventurous entrepreneurs, who shared with both Bronislaw and Elsie a kind of bourgeois-bohemian, romantic and cosmopolitan life style. These relations linked several worlds and their different cultural roots. Reconstructing the Malinowskis’ private social networks and collecting stories of life and family, our research aims to investigate the role of intimacies, family and friendships in the development of collective ideas and shared life styles, which contributed to the history of science, ethnography and anthropology.

The Post office in Oberbozen. Photo by I. M. Carta
The Post office in Oberbozen. Photo by I. M. Carta
The rail of the ancient little train (1907), still working in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta
The rail of the ancient little train (1907), still working in Oberbozen. Photo by I.M.Carta

Resources

Archives and collections

The main archives of Malinowski's material and the greatest Malinowski's collections from the Trobriands 

Bibliography

Masson's and Malinowski's works, studies on Malinowski and the Trobriands, ethnography and history of anthropology

Videos

Documentaries about Malinowski's life and works 

Links

Institutes, associations, lectures and awards dedicated to Malinowski