Thursday, October 30, 2014

What is the legacy of an anthropologist -- Edward H. and Rosamont B. Spicer Foundation

Anthropology is the study of humanity. It is carried out by individual men and women which is the legacy of all those who have, those who are, and those who will add to the discoveries and traditions that are the basis and core of our discipline, our science, our profession, and our passion. That is, today's anthropology is the legacy we, as the intellectual heirs of our founders, have been entrusted with to honor, to build upon and to apply for the benefit of humanity. Have you made plans for preserving and passing on your legacy?

One such legacy is that of the late Edward H. Spicer and his wife, Rosamond.

The Edward H. and Rosamont B. Spicer Foundation is a non-profit foundation incorporated in the state of Arizona. Its mission is to honor and further the legacy and life works of Edward H. and Rosamond B. Spicer in the fields of anthropology, community development, and social justice. The foundation was founded by Scott Spicer, Ned's grandson and Lawson Spicer and several of Ned's former colleagues and students to honor the memory and further the work of the Spicers

In Edward Spicer'and his wife Rosomond's case, their legacy is to be found in the combination of his body of work, the depth of which has just been scratched.  And second in the students he trained with his unique perspective of anthropology as both a science in the pursuit of knowledge about the human condition and a body of knowledge about that condition that could and should be used to bring about a better world

The body of work

A listing of Spicer's major works can be found first in James Officer's Spicer biography published in the National Academy of Sciences  Biographical Memoirs V.68 (1995) and second his papers located in the Edward H. and Rosamond B. Spicer Archive at the Arizona State Museum Library. It is from these resources that the legacy is to be found, picked up, and carried forward by all who hold these values.
Ned Spicer was invited to participate in a symposium, organized by Thomas Weaver of the University of Arizona, entitled  "Anthropology in the 1990's: Conditions, Needs, and Prospects." The symposium was held in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in San Francisco in the winter of 1974. The subheading of the symposium was, "Suppose They Began the Twenty-First Century and Forgot to Invite Anthropology!!!"

Ned presented his paper entitled, "Anthropology in the society of the 1990s", on February 28, 1974.
Twenty years later, in 1994, the paper was republished in Human Organization with a forward by his widow, Rosamond Spicer, under the title, "Reassessing Edward Spicer's Views on Anthropology in the Society of the 1990s: How and Why This Paper by Edward H. Spicer Was Written" (Spicer, Rosamond 1994 Human Organization, Vol. 53. No. 4, pp. 388 - 395). From her forward, we can gain an insight into Ned's thinking and approach to the future.
Rosamond observed that

"In preparing this paper on the future of cultural anthropology, Ned apparently gave it a great deal of thought. As was his habit, he wrote down voluminous notes and lists of ideas. He also made a number of starts, each different from the last.”

“At one point he wrote, 'I react strongly against nineteenth century economic-determinism, that technology and physical environmental conditions are the essential factors to consider in forecasting. I rather look to the future in terms of the adaptation of social structures and cultural orientations to one another in the context of the influence of firm cultural products. I shall therefore take off from consideration of the probable alternative trends which we may expect in the form and functions of societal structures and cultural value orientations.'  “

“Such a point of view was always the basis of his thinking and writing." (p. 388)

In describing Ned, Rosamond says,

"His interests, reading, and studies ranged through drama, literature, economics, city planning, philosophy, history, poetry, the environment, and all the fields of anthropology. All of this vast array of information and understanding he brought to bear in some way or another on any project he undertook, on any subject on which he wrote.”

“Perhaps one of his outstanding characteristics was his ability to synthesize, as was so evident in his Cycles of Conquest. I have long thought that the practice of that art of synthesis was connected with another, the appreciation and writing of poetry. I mention all these aspects of Ned because they seem to be contained in the following paper." (p.388).

It was his global interests and ability to synthesize vast amounts of material that I remember from my first graduate classes with Ned.  I was drawn to his Community Development Seminar where  he challenged us to look at the problem at hand from multiple points of view. He asked us, “What are the “felt needs” of the various parties in this change situation?” He encouraged us to seek a synthesis of these views as a way toward understanding the issues and their complexities. As community developers, he taught us that our job was to help the parties to synthesize their shared interests. Our job was to facilitate, not impose, problem resolution.

Ned was a humanist who understood and taught the connection between a people’s past, present and how these shaped their future. In his paper on the February day in 1974, he outlined 5 trends in the social and cultural environment that he felt would shape the next 20 years for anthropology.

The five trends that Ned chose to characterize the society he envisioned for the 1990s were the following:
(1) increasing intercommunication among the peoples of the world;
(2) increasing occupational specialization with accompanying organic differentiation within societies;
(3) increasing failure of technological solutions for the resolution of human problems in acceptable ways;
(4) increasing assertion and self-expression of ethnic groups within nation-states; and
(5) increasing reaction against centralization in political and administrative structures.

He stated "In general, continuation of these trends will, I believe, result in a society more heterogeneous than it was in the 19th or any previous century, more aware of its heterogeneity, with stronger than ever tendencies to compartmentalization, with increased awareness of and interest in non-technological and non-economic factors affecting human life, and with a growing tendency to view the nation-state in a wholly new light, especially with reference to its ethnic components and its political and administrative units." (p. 389)
Now. nearly 40 years later, it might be worth considering just how prescient Ned’s predictions were for the 1990s and for the 21st Century. It is time to evaluate the predictions and further the legacy

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