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Sidney Mintz, Founding Father of Food Anthropology, Has Died

Sidney Mintz, Founding Father of Food Anthropology, Has Died



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Mintz, the son of a diner owner, spent his career being fascinated by the ways in which food shaped the world

Among his favorite areas of research, Mintz was devoted to discovering “what ‘cuisine’ is, and how cuisines evolve over time; and what the future may hold for the food systems of human beings everywhere.”

Sidney Mintz, the cultural anthropologist credited with founding the field of food anthropology, has died at the age of 93, Mintz’s wife has confirmed.

Though he taught a number of subjects over the course of his career and is also credited with founding the anthropology department at Johns Hopkins University, Mintz is most known for his deeply motivated research on the role of food in shaping global societies.

In his own words, Mintz described his work on food as an effort to understand “how world food habits are changing, how the causes of such change work; how the food systems of the West and Asia are interpenetrating; what ‘cuisine’ is, and how cuisines evolve over time; and what the future may hold for the food systems of human beings everywhere.”

Mintz’s most influential works included Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History and Worker in the Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History. In Sweetness and Power, Mintz praised Americans for their ability to streamline entertainment: “Watching the Cowboys play the Steelers while eating Fritos and drinking Coca-Cola, while smoking a joint, while one’s girl sits on one’s lap, can be packing a great deal of experience into a short time and thereby maximizing enjoyment.”

Mintz himself was the son of a restauranteur — a dishwasher who eventually bought the diner where he worked. It became “the only restaurant in the world where the customer was always wrong,” Mintz said.

In an interview with American Anthropologist, Mintz described his love of food as being the direct result of being his father’s son. “I came by my interest in food honestly; feeding people had become what my father did for a living. As I grew, I was able to help.”


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Eric Wolf obituary

The anthropologist Eric Wolf, who studied historical trends across centuries and civilisations, and whose work influenced scholars around the world interested in peasants, the impact of capitalism, and the nature of violent regimes, has died at the age of 76.

In his most influential book, Europe And The People Without History (1982), which has sold more than 80,000 copies in the English language version alone, he compared the effects of European expansion on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, and the Orient, showing that these populations were responding to European market demands, whether for slaves, furs, spices, or tea, long before they ever saw a European.

Wolf argued that the very existence of the 'tribes' that anthropologists had studied as primitive, pre-contact societies was the result of market forces. These forces, he argued, continued to change the face of world populations by provoking massive labour migrations. But he held that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims, although their role had been suppressed or omitted from the historical record.

Wolf's keen analytic engagement with the underdogs of history was rooted in his own experience. He was born in Vienna his mother was Russian, his father Austrian and, as a teenager of Jewish heritage, witnessed National Socialism and its roots in the Depression. His father, who ran a textile factory in the Sudetenland, was present when the Germans occupied Vienna in March, 1938. Followed by his parents, Wolf escaped to England, and in 1940 moved to New York.

At Queen's College, he first tried biochemistry but almost by chance found a course on the anthropology of Asia that ranged from the history of Chinese script to caste relations in India. Here, he later wrote, was 'a real discipline that dealt with all the things in which I was truly interested'. Before graduating, however, he joined the army, and saw combat in the Alps (where he later returned for research).

At Columbia University, Wolf was part of a group of graduate-student veterans with sympathies on the left, and he became convinced that anthropology could learn much from Marx. He and his lifelong friend, Sidney Mintz, did fieldwork in Puerto Rico, comparing smallholders and the workers on coffee estates and sugar plantations. His work in Puerto Rico and Mexico sparked an abiding interest in the peasantry, and he wrote about their participation in six political uprisings in Peasant Wars Of The Twentieth Century (1969).

Wolf generalised his observations from fieldwork on the basis of voracious reading. From the start, he cut across disciplines, and his analyses took on a geographical breadth and an historical vision. His work has appealed more to the periphery than to the centre, more to outsiders than to the established. He taught at a number of universities, but his move to Lehman College and the City University of New York was a return to the free, urban, public education that he himself had experienced. He consistently encouraged intellectual daring in his students, and his own curiosity and thirst for knowledge made it easier for them to identify with him. Wolf was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and, at Michigan in 1965, suggested the first of the anti-war teach-ins. He criticised the involvement of anthropologists in the US government's counter-insurgency programme, crossing swords on this issue with, among others, Margaret Mead.

In his last years, a diagnosis of colon cancer sharpened his attention to his work. Envisioning Power, Ideologies Of Dominance And Crisis, published this year, is a bold comparison of three regimes the Aztec, the Kwakiutl of the Pacific north-west, and the Nazis in which a deep anxiety about a threatening future is associated with cosmic ideologies of violence. Wolf dictated the final revisions of a collection of essays from his sick-bed.

Three months ago, he told of a dream in which he was challenged by the grim Aztec god, Tlaloc, at the entry to the underworld. Tlaloc asked him what he did. Wolf said he was an anthropologist and explained that a British colleague had declared anthropology to be impossible but necessary. Tlaloc responded: 'I don't know about the necessary part, but if it's impossible, you can do it here for eternity'.

Eric Wolf is survived by his wife, Sydel Silverman, two sons from his first marriage, and two step-daughters.

• William A Christian Eric Robert Wolf, anthropologist, born February 1, 1923 died March 6, 1999


Watch the video: Caribbean Journey: Conversations With Sidney Mintz (August 2022).