Bronislaw Malinowski

Essay by jjock86University, Bachelor'sA+, March 2009

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iBronislaw Malinowski was a British anthropologist best known for his dominate knowledge from his anthropological fieldwork and his role in the creation of the functionalist school of anthropology. His first great breakthrough was in his studies of Pacific Islanders, particularly of the Trobriand Islanders. He focused on the marriage, trade, and religious customs of the Trobriand people. He was also well known for writing several books; one of the most famous books was Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922). Malinowski is responsible for changing anthropology’s evolutionary focal point to one with more of a sociological and psychological focus. An example of how he achieved this was by proving that “savage” people express the same forms of cognitive reasoning as people who are from "civilized" societies. Malinowski’s approach and method of anthropological studies were admired by those who also followed Franz Boas’s anthropology studies. This helped to secure Malinowski as one of the most renowned anthropologists of the 20th century.

Malinowski was born in Krakow, Poland on April 7, 1884. His father was philology teacher at Jagellonian University and his mother was from an upper class family that emphasized the importance of one to be cultured. As a child Malinowski was often weak and sick which affected his studies by being forced to take time off from school until he was healthy again. It was while he was out of school sick that he began to read the book The Golden Bough which subsequently sparked the beginning of his passion of anthropology. The book changed his focus in school from physics to psychology. He fought past his sickness’s and earned a Ph.D in Philosophy in 1908 graduating in the top of his class.

Not short after, Malinowski went to Leipzig University where he began research on physical chemistry. Later...