This is a review of Leslie White and his three key works.

Essay by taramankyUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2004

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Leslie Alvin White was born in Colorado in 1900. An advocate of social evolution at a time when it had virtually disappeared from anthropology, following its rejection by Franz Boas and his students. His affirmation of evolutionism, his materialist-utilitarian interpretation of custom, and his call for a science of culture are the pillars of his scholarly reputation. White first attended Louisiana State University before transferring to Columbia University where he received a Bachelors Degree (1923) and a Masters Degree (1924) in Psychology. Though he never took a course from Boas, he was familiar with his approach from courses he took at the New School of Social Research. According to Barrett (1989), the extent of White's attachment to a Boasian conception of culture has been insufficiently appreciated. In 1925 White went to the University of Chicago to study sociology but quickly found anthropology more to his taste. Here he completed his sociology Ph.

D. dissertation in 1927 based on fieldwork among the Pueblo Indians of the southwest United States. It was not until he took a position at the University of Buffalo that White developed the theoretical passion that became his life work - the revival of evolutionary theory. Only after he accepted the position did he develop reservations about aspects of Boasian anthropology, most particularly the strictures against cultural evolutionism (Barrett 1989). From 1927 to 1930, White taught at the University of Buffalo and was curator of anthropology at the Buffalo Museum of Science. In 1930 he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan where he taught for the following 40 years, becoming a professor of anthropology in 1943. His last years of life were spent working at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the anthropology department. White died in Santa Barbara in 1975.

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