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Bronislaw Malinowski 1884-1942 Malinowski born in Poland was wealthy and well educated He gained a PhD in Philosophy Physics and Mathematics 1908 followed by a PhD in Science 1916 He decided to study Anthropology after reading Sir James Frazers The Golden Bough and is now considered by many to have provided the first example of intensive ethnographic fieldwork He engaged in an in-depth study of the Trobriand Islanders while he was interned there as an enemy alien during WW1 While there he undertook the task of living among the natives sharing their lives and comprehensively documenting every detail His facility for languages allowed him access to aspects of the islanders society that others may not have been privy to Malinowski is often referred to as The Father of Functionalism a methodology that calls for the ethnographer to study and often re-frame facts and observations She finds the relationship between isolated customs institutions and aspects of culture the principle view being that every idea object custom and belief fulfills some vital function and is indispensable to the working whole Functionalism was opposed to Tylors notion of evolutionary cultural survivals and argued that no custom persists unless it fulfills some kind of socially useful purpose He was however influenced by Spencers organic analogy and also to some extent Durkheims belief in the vast continuing apparatus Malinowski used the Kula Ring as a case in point linking the exchange of seemingly useless gifts of shells and bracelets to a more economic and historical role within the islanders society He points out that it is an exchange not based on the maximization of scarce resources thus it must point to economic factors Westerners might overlook It also illustrates a system of regional integration in that it is a cultural system that links a number of different societies His analogy regarding the Kula Ring and the Crown Jewels was interesting in that it simplified the understanding of a foreign
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