Expanding American Anthropology, 1945-1980: A Generation Reflects

Expanding American Anthropology, 1945-1980: A Generation Reflects

by Alice Beck Kehoe

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Expanding American Anthropology, 1945–1980: A Generation Reflects takes an inside look at American anthropology’s participation in the enormous expansion of the social sciences after World War II. During this time the discipline of anthropology itself came of age, expanding into diverse subfields, frequently on the initiative of individual


Expanding American Anthropology, 1945–1980: A Generation Reflects takes an inside look at American anthropology’s participation in the enormous expansion of the social sciences after World War II. During this time the discipline of anthropology itself came of age, expanding into diverse subfields, frequently on the initiative of individual practitioners. The Association of Senior Anthropologists of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) called upon a number of its leaders to give accounts of their particular innovations in the discipline. This volume is the result of the AAA venture—a set of primary documents on the history of American anthropology at a critical juncture.
In preparing the volume, the editors endeavored to maintain the feeling of “oral history” within the chapters and to preserve the individual voices of the contributors. There are many books on the history of anthropology, but few that include personal essays from such a broad swath of different perspectives. The passing of time will make this volume increasingly valuable in understanding the development of American anthropology from a small discipline to the profession of over ten thousand practitioners.

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“Expanding American Anthropology does a great job of conveying the spirit of anthropology in the decades following World War II (with a few essays that go back to the ‘40s as well). Most have a way of making me recall that spirit that I did not think possible. Obviously, it's the personal account that makes this possible. It reminds me that autobiography is the one of the best ways of getting into the spirit of the times. Such accounts convey the strengths and limitations of the individual and the field they're working in. I think it is enormously important to let it be known to the current generation, and ones to come, what individual anthropologists saw as the challenges before them and how different their responses were.”
--James Brown, author of The Spiro Ceremonial Center: The Archaeology of Arkansas Valley Caddoan Culture in Eastern Oklahoma 


“The editors of this expertly compiled collection strive to highlight the shift in anthropology during the postwar era and beyond from a small academic field to what they call ‘an increasingly outreaching discipline.’ Using an oral history format, Kehoe and Doughty provide a keen sense of how anthropology changed during this period, but also how some things remained the same. With the book’s drawing from the experiences of senior anthropologists in a wide range of geographical and topical areas, the history of anthropology takes on a personal and more ‘real’ feel. Woven into the fabric of their narratives are the intellectual and theoretical developments anthropology faced as the discipline grew. The reader is able to gain a strong sense of the historical dimensions of anthropology in a way that counters the usual treatment--big theories and their creators--and thus a more intimate connection to the field and its practitioners. And despite a somewhat sure idea by many of the senior members that anthropology was a field headed toward ‘oblivion,’ what emerges from this exercise is a renewed hope for the future of the discipline. Especially poignant are the conversations on applied and practicing anthropology and its relevance. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”--CHOICE

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Expanding American Anthropology, 1945–1980

A Generation Reflects

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 2012 Alice B. Kehoe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8173-5688-0

Chapter One

From Relief and Reconstruction to Development

CARE de Mexico, 1952–60, a Pilot Program Mary Elmendorf

In 1952, when the Latin American regional director for CARE, Nelson Neff, arrived in Mexico City, he went to the U.S. Embassy to get suggestions for a possible chief of mission for a new office in Mexico to do a pilot program in development. He was sent to John Elmendorf, then director of the Mexican American Cultural Institute, for suggestions. John, who was my husband, called me to say he had invited Neff to come to our house for lunch since he felt I might know possible candidates for the job. When they came I gave names of four men to Neff, and we invited him to join us at an American Society party that evening to meet others.

When Neff came back that evening, he said, "When I called CARE in New York and told Dick Reuter that the wife of John Elmendorf had suggested four people, he said, 'If John's wife is Mary Elmendorf, see if she will open the Mexico office. Forget the others.'" Nelson continued, "I told him that you hadn't suggested yourself and besides, a woman couldn't do the job in Latin America, especially Mexico!" I immediately replied, "I'll take it part time for six months, negotiate an agreement with the foreign office, set up an office, and start a program based on community development and self- help. In six months, we can renegotiate. By then, you'll know whether a woman can do it and I will know whether I can combine it with my family responsibilities."


CARE, originally incorporated as Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, was founded in November 1945 by 22 members of the Council of Voluntary Agencies, civic and religious, including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). This amazing innovative effort was in response to the devastation of much of Europe, where millions of men, women, and children were dead and the surviving millions wandered ragged, homeless, and hungry. Farms, factories, railroads, and shipping were unusable. For many the greatest immediate need was food—just one more meal in order to survive.

Six short months later, what many thought was impossible had been accomplished, after the member agencies pledged $750,000 of their resources to launch a new food package service using the World War II military surplus ten-in-one ration packages (food for ten men for one day) to start the program. Staff, primarily recruited from the cooperating agencies, began negotiations with foreign governments, chartered ships, and established mechanisms for merchandizing to the public, including detailed procedures for ordering, remitting, and receipting. Many thought it an impossible dream.

When the first CARE packages arrived in Le Havre, France, on May 11, 1946, I had already been working as a Quaker volunteer for AFSC in France for nearly a year, first in the infamous prisons of Fresnes and Drancy and later with Spanish refugees. I had arrived at the same port in May of 1945—just after VE day and before VJ day—on the first unescorted Liberty Ship, which had zigzagged its way across the Atlantic hoping not to be hit by a torpedo on its way to bring soldiers home from Europe.

We were 25 relief workers, mostly assigned to UNRAA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration), and two other Quaker volunteers, Lois Jessup and Charlotte Brooks. They and I were on our way to relieve the brave group from nonaligned countries who had kept the small Quaker office open during occupation. In France there was no food, no transportation, no heat, and no strategic plan, just enormous need and a feeling of hope and hate combined, as the air was filled with suspicions of "collaborators" with the Germans.

The Quakers—French, British, and American—were trusted. Doors were open to the prisons, the hospitals, and the service agencies, but even working 80- hour weeks, our contributions were small. But they grew as more volunteers joined us and funding arrived from outside along with plans for cooperating with French agencies. After my husband, John Elmendorf, who had just gone through the Battle of the Bulge as a noncombatant, had taken his military discharge in Europe in the fall of 1945, he joined me in Paris as a Quaker volunteer. Soon afterward, he went into Germany with the first Quaker group, including Herta Kraus and Gilbert White, to set up a program there.

The rest is history. In 1947, when Henry Cadbury accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for the British and American Friends for the work during and after World War II, he said, "Common folk, not statesmen, nor generals, nor great men of affairs, but just simple men and women, if they devote themselves ... can do something to build a better peaceful world."


But this is about CARE. When the first CARE group arrived in Paris, AFSC, as a member agency of the cooperative, helped find storage, housing, and so forth. I was assigned the task of trying to obtain travel orders for the group to go into Germany to set up a CARE program. After much explaining I finally received travel orders signed by General Eisenhower. One of the team, David Jack, said, "I'm a conscientious objector so I refuse to take military orders." When I explained to him that without military orders there was no way to get into Germany, he finally changed his mind and went. Ironically, he was the CARE director who was assigned to replace me in Mexico fifteen years later.


In the fall of 1946, we returned to Chapel Hill to continue our interrupted graduate studies at the University of North Carolina; John was studying comparative linguistics and I was in anthropology. When I heard that John Gillin was chairing the new Department of Anthropology, my first thought was: "Now I can study anthropology." I had realized that my graduate work in Public Administration and Social Work, while it had been extremely useful in our AFSC work in France, had been very ethnocentric.


Three very busy years later, in February 1950, I followed my husband to Mexico. He had everything finished for his Ph.D. except his dissertation, and I, with an incomplete M.A. in anthropology and two small children—my daughter just six weeks old! John had accepted a two-year assignment from the Department of State as director of the Instituto Mexicano de Relaciones Culturales. John Gillin said to me, "Take these letters of introduction—to Sol Tax, Franz Blom, and many of the Mexican anthropologists. There's much you can learn in Mexico. It's far ahead of the U.S. in applied anthropology. Keep in touch."


By 1951 CARE had aided in relief and reconstruction of 12 European countries and was beginning to extend its help to emergencies other than the devastation of World War II—earthquakes, famines, and armed conflicts worldwide. With the original task completed, the founding agencies and the CARE staff were almost evenly divided about dissolving the cooperative or reorganizing to meet disasters worldwide and to focus on development and technical assistance instead of just relief. CARE survived.

The questions back then were many: If that reorganization took place, what kind of CARE packages would be appropriate? What kind of technical assistance would be needed? What kind of structure could be developed within the various countries? Finally, two countries were chosen for pilot projects, Mexico and Greece.


In 1952, when I accepted the challenge of designing and negotiating a CARE program for Mexico to demonstrate how CARE could evolve from an agency focused on emergency relief to development based on packages of technical assistance, I had several things in my favor. The amazing reception I had received from anthropologists in Mexico, along with the contacts made at the Instituto Mexicano Norte Americano de Relaciones Culturales, had certainly given me a privileged introduction to Mexico at an exciting time in its history. Even though I had not been able to finish my master's degree in anthropology, I'd had ten years of experience as an administrator and social worker both in the United States and Europe. My two years in Mexico had been "continuing education."

Mexico was ready, too, with its existing programs, such as the successful Rural Cultural Missions and Indian Brigades under the Ministry of Education, the Rural Youth Clubs and Demonstration Projects under the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Rural Welfare Centers under the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The National Indian Institute, INI (Instituto Nacional Indigenista), with its integrated approach in specialized regional coordinating centers such as the one in Chiapas, had just been called "the best example of applied anthropology in the world" by Arnold Toynbee. The United Nations resident representative in Mexico was preparing a paper on Mexico's community development programs. The United Nations' specialized agencies working in Mexico included WHO, FAO, ILO, UNICEF, and UNESCO, which was running the Regional Center for Fundamental Education (CREFAL) in Pátzcuaro.

The Rockefeller Foundation had a very successful program with the Ministry of Agriculture, including support for research at the demonstration program in the State of Mexico. The American Friends Service Committee had for many years arranged for volunteers to work primarily in rural areas on summer vacations or for two-year assignments, some as conscientious objectors performing this work in lieu of military service.


When I accepted the assignment, I had agreed to negotiate an official agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allowing duty-free entry of CARE "technical assistance" to establish a nonprofit organization in Mexico with a binational board of directors, and to develop some new CARE packages of tools and equipment. Now the work could start. The agreement was signed after much discussion, and CARE de Mexico was launched with a binational board of directors, chaired by William Richard son. We rented a tiny office on Calle Yucatán and operations began.

Eight years later, I resigned when CARE transferred me to Yugoslavia. "Four years is the maximum for most directors; often two," I was told. "It's someone else's turn in Mexico."

I want to share with you some of the breakthroughs and some of the problems to help illustrate what was happening in Mexico, the United States, and Europe between 1945 and 1960. I'm surprised at how many people don't remember World War II and VE day. As I went though my files and checked the archives, I was amazed at the publicity we'd had, and at the number of people who had attended the presentation of even small donations. The yellowed newspaper clippings from Mexican newspapers, both Spanish and English, and the articles in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and journals of the Business and Professional Women, letters from the White House, even the Congressional Record, tell the story better than I can. Maybe I was doing PIA, Public Interest Anthropology, without knowing it.

CARE de Mexico Programs, 1952–57

During the first five years of operation, the CARE technical assistance valued at only $125,000 and composed primarily of the small CARE kits ranging in price from $12 to $25 each, all made possible by donations from interested individuals and groups in the United States, was enhanced many times over by donations in kind from Mexico, the supervision of the agencies, and the efforts of the people themselves.

In fact, I'd like to quote from "Summary of Care Activities in Mexico: 1952–1957" prepared for a CARE conference:

In cooperation with the agencies, the villages which have been out standing in their efforts to help themselves are chosen as recipients for the gifts which come, not only as much needed tools, but in recognition of their efforts towards progress. Several things happen when this is the basis of selection. The gift become[s] a prize—a prize received by a village because someone in the United States has heard what they in their village are doing to help themselves—and, because it is a reward, it loses the stigma of charity and so can be accepted with pride and gratitude. Labor and cooperation having been rewarded, there is a new stimulus for continued work and new tools basic to the program of development.

In 1957 the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU/ APEI) selected CARE de Mexico as the recipient of their first overseas gifts.


For this last project—I should say "next to last," since it was followed by Mobile Health Units—I had a difficult time getting support from CARE: New York.

"What do you mean, Mary Elmendorf, by suggesting we purchase a well-drilling rig? You're no engineer."

"No," I answered, "but I know how to talk to engineers. In fact, WHO has suggested a Bucyrus Erie W 22 and also offered to train the Quaker volunteers to operate it on a project they have in another state. The Governor of the State of Mexico, Dr. G. Baz, has agreed to assign an engineer to work with us and to test the feasibility in the villages who are applying, the Ministry of Agriculture is training village workers in the area, and we have the name of a man who wants to put in the first thousand dollars."

It was hard for CARE: New York to say "no," so they asked that I send in the proposal that Ed Duckles, director of AFSC/Mexico, and I had prepared in response to requests from numerous villages for safe drinking water, which was directly related to the high rate of infant mortality. The project was approved. Soon the CARE equipment arrived, the volunteers were trained, and ten weeks later, safe drinking water was reached at 95 feet. The impact of the CARE/AFSC well-drilling project was unbelievable. This was real development and opened the door for many more changes. Women were empowered, infant mortality was decreased, and the communities were organized to start other projects. Over 100 requests arrived at CARE de Mexico for wells. The governor of the poorest state in Mexico requested that we replicate the project in his state. Since his state had its own drilling rig, after meeting with us he undertook similar initiatives with young Mexicans, who were trained by WHO to use the equipment.

President Kennedy requested a case study of this project to help get support for the idea of a Peace Corps, since it demonstrated the difference volunteers can make (see the documentary film World Our Hands Can Make, 1958).

Agua de Pueblo (ADP) was developed as a Guatemalan NGO by two Peace Corps volunteers who had worked with CARE on a Water Supply and Sanitation project.

The World Bank asked me to do a 20-year follow-up study to see if the original 1958 CARE well was still an operable project, which it was. More than half of the World Bank's high-tech water projects were inoperable or unused after five years, so for 20-plus years I worked as a consultant for the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Water Supply and Sanitation Program, preparing training materials and similar documents to help lay out the basic principles of the self-help and community participation that brought sustainability. IDRC (International Development Research Centre, Canada), IRC International Water and Sanitation Center (Netherlands), and Danida (Danish International Development Assistance), were among other agencies that used the model.

CARE survived and so did the model of self-help and community participation. Today CARE is much more a development organization than the relief one of post–World War II. For example, at the beginning of the 21st century, CARE's 2002 budget was $391 million for more than 31 million people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, 80 percent was spent on community development, with 3 million people in 39 countries gaining access to clean water and sanitation, packaged as critical components of child health programs.


Excerpted from Expanding American Anthropology, 1945–1980 Copyright © 2012 by Alice B. Kehoe. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Alice Beck Kehoe is professor emeritus of anthropology at Marquette University, and author of a dozen books, including Controversies in Archaeology, The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization, and North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account.
Paul L. Doughty is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of anthropology and Latin American studies at the University of Florida. He is coauthor of Peru: A Cultural History and Peasants, Power, and Applied Social Change: Vicos as a Model.

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