George M. Foster

Sixth Emeritus Faculty Lecture
Honoring George M. Foster

GRADUATE STUDY AT BERKELEY

1935-1941

GEORGE M. FOSTER


University of California, Berkeley From: J. Loucky and J. Jones (eds.), Paths to the Symbolic Self: Essays in Honor of Walter Goldschmidt. Anthropology UCLA Volume 8, Numbers 1 and 2, 1976.

Walter Goldschmidt and I arrived in Berkeley in mid-August 1935 to begin our doctoral studies, he from the University of Texas, and I from Northwestern. For the next six years we were colleagues and close friends, members of a small group of anthropology graduate students all of whom were molded by the same formal and informal educational forces, and subject to the same social and cultural pressures. It is hard to realize what a world apart Berkeley was at that time. Although the DC-3 airplane began transcontinental service while we were students-New York then became only 18 hours away-air travel was expensive, and ail and highway were the normal modes of travel. Chicago was a 60 four trip, and the east coast 24 hours more. West of Omaha there were new paved roads and the drive, although fairly routine, was subject to delays because of rain, and tire and motor troubles rarely encountered )day. Anthropology was unknown at Stanford and UCLA, and the Department at Washington was 36 hours away by rail, and longer over unpaved roads. The Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological association always were held in the east or midwest, just after Christmas, and none of us, to my knowledge, ever attended. We lived, in a very real sense, in an isolated world, members of a culture remote from her anthropological cultures known to lie to the east and north. Consequently, we learned anthropology from publications, our teachers, id each other, largely unaffected by first hand contact with colleagues other parts of the country.

In 1935 the Anthropology staff consisted of Alfred L. Kroeber, Robert H. Lowie, Ronald Olson, and Edward Gifford. The Department was used in "The Old Tin Barn," a corrugated steel two-story building located about 100 yards north of Kroeber Hall. This structure had been built shortly after the turn of the century by Mrs. Phoebe H. Hearst anthropology's early patron-to house California Indian specimens, and the rich collections being sent to Berkeley by Max Uhle and G. A. Reisner, whose research was also supported by Mrs. Hearst. It survived until 1953, when it was razed to permit construction of the School of Music's Hertz Hall. Most of the ground floor was open to the roof, piled high with sarcophaghi, canoes, a totem pole and other bulky artifacts. Several offices, including the "bullpen" for teaching assistants, lay adjacent to this central space. The offices on the second floor opened onto an interior balcony overlooking the central well, and included the Departmental Office (a 10 by 15 foot cubbyhole), and rooms for Kroeber, Lowie and Olson. There were also two small seminar rooms and, reached by an outside staircase, a larger room with a capacity of about 100 students, used for most Upper Division courses.

A good deal of graduate study took place in a seminar room on the third floor of the main library, where Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Reports, the University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, and other standard works were shelved. Graduate students had keys to this room, which was available to them except when Kroeber and Lowie held seminars there.

The Museum of Anthropology, cared for (and later directed by) Edward Gifford, was the third center of anthropological activities on the campus. It was housed in a fine Victorian three-story structure built during the 1880s, which had until shortly before our arrival housed the College of Engineering. In an age of few fellowships the several preparatorships available to graduate students were much coveted sources of support. The two small exhibition rooms of the Museum were open only twice a year, for two weeks in the middle of the fall and spring semesters, when artifacts appropriate to lecture courses were placed on exhibit.

In 1935, and for several years thereafter, graduate seminars were given only by Kroeber and Lowie. Although Olson had completed his Ph.D. degree in 1929 and had been on the staff since that time, he was not deemed sufficiently mature to be trusted with a graduate seminar, until 1937 Gifford, a remarkable, self-trained anthropologist, whose most advanced degree was a high school diploma but who ultimately rose to full professorship, did not give graduate seminars until even later. We had come to Berkeley, all of us, to study with Kroeber and Lowie.

Anthropology was a depressed field in 1935, with very few jobs, and departments, even as today, were discouraging applicants. When I decided in the spring of that year to attempt a graduate career I wrote Kroeber asking about admission. Lowie replied, explaining that he was Departmental Chairman for that year, and telling me how unwise it was to consider graduate work in anthropology. He also called to my attention certain hurdles: before being permitted to take graduate course students had to pass a reading examination in French and German (without dictionary) and a three-hour general examination in history, biology, zoology, and the like. My persistence, rather more than academic promise, probably accounts for my acceptance.

When Wally and I arrived in Berkeley we were given a seven-page mimeographed statement that described graduate work at the University, and indicated the principal fields of anthropology, and the requirements in each. A long list-an "absolutely irreducible minimum of reading"was liberally sprinkled with such names as Von den Steinen, Nordenskiold Laufer, Bogoras, Thurnwald, Kirchoff, Hahn, Cooper, Matthiassen, as well as others better known by today's students. French and German titles appeared throughout the list. I had the good fortune to pick up enough French in high school and college to pass that examination, but German was another matter. I found a tutor, Herr Muller a native German and graduate student in History, and settled down to a routine of three hours of German study five days a week. Twice during the winter I took the examination, failing it both times. I was encouraged only by the fact that my fellow students were doing little, if any, better. Finally, just before the end of the spring term Lowie approved my third attempt, several paragraphs from Merker's Die Masai.

Passage of all required examinations did not, however, mean that students were now eligible for any graduate seminar. Prior to that, we were required to take Anthropology 206, the "Pro-Seminar." Kroeber met a half-dozen of us on the first scheduled day of the class, and set the semester's assignment: Take B.A.E. Annual Report No. 24, Stewart Culin's Games of the North American Indians, and classify them. He would meet us on the final day of the semester, he said, to collect our reports. This seminar was highly useful. Games was a monumental, 800 page volume describing particularly dice and hand games, with no order, theory, or interpretation whatsoever. By wading through Culin we learned one of our first major lessons, the importance of classification.

Graduate training at Berkeley was fairly "standardized," since we took almost the same courses. Kroeber and Lowie each gave two three-hour weekly upper division lecture courses, plus a graduate seminar. Kroeber's usual courses included Anthropology 137, "The Indians of California," and Anthropology 103A-B, a monumental two-semester course entitled "The Growth of Culture" which ranged the world from ancient Peru to Mesopotamia to China. Lowie gave Anthropology 102, 'Chapters in Culture History," dealing with the origin and development of agriculture, domestic animals, social forms, and primitive technology. His chef-d'oeuvre, however, was Anthropology 101A-B, in which he covered the main ethnographic facts of six continents plus the islands of the Pacific. All graduate students took these courses, and by the time we had completed them, we knew at least something about most of the world's peoples, past and present, known to anthropologists at that time. After these courses, plus graduate seminars, we needed relatively little additional work for the two "fields" which we all offered for the Ph.D. qualifying examination, "World Ethnography," and "History of Anthropological Theory," in addition to a chosen third field.

Since only two graduate seminars were given at any time, we usually found the same group of students together. Lowie's "History of Ethnological Theory" continued, year after year, with each semester devoted to a different anthropologist. I remember particularly the semester when we studied Malinowski who, in spite of great differences in views of anthropology, was a close friend of Lowie. Over the years Lowie methodically assembled in this seminar the data and ideas that appear in The History of Ethnological Theory. Kroeber's seminars ranged more widely. In addition to the Pro-Seminar I remember one on linguistics, in which we studied Japanese, and in which I learned the little I have ever known about formal linguistics. I don't recall that the phoneme was ever mentioned, although Bloomfield had been in print for several years.

During the pre-war years the Berkeley Ph.D. program would have to be described as "old-fashioned," even for that time. It was rigorous perhaps to a fault-and provided its survivors with a magnificent background of anthropological information, but it largely ignored new developments taking place in other leading departments, such as British social anthropology at Chicago, culture and personality explorations at Yale and Columbia, and the American social approach set forth by Linton in The Study of Man. At Berkeley anthropology was very much an historical discipline, in spite of the fact that the mimeographed outline previously mentioned says "cultural anthropology is a social science." It was the only context, I believe, in which we were exposed to this novel idea; certainly it never intruded in course or seminar work. The cultural geographer Carl Sauer was the principal outside source of stimulation for most anthropology graduate students, and rare was the one who did not take at least one of his seminars. I recall with particular satisfaction the things he taught us about the history of domesticated plants and animals. In traveling about the world in later years, I have derived great pleasure from knowing where the foods I have eaten and the animals I have observed originated, a pleasure many of today's young anthropologists miss because of ignorance of this kind of history.

Historical reconstruction was viewed as the basic task of anthropology. Consequently, we studied culture areas intensively, and noted the strengths and defects of the age-area hypothesis as a research tool. The question of independent invention vs. diffusion was very much alive, was the origin of totemism. To speak authoritatively on these topics we assembled long I lists of "traits" and "complexes" such as the distribution of matrilineal and patrilineal clans, moieties, sinew-backed bows, other items of material culture, and practically everything else one could thin of. I recall that theory and problem-orientation played very little role in our training, at least overtly, which seems strange in view of the major theoretical contributions of Kroeber and Lowie, and of some of their students. Wondering if I remembered poorly, I returned to my course notes and found that my memory was indeed accurate.

Lowie's lecture on April 29, 1936, in "Chapters in Culture History,": illustrative. Discussing the Ghost Dance of 1890-91, Lowie pointed out that this type of phenomenon had existed since the 17th century in North and South America, that it started with the Paviotso and spread to the Sioux, arriving among the latter at just the right psychological time to be taken up, since they were in desperate circumstances. They re-interpreted the doctrine, originally peaceful, and gave it a war-like cast. Different tribes reacted differently to the Ghost Dance, but within each there were three main types of reaction: some people were fervent believers who ha( additional visions, others were simply fervent believers, and still other! were skeptics. "The diffusion of this dance gives excellent examples of how automatically a tribe adopts a new idea to fit its own culture pattern, rejecting some features, adding others, and reinterpreting still others." Lowie went on to tell us that messianic cults are good example, of how cultural features can be invented more than once. Thus, the same type of reaction occurred among the Zulu about 1840, and for the same reason as in North America: the pressure of Europeans. There, as in North America, the idea of elimination of the whites was prominent. There were similar cases in South America as early as the 17th century true parallelism, said Lowie. "This also is an example of how economic reasons are not the only determinants of human action. Thus, among the Zulus, a prophet ordered his followers to destroy all of their cattle-an unthinkable thing. And yet these people destroyed thousands of cattle under strong religious excitement."

Lowie clearly was still thinking largely in terms of the earlier problems of diffusion, independent invention, parallelism, and giving the lie to economic determinism. He recognized the importance of reinterpretation of traits when adopted by groups that previously had not had them, and he noted personality differences and differential acceptance of the new. Yet in spite of Thurnwald's influence on Lowie, and his colleague Gifford's use of the term as far back as 1927, the word "acculturation" appears no place in my notes for this lecture. Clearly there was plenty for us to think about, but we had to pull the lessons together for ourselves The factual nature of learning is further illustrated by upper division course examinations. In reviewing those I took I am struck with the preponderance of questions dealing with the presence or absence of traits, their distributions, and the time sequence of their appearance. Examinations always were "objective," with words or phrases to be underlined or inserted in blank spaces in sentences. In one question on the Indians of California, Kroeber asked:

State the occurrence of the following 38 traits in terms of these five i California areas: Colorado River, Southern, Central, Northeast, Northwest. Among the 38 traits were basketry cap, hair net, sandal, sweat-house lacking, plank-built canoe, gourd or turtle-shell rattle, iris fibre string, women's clan names, no marriage of widow by husband's brother, no scalps taken and "pit roasting of adolescent girl." Two questions from Lowie's Chapters in Culture History, follow, with the correct answers underlined or filled in:

A hunting method illustrating social cooperation is that of (Group Drives). It was found a few centuries ago among the (Lapps) of Europe and among the North American Indians of the (Plains) and (McKenzie) areas when hunting such game as (buffalo) and (caribou).

The spread of the cultivated banana (implies, does not imply) human agency because (side shoots must be cut and planted). The same (holds, does not hold) for the coconut because (it germinates naturally, even after long periods of sea drifting).

Reflecting the character of its two leaders, the Department of Anthropology during the pre-war years was very formal. We did not stick our heads into Kroeber's and Lowie's offices and shout, "Are you busy?" as today's students do with their professors. Kroeber was protected by the formidable Mrs. Chilcote, who was the Departmental secretary and entire "non-academic staff," and no student passed her without good reason. At the beginning of each semester we were permitted a few minutes with Kroeber and Lowie to discuss our programs, but I do not recall ever sitting down in either of their offices until after I had passed the qualifying examination. It is not that they were unfriendly. Rather, with heavy teaching loads and prodigious research and writing pro-IF grams, they simply did not have time to banter with students. So it was to Edward Gifford and his wife Delila, and Ronald Olson and his if Marie, that graduate students turned for informal faculty contact. They were the ones that invited us for Thanksgiving dinner, or for spur-of-the moment parties in their homes. They were the ones we addressed by their first names, and to whose offices we could go for counsel and advice. During much of this period Paul and Doris Radin lived in Berkeley. Paul enjoyed having graduate students drop in, and we profited greatly from informal discussions with him. Intellectually unassuming and unpretentious, he had the knack of treating us as equals, as full professionals and not as students. In addition to these people, Wally early made friends with two outstanding economists, Paul Taylor and the late Lloyd Fisher, both of whom played major roles in directing his interests to the problems of contemporary society. It was not until many years later when on a community development assignment I traveled around the world with Paul Taylor that I realized what I had missed as a student.

The graduate student body during the late 1930's was small and fairly cohesive, and included such people as Homer Barnett, Philip Drucker, Margaret Lantis, Katherine Luomala, Harold Driver, Omer Stewart and Frank Essene. Bob Heizer and the late Harry Tschopik, senior undergraduates, for all intents and purposes were treated as graduates. Theodore McCown, still a graduate student, was in England completing the manuscript of his Mt. Carmel materials; he returned to Berkeley in 1938, joining the permanent faculty after completing his degree the following year. Other well-known anthropologists had completed doctoral studies shortly before we arrived, and their names were still very much a part of Department conversations: Ralph Beals, Julian Steward Dorothy Lee, Isabel Kelly, and Cora DuBois, to name a few. The stories we heard led us to believe we had arrived in Berkeley just at the end of the Golden Age of graduate study; our lives seemed humdrum in comparison with the Bohemian life that had gone on before.

During this period Ronald Olson was drawing huge introductory anthropology classes of 500 or more students for the entire year. This was fortunate for the graduate students, for it meant at least six teaching assistantships every semester, highly valued because fellowship support was rare. The going rate of $600 a year for the privilege of meeting six sections a week for thirty weeks was considered very generous. Most of the Berkeley anthropologists of the 1930's proved to be good teachers; I think the confidence and experience they acquired as teaching assistants was largely responsible.

The T.A.s' bullpen was a meeting place not only for the T.A.s themselves, but for other students, and here we had many good sessions. As a group we were tremendously supportive of each other. It occurred to no one to conceal ideas or data, and it astonished me when I returned to Berkeley many years later to find that anthropology was regarded by many graduate students as a limited good, so that one had to be cautious in discussing data and ideas with fellow students and faculty lest they be 14 stolen." We read and criticized each other's papers, and learned much in the process. My first published paper, "War Stories from Two Enemy Tribes," was co-authored with Wally Goldschmidt and Frank Essene, None of our professors helped us with this endeavor. Rather, it was Margaret Lantis, a couple of years farther along in her studies, who helped us put the manuscript into a form acceptable to The Journal of American Folklore. This act was, I think, typical of the relationship between students at that time.

Since graduate student records were almost non-existent, planning for the qualifying examination was somewhat arbitrary. After we had been familiar faces around the Department for three or four years, Lowie-but more likely Kroeber-would stop us in the hall and say, I think you'd better take your 'writtens' next month." The "writtens" were, to put it mildly, an ordeal. We wrote for six hours a day for five days, on our three fields, and on anthropology in general. Not infrequently students were failed on one or two days' work, and required to retake those parts after more preparation. Questions were handed out to us at the beginning of each three-hour session. When I appeared on the morning of September 14, 1939, I was given a slip of paper with the following:

I. Describe or comment on the significance of the following:

a. Jesup Expedition
b. Torres Straits Expedition
c. Tylor "On a Method etc."
d. Kirchoff "Die Verwandtschaft der Urwaldstdmme Sudamerikas"
e. Rivers "Kinship and Social Organization"
f. Von Den Steinen's Xingu River Expeditions
g. Radin "Primitive Man as Philosopher"
h. Laufer "Sino-Iranica"
i. Morgan "Systems of Consanguinity etc."
j. Lila O'Neal "Yurok-Karok Basket Weavers"

II. Comment on the significance and distribution of the following:

a. Bronze
b. Twin infanticide
c. Balsa
d. Bull roarer
e. Bark cloth
f. Matrilineal descent
g. Matrilocal residence
h. Possession
i. Buffalo (carabao)
j. Acorn eating

After nine more sessions like this, the three-hour oral examination held few terrors. While it was assumed that an anthropologist would experience field work as a part of doctoral training, there was no necessary correspondence between that experience and the doctoral dissertation. Heizer, for example, did sufficient archaeological research in California, Nevada, J. and Alaska for at least three dissertations, yet he did a library thesis on aboriginal whaling in the Pacific. Almost all cultural anthropologists did field research among the California Indians, for Kroeber was still anxious to fill in the gaps in the aboriginal record. During the summer of 1937 I was given $200 and sent to Round Valley to study the Yuki. The same summer Wally and Gale Goldschmidt were sent to the Hupa Reservation. One of my pleasant recollections of that summer was spending a couple of days with them in Hupa, and witnessing the White Deerskin dance.

We received absolutely no preparation for field research. There were no courses on research design or field methods, and no instructions about how to live in the field. It was assumed that by reading ethnographies we would learn what we had to do. When Kroeber told me I was to go to the Yuki, I had more than a few doubts as to how to go about it. "Professor Kroeber," I asked, "can't you give me some advice about field work?" His eyes twinkled, he paused a moment, and then said, "I suggest you get a stenographer's notebook and a pencil." Then he marched on down the hall. I have often told this episode, and have been amused to note that increasingly it appears in accounts of early field work. Yet somehow most of us made it. While at the time we took great pride in the accomplishment, we later began to realize there are more efficient and more humane ways to prepare students for the field.

For those of us who worked among California Indians, our assignment was traditional: learn everything possible about aboriginal life. When I was among the Yuki, a graduate student from Columbia University arrived to study the Indians as they lived in 1937. I was faintly amused, and not a little disdainful, at the thought of such a non-anthropological topic. In looking back I am surprised that it was never suggested to us that we go to Africa, India, or Oceania for a year or two, to do an intensive tribal or community study. This had become standard practice for students at Yale, Columbia, and Chicago, but field research at Berkeley was still viewed as consisting of one or a series of fairly short trips. My own doctoral research among the Popoluca Indians in Mexico, for example, took only about three months, although I spent another five or six months in the country learning Spanish and studying Mexican ethnography for which I had no training in Berkeley. Wally Goldschmidt must have been the first one of us to do a true community study, his work in Wasco in the San Joaquin Valley, but it was not a project for which he received much encouragement from his professors.

The pre-war period of graduate study, and its distinctive style, were brought to a close by Pearl Harbor. During the war there were few students, and with peace both staff and the forms of graduate study began to change significantly. Kroeber retired in 1946, and David Mandelbaum was brought in to replace him, with John Rowe following in 1948. With the G.I. bill of rights and the surge of interest in anthropology that followed the war, the Department expanded rapidly in faculty and numbers of graduate students. Those of us who were there in the thirties look back with nostalgia at a simple, sylvan time. It was a good world, and a happy life, and we dreaded the thought of having to cut the umbilical cord to take a job. I was spared the usual agony. In early September 1941 I had just finished my dissertation, and was wondering what the future held. Kroeber called me to his office and asked if I would like a job. I said indeed I would. "I have just learned by telephone of a one-year job at an Eastern university," he said. "It's not on the seaboard, and it's not one of the Ivy League schools. The opening is in sociology. Will you take the job?" "Yes," I said, "where is it" "Syracuse University," he replied. Two days later I was flying east with little opportunity to feel sad about the end of six of the happiest years of my life.

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