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Scenes from the High Desert

Scenes from the High Desert: Julian Steward's Life and Theory

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Scenes from the High Desert
    Book Description:

    Julian Steward (1902-72) is best remembered in American anthropology as the creator of cultural ecology, a theoretical approach that has influenced generations of archaeologists and cultural anthropologists. Virginia Kerns considers the intellectual and emotional influences of Steward's remarkable career, exploring his early life in the American West, his continued attachments to western landscapes and inhabitants, his research with Native Americans, and the writing of his classic work, Theory of Culture Change. With fluid prose and rich detail, Kerns captures the essence and breadth of Steward's career while carefully measuring the ways he reinforced the male-centered structure of mid-twentieth-century American anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09160-5
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    (pp. 1-16)

    A map of Julian Steward’s life, charting his journey as an anthropologist and theorist, would surely center on the high desert of eastern California. During the years he lived in that borderland, a place of harsh beauty and grand scale, Steward explored its mountains and valleys on horseback and on foot. Landmarks on a map of his early life would include White Mountain, Birch Mountain, and much of the Sierra Nevada, Deep Springs Valley, Owens Valley, Eureka Valley. He knew many other places just as well, some with evocative names that hold fast to memory: the Last Chance Range, Chocolate...

  5. CHAPTER 1 An Eastern Childhood
    (pp. 17-34)

    In 1902, the year of Julian Steward’s birth in Washington, D.C., one of that city’s most famous residents, John Wesley Powell, died. Powell had set out from his home on the Illinois prairie in the late 1860s to explore the Rocky Mountains. Departing from Wyoming Territory in 1869, he and a small band of men made one of that century’s most celebrated journeys of exploration. After launching their wooden boats into the swift current of the Green River, they were soon swallowed up by the wilderness and within weeks were reported lost. But Powell and his companions survived their long...

  6. CHAPTER 2 West to Deep Springs
    (pp. 35-56)

    Julian Steward boarded a train at Union Station and left Washington in late May 1918. Arriving several days later in Reno, Nevada, he proceeded to nearby Mina, the northern terminus of the Carson and Colorado railway line. There he caught the narrow-gaugeSlim Princess, a small and sturdy engine that pulled freight cars and a few diminutive coaches along narrow tracks. The rail line extended three hundred miles from its northern point in Nevada to Keeler, California, on the eastern shore of Owens Lake.¹

    From the swaying coach car, Julian saw the desert reaches of Nevada give way to the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 University Years, East and West
    (pp. 57-74)

    As soon as he arrived in San Francisco, Julian Steward set about trying to locate summer work, but he found it very scarce. San Francisco, a city where men had long outnumbered women, retained something of its frontier character, with saloons and boardinghouses that catered to longshoremen and merchant sailors. There was work at dozens of docks along the Embarcadero and the southeastern waterfront, and in the many businesses that served the shipping industry; but in midsummer 1921, the city offered nothing for a new graduate of a preparatory school.¹

    When Steward learned that Nunn was in the city and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Berkeley and Beyond
    (pp. 75-101)

    Julian Steward returned to the West in August 1925, arriving just before classes began at Berkeley. During his first two semesters, he stayed sometimes with his mother on Green Street in San Francisco, and occasionally with his sister Marion, who lived on Pine Street. He disliked this nomadic way of life and complained that it left him “a bit disorganized.” Limited finances kept him from moving across the bay to Berkeley and renting a room in a boardinghouse as most graduate students did. His scholarship fell short of the usual cost of a year’s study by several hundred dollars.¹


  9. CHAPTER 5 From Far West to Midwest
    (pp. 102-122)

    When Steward returned to Berkeley in August 1928, he found Anna Gayton, another graduate student, about to leave. She had just accepted a newly created but temporary position in anthropology at the University of Michigan, one that included part-time teaching and museum work. Forrest Clements had a temporary post as well, at the Yale Institute of Psychology, where he held a National Research Council fellowship. Even in the prosperous times of the late 1920s, full-time academic positions in anthropology, and research positions at museums, remained scarce. Graduate students had ongoing, worried discussions about finding employment.¹

    Gayton had defended her dissertation...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER 6 The Utah Years
    (pp. 123-150)

    Arriving in Salt Lake City in mid-June 1930, Steward settled in quickly. Just two years earlier in Ann Arbor, he had arrived as a stranger in an unfamiliar place. But now he experienced something of a homecoming, back in the West and again among intimates. Dorothy and her daughter, Marie, had been living in an apartment, but the new household of three soon moved to a comfortable two-story house on Twelfth East Street, near the university.¹

    With a population of 140,000, the largest city in the intermontane West, Salt Lake City had not yet fully felt the effects of the...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Southwestern Sights
    (pp. 151-174)

    In mid-October 1933, Julian Steward married Jane Cannon in a civil ceremony in Mexico. They could not legally marry in the United States because Julian’s first wife, Dorothy Nyswander, still refused to proceed with a divorce. Julian had finally obtained one in Mexico although “Mexican divorces,” Jane remembered, “were under some shadow at the time.” After their wedding they returned to California, still awaiting news about Julian’s employment.¹

    Julian had remained in Los Angeles during summer 1933 and continued looking for work, unsuccessfully. Jane, who was living there with an aunt and uncle, had a secretarial job and earned a...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Return to the High Desert
    (pp. 175-205)

    Julian and Jane left Berkeley on a Saturday in mid-April 1935 and headed toward the desert of eastern California. Seven years had passed since Julian’s summer fieldwork in Owens Valley, when he had come to think that “the quest for food was paramount,” as he told Kroeber. In an effort to learn about the subsistence practices of Owens Valley Paiute, he had begun mapping their hunting territories and collecting plant specimens in the area around Bishop, California. The results of his research appeared several years later in a monograph that focused on the material conditions of their lives.¹

    In his...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Washington Ways and Means
    (pp. 206-234)

    In late October 1936, when Steward resumed work in Washington, he faced the task of finishing his report for the BIA. Two months later, in December, the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association was held in the city, but he did not attend. His first child, a son, had just been born and came home from the hospital in fragile health. Steward felt unwell himself after undergoing some minor surgery, which must have prompted more comments from his colleagues about couvade.¹

    He had felt ill throughout his unhappy year as consultant anthropologist with the BIA, and his health would...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. CHAPTER 10 East of Everything
    (pp. 235-262)

    Even before he joined the Columbia faculty, Steward had already heard a great deal about it from his old friend and longtime colleague, Strong. Although Strong had resigned from the BAE in 1937 to take a position at Columbia, he returned to Washington during the early 1940s to direct the Ethnogeographic Board, a wartime agency. He and Steward saw each other often, both socially and professionally. His Columbia student, Willey, worked closely with Steward on theHandbook of South American Indiansduring this period, and Strong contributed several chapters.

    Among his many colleagues, in the mid-1940s Steward still undoubtedly had...

  17. CHAPTER 11 At Home on the Prairie
    (pp. 263-285)

    Steward transplanted easily from the vertical, crowded cityscape of metropolitan New York to the horizontal, open landscape of the Illinois prairie. By coincidence, John Wesley Powell—the exemplar of the explorer/scientist for the young Steward—had known that landscape well during his own days as a professor of geology. Before leaving on his westward journey, he taught briefly at two nearby colleges. The dimensions of land and sky had prepared Powell for the West he would soon see; those same dimensions reminded Steward of the West he had known. The prairie, which had served as Powell’s starting point, would be...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Notes from the Ninetieth Meridian
    (pp. 286-312)

    In the late 1950s, Steward entered the final stage of a long and successful career. He had published what soon became a classic work in anthropology,Theory of Culture Change, and he had created his own sublineage, comprised almost entirely of men. Their work and professional prominence would help to perpetuate his own status in the field, and his intellectual legacy. Two of those men, Murphy and Manners, would produce thoughtful essays and whole volumes memorializing Steward’s work and providing some of the first commentary on his ideas. Wolf, in a well-known essay on anthropology, would include his former teacher...

  19. Conclusion
    (pp. 313-328)

    Memory, it has been said, is “a kind of homesickness,” perhaps especially when it insists on retrieving a place and a time that are irretrievably lost. Julian Steward spent most of his adult life at a distance from the West, single-mindedly pursuing a career in anthropology, but his own words suggest that scenes from the high desert always remained in his mind’s eye. As time passed, the images may have lost some clarity and detail, but they stayed emotionally charged and emotionally vivid. Looking at his own photographs of the mountains and desert must have reinforced his memories; even at...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 329-384)
  21. References Cited
    (pp. 385-406)
  22. Index
    (pp. 407-414)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 415-416)