Bronislaw Malinowski

Bronislaw Malinowski is considered to be the father of the functionalist school of anthropology, an influential scientist and a prominent analyst. His methods and approaches were subsequently used by the American Anthropologic School as well as the British one.

Bronislaw Malinowski, an outstanding anthropologist of polish origin came from Polish nobility. His father, an upper-class descendent, was a professor of Slavic philology, a linguist and a folklorist, he profoundly influenced the scientist’s scholarly interests. An important role in Bronislaw Malinowski’s life belongs to the book The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer on primitive peoples, their cultures and society.

By this time Malinowski had already received PhD in Physics, Philosophy and Mathematics and intended to broaden his interests. The scholar traveled extensively, he visited New Guinea, Australia and Melanesia, studied their customs, institutions, ritual and sexual taboos, as well as their interaction with the rest of he world. He also conducted research in the British Museum and carried out field expeditions. His “whetted curiosity about primitive peoples”ť resulted in his field study of the Trobriand Islanders of New Guinea in the southwest Pacific.

Bronislaw Malinowski applied to a holistic approach in studies of native social interactions and this way contributed to the intercultural psychological research of beliefs, customs, ceremonies, religion and ritual characteristics together with the analysis of practical purposes of rituals and religion and daily behavior of the primitive peoples. Malinowski contradicted S. Freud’s theory of the Oedipus Complex, as on the example of the Trobianders, he showed the peculiarities of individual psychology in the cultural context. He gave evidence that irrespectively of race and culture; primitive people are capable of the same levels and types of cognitive reasoning comparing them with so called advanced societies. They allowed the people participate in the main functions of the society, enable social stability. It turned out that the wealth of diversity of the tribal cultural life was far more versatile than one had imagined before. Though tribal marriage and other rituals may seem exotic to modern humans, still they bare resemblance of a healthy society living according to definite laws with each society member having his or her own responsibilities and rights. Hence, tribal rituals empowered the islanders to do what the society demands from people living in it beyond any material control.

B. Malinowski also traveled to Africa, where together with Radcliffe Brown the scholar managed to study and analyze the previous anthropologists’ works and draw essential conclusions from what they had already noticed and identified in their research works. The scientist visited the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico and succeeded in conducting an investigation of cultural theory integration with psychological science. He suggested that culture had an instrumental character.

Among the scientist’s best known books are Argonauts of the western Pacific; Crime and Custom in Savage Society; The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia; The Foundations of Faith and Morals; Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays, etc. the scholar managed to perceive and substantiate that the primate peoples are very similar to the civilized. Due to Bronislaw Malinowski’s brilliant observations, peculiar approach of cultural values’ subtle nuances study, his ideas and methodologies the scholar greatly contributed to the development of anthropology as a separate branch of science and became one of the most prominent anthropologists in the twentieth century.

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