Friday, February 06, 2004

Influence F: Edmund Carpenter

Eskimos, culture, anthropology and McLuhan.

We forget that one of the great advances in the last 50 years of academic work is interdisciplinary study. It use to be that the English Professor protected his turf and the Biology teacher dare not interfere. Carpenter, the anthropologist, worked with McLuhan, the English Professor, to create Explorations (Journal) and more. The troubles it caused at University of Toronto are discussed openly. Both produced better work because of it. [One summer at the U of T library I got to read a construction paper edition of Counter Blast that they had worked.]

Edmund Carpenter books are wonderful. They Become What They Beheld [1970] is then next best book after McLuhan's Understanding Media. From the foreward, it is clear that McLuhan contributed much to the book. And the photography makes it very accessible.

Much closer to Carpenter's anthropologic center is his book Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me [1972]which is completely "reprinted" on the web. Still fresh today. Still providing insight into patterns of culture.

One of my prized books is Carpenter's Eskimo (which unfortuately is boxed up while I remodel my house). I was always interested in getting to the core of what is human. It seemed to me that they answer my be with Eskimo culture given the barenness of their enviroment. Carpenter's study of Eskimo culture was eye openning in what it told us about our culture.

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