Exemplary Anthropologist of East African Pastoralists
Recipient of the I.U.A.E.S. Commission on Nomadic Peoples Lifetime Achievement Award
By:Philip Carl Salzman Chair, Awards Committee
Walter Goldschmidt has enriched nomadic studies by bringing his particularly American sensibility to the study of pastoral and other East African peoples. Goldschmidt has succeeded in combining in his approach three complementary analytical themes, with which he has been able to illuminate lives and cultures: One theme is values, those institutionalized standards by which people measure themselves and others. The second theme is the individual, both as carrier of biological and psychological characteristics, and as actor pursuing his or her own interests. The third theme is ecology, and the ways in which ecological adaptation shapes institutions and values. These three themes were well established in American anthropology, but Goldschmidt developed and integrated them, and then applied them in a systematic, precise, and creative fashion to the study of East Africa.
Goldschmidt's three books on the Sebei of Uganda, along with his many articles, are a major contribution to the study of pastoral peoples and of East African pastoral peoples in particular: Sebei Law (1967), Kambuya's Cattle: The Legacy of an African Herdsman (1969), and his general ethnography, The Culture and Behavior of the Sebei (1976). In oversimplified summary, Sebei Law illuminates values and their institutionalization into law, and their transformation in response to ecological shifts; that Kambuya's Cattle features the individual actor manoeuvring and manipulating the conventional resources at his disposal to advance his goals; and that The Culture and the Behavior of the Sebei illustrates the ways in which culture and behavior are responses to ecological pressures, and that differences or shifts in ecological adaptation have their corresponding adjustments of culture and behavior.
Goldschmidt's contribution to East African pastoralist studies extends beyond his own work to the major research project, "Culture and Ecology in East Africa" (1960-67) that he directed. Four distinct East African societies were studied. In addition to the individual studies of each society, there was a general, psychological and value study carried out in all four by Robert B. Edgerton, which resulted in the ground breaking volume, The Individual in Cultural Adaptation: A Study of Four East African Peoples, a work that Goldschmidt was particularly pleased to have sponsored.
The power of Goldschmidt's work results not only from his meticulous, detailed information, analytical sharpness, and theoretical insight, but also from his methodological rigor. For Goldschmidt, it was imperative for anthropologists to improve the quality of the information gained from research, so that we could more decisively draw sound conclusions. Methodological improvement required adoption and adaptation of scientific logic to anthropological research. To achieve this, Goldschmidt refined "controlled comparison" and applied it in the "Culture and Ecology in East Africa" research. Each of the four societies studied had both pastoral and farming sections, which meant that those differences between pastoral and farming sections found in common in all four societies, could be attributed to the difference between pastoral and agricultural adaptations, rather than to the cultural or environmental differences between the societies, which were effectively "controlled" through this comparison. The concomitant variations elicited between pastoral or agricultural adaptations and behavioral and cultural patterns were the fruits that justified the methodology. Similar logic is applied in Goldschmidt's analysis of geographical variation and change over time, which are integral to his books on the Sebei.
The Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, in recognition of Professor Walter Goldschmidt's distinguished contribution to the study of nomadic peoples, presents Professor Goldschmidt with its Lifetime Achievement Award.