Home Page of Murray J Leaf
This personal home page is intended to give a very brief sketch of what I am and what I do (which are much the same thing) and introduce you to the links that provide more information that may be of interest, including courses taught.
What I Am:
I am a social-cultural anthropologist, holding a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Chicago and a BA in philosophy from Reed College. I am often asked what my "specialty" is – am I a symbolic anthropologist, an applied anthropologist, an interpretative anthropologist, an economic anthropologist, a political anthropologist, a legal anthropologist, or what? The answer is yes to all, but then again also no. My basic interest is in how people think and in what the fact that we think has to do with the fact that we have organization. My basic conviction is that to understand this, we have to look at all kinds of thought – economic, symbolic, and so on, not just one, and we have to see how they are related to one another. And finally, my basic philosophical orientation is skeptical and pragmatic. Correspondingly, my methodological orientation is what William James called radical empiricism. Observation must be separated from imputing. Observation, in social science, requires closely disciplined restraint. We understand what other people think by letting them tell us and following it out to the last implication while working as hard as we possibly can to avoid imposing our own preconceptions. This is not easy.
My aim is to contribute to the development of social science as true science, and I have little patience with people who argue that it is impossible. The grounds claimed for such arguments are consistently under-educated and self-defeating and the plain fact is that we have already done quite a lot of it. There is a large chunk of anthropological research that is solidly empirical, and while it is not comparable to most of modern chemistry or biology in the level of consensus on its methods and the the extent to which those methods consistently generate advances in a more or less routine manner, it is far ahead of most of economics (for example), closely tied in with much good work in the physical and biological sciences, and far ahead of what anthropology itself was a hundred years ago.
What I Do:
My initial and still most important area of geographic interest was South Asia, specifically Northern India and most specifically a village in Punjab. Since first doing the field work for my dissertation there in 1964-66, I have tried to extend my understanding upward and outward by empirical links to wider and wider geographical horizons and more of what can be thought of as the institutions of the "higher" societal levels – organized religion, economics, government, and so on, and to more of India and more of Asia. By steps that would be too lengthy to recount, my initial study of the strategies behind household marriage decisions in Sidhupur Kalan has led me to studies of the green revolution, irrigation management, economic development and the relation between governmental structure and economic growth, and to consultancies in India on irrigation management, Bangladesh on flood responses, with the United Nations on sub-national development in Southeast Asia, and in the United States on comparative law and asylum law, including service as an expert witness before civil and immigration courts.
I have been teaching at U T Dallas since 1975, starting as associate professor. Before that I taught for six years as an assistant professor at UCLA, and for one year at Pomona College.
1971 "Baking and Roasting: A Compact Demonstration of a Cultural Code," in American Anthropologist, 70:5:1046.
1971 "The Punjabi Kinship Terminology as a Semantic System," in American Anthropologist, 73:3:545-554.
1972 Information and Behavior in a Sikh Village. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. (South Asian edition published by Oxford University Press, Ltd.)
1974 Frontiers of Anthropology. Senior author and editor, with B.F. Campbell, C. Cronin, G. DeVos, W. A. Longacre, M. McClaran, F. T. Plog, J. H. Prost, and R. Wagner. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company.
1979 Man, Mind, and Science: A History of Anthropology. New York: Columbia University Press.
1981 "The Green Revolution in a Panjab Village: 1965-1978," in Pacific Affairs Quarterly, 53:4:617-625.
1983 "The Green Revolution and Cultural Change in a Panjab Village, 1965 - 1978." Economic Development and Cultural Change. 31:2:227--270.
1983 Articles on "Franz Boas," Lucien Levy-Bruhl," "G. H. Mead," "E. E. Evans-Pritchard," "Meyer Fortes," "Talcott Parsons," "A. R. Radcliffe-Brown," A. L. Kroeber," and "W. I. Thomas." in Elizabeth Levine, Michael Held, James Vinson and George Walsh, eds, Thinkers of the 20th Century: A Biographical, Bibliographical and Critical Dictionary. London: Macmillan.
1984 Song of Hope: The Green Revolution in a Panjab Village. Rutgers University Press.
1985 "The Punjab Crisis" in Asian Survey. 25:5:475-498.
1989 "Singer, Kant, and the Semiotic Self." in G. Urban and B. Lee, eds. Semiotics, Self, and Society. Approaches to Semiotics. T. Sebeok, general editor. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 171-192.
1992 "Irrigation and Authority in Rajasthan" Ethnology. April:115-132.
1995 "Agricultural Societies and Farming Systems." In The Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology. Human Relations Area Files, Yale University. Lakeville: American Reference Publishing Co.
1997 "Local Control versus Technocracy: The Bangladesh Flood Response Study." Journal of International Affairs, Summer 1997, 51, no. 1.: 179-200.
1998 Pragmatism and Development: the Prospect for Pluralism in the Third World. New Haven: Bergen and Garvey.
2002 "The Green Revolution: South Asia" in Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. David Levinthal, ed. Berkener/Scribners Publications.
2002 "Agriculture: South Asia" in Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. David Levinthal, ed. Berkener/Scribners Publications.
2003 "Ethnography and Pragmatism" in Alfonso Morales, ed. Renascent Pragmatism. Aldershot: Ashgate. Pp. 92:117.
2003 "Pragmatic Legal Norms" in Alfonso Morales, ed. Renascent Pragmatism. Aldershot: Ashgate. Pp. 72:91.
2004 "What is "Formal" Analysis?" In Mathematical Modeling and Anthropology: Its Rationale, Past Successes and Future Directions, published as special issue of Cybernetics and Systems: An International Journal, the journal of the Austrian Society for Cybernetics and Systems Theory. Dwight Read, editor. Taylor and Francis.
2004 "The Message is the Medium: Language, Culture and Informatics" In Cybernetics and Systems, Vol. 1. (Proceedings of the 17th European Meetings of Cybernetics and Systems Research). Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies. This paper was awarded the Best Paper of Symposium prize for its symposium and Best Paper of the Meetings Prize.
2004 Agricultural Societies. In Encyclopedia of World History. David Levinthal, general ed. Berkshire Publishing Group.
2005 "Romanticism, Meaning, and Science" in Language, Culture and the Individual: A Tribute to Paul Friedrich. Catherine O'neil (University of Denver), Mary Scoggin (Humbolt University), and Kevin Tuite (U. of Montreal), eds. Munich Lincom Europa.
2005 "The Message is the Medium: Language, Culture and Informatics" Cybernetics and Systems: An International Journal, the journal of the Austrian Society for Cybernetics Studies, Vienna. Dwight Read, Michael Fischer, and Stephen Lyon eds. Taylor and Francis. Volume 36:8:903-917. November, 2005.
2006 "Law and Society" in Encyclopedia of Anthropology. James Birx, editor. Sage Reference.
2006 “Experimental Analysis of Kinship.” Ethnology. 45: 305-330. U. of Pittsburg Press. (Due to a backlog at the press, this was actually published in Dec. 2007)
"Empirical Formalism." Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences: Vol. 2: No. 1, Article 2.
2008. Book Review Essay: Researching the Culture in Agriculture: Social Research for International Development. Edited by Michael Cernea and Amir H. Kassam 2006. Oxfordshire: CABI Publishing. In Field Methods Vol 20:1: 96-103. Sage Publications.
2008 "Indigenous Algorithms, Organizations, and Rationality", Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences: Vol. 3: No. 2, Article 3. http://repositories.cdlib.org/imbs/socdyn/sdeas/vol3/iss2/art3
2009 Human Organizations and Social Theory: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Adaptation. University of Illinois Press.
2012 Human Thought and Social Organization: Anthropology on a new plane. with Dwight Read. Lanham, Boulder, New York, etc. : Lexington Books.
2014 Anthropology of Western Religions: Ideas, Organizations, and Constituencies. Lanham, Boulder, New York, etc: Lexington Books.
2014 Anthropology of Eastern Religions: Ideas, Organizations, and Constituencies. Lanham, Boulder, New York, etc: Lexington Books.
Full Curriculum Vitae.
Courses for Spring 2016:
Other Courses Previously Taught: