LK_PremieraLaboratory of  Bronisław Malinowski

Ed. Marek Pacukiewicz, Adam Pisarek


About issue:

In the history of science an emphasis is often put on figures-symbols, associated with grand breakthroughs; their works being “mile-stones” of particular fields. However, as the time passes by, those “mile-stones” are becoming more like condensed signs summing up long, complicated narrations. Same thing happened in Bronisław Malinowski’s case, one of the creators of modern cultural anthropology. Presented by him type of field work became a subject for inquiring studies as well as firm critique; often undergoing considerable generalization. Thus, reviewing of classic text of the “Argonauts of the Western Pacific”, the first Trobriand monograph, may be a good opportunity to bring back attention not only to the “discourse” of Bronisław Malinowski’s anthropology project, but also specific tools and strategies used for researching on the culture. It is also interesting to inquire the ways of defining, manifesting and presenting the researcher’s idea of anthropology – where do the boarders of his “laboratory” begin, laboratory understood not only as the area where the natives live, but also as the whole setting of fieldwork, descriptive, analytic, and interpretative practices. Texts included in the following volume are representation of various perspectives of vision on this subject; formal as well as methodological. Owing to the differentiation of research and theoretical tools, as well as narration styles applied to the “Argonauts”, the complexity of contexts and various aspects of this work have been emphasised.

Marek Pacukiewicz, Adam Pisarek


Content / Summary:


Anna Gomóła, Ewa Kosowska, Kitchen in Bishkek

Kitchen in Bishkek is an authorised transcription of a conversation which took place in autumn 2012, in the capital of Kirgizstan. The discussion, inspired by a visit to the local museum, was concerning the problems of a cultural reception of the human reaction to biological and non-biological needs. Using Bronisław Malinowski’s conception, the authors have pondered upon a possibility of creating a theory of culture, which would make a use of local differences of reactions to universal human needs.


Małgorzata Rygielska, An ethnographer’s letters of credence

The paper elaborates on the topic of ethnographer’s letters of credence, or the topic of primary sources of an ethnographer obtained during the field work. Part of said sources may function as documents legitimizing the ethnographic analyses, as well as research tools which may be used directly during the field work, for example, while making interviews. Making and compiling them also allows verifying the gathered from the informants data, which can also be verified further by the other researchers. Furthermore statistic data, arrays of synoptic, chronologic arrays and various kinds of configurations may be placed in the field work monograph. Concise arrangement of the data and presenting them as an array or a chart may in addition serve as a brief presentation of the important, complicated theoretical conceptions. Arrays of synoptic and arrays of chronologic improve the process of performing the monograph’s synthesis by a reader. Although, those are usually concerning a certain part of the cultural reality, it is presented referring to the vast cultural context and always applied to other presented and researched phenomenon.

Only a certain part of the letters of credence was placed by Malinowski in the Argonauts. It was a conscious choice, which, in paradox, allows to lead the readership to the awareness, that completing even the simplest fieldwork monograph is a process requiring prolonged preparations and creating a certain research background, including reflection upon the research method, adjusting the research techniques, knowledge of the previous theories. Arrays, boards, diagrams, and drawings which can be found in the Argonauts and other Malinowski’s works, can be compared to the propositions of the former researchers. For example, Edward Burnett Tylor, precursor in using the statistic method in cultural studies, or Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, creator of the material culture artefacts classifications. Such combination demonstrates the importance of each artefact, element and aspect of culture, in its proper context. Furthermore, it exposes the uniqueness of Malinowski’s functional method against atomism of evolutionary and cultural diffusionism theories.

Letters of credence can be, lastly, an Argonauts guidebook, formulated in graphical representations (charts, enumerations, tables) concerning the kula exchange.


Adam Pisarek, Anthropologist as a guest. Bronislaw Malinowski’s fieldwork as a form of cultural contact

The article fits into thinking about the fieldwork’s reality in its interactive nature, structured by, among others, the form of the cultural contact. Bringing together the knowledge collected in Bronisław Malinowski’s Dzieła and detailed information gathered in diaries, fieldwork notes and letters, allows to perform a reconstruction of an ideal pattern, approximate to real pattern, of the relation which was born between the anthropologist and the natives. The question is, how did the confrontation of multiple systems of praxis and beliefs affect the research and nature of anthropological knowledge?

Beginning with the analysis of the meeting subject discourse present in modern anthropology, the author tires to investigate various aspects of Bronislaw Malinowski fieldwork. He attempts to construct an analysis which would pinpoint cultural and historical conditionings of the nature of relation between the anthropologist and “his people”.


Jakub Dziewit, How to break oneself’s teeth? Photographs and discourses

The text is an analysis of the discourse upon pohotographic activity of Bronislaw Malinowski, who’s been performing field work on Trobriand Islands in years 1914–1918. Set of photographs taken by him during his research can be found in London School of Economy, and is available on the Internet site of the school’s library. Analysing text by commentators derived from the anthropologists environment, author organises questions and problems concerning discussions upon the polish anthropologist’s photographs.


Kamil Buchta, Functions and interpretations. Comparative analysis of  Malinowski’s and Geertz’s  theoretical thesis’s

Author of Functions and interpretations carried out a comparative analysis of Malinowski’s and Geertz’s theoretical thesis. As a starting point to this reflection were chosen receptions of Polish anthropologist’s works determined by James Clifford’s “ethnographic autocreation”; as well as viewing Malinowski’s scientific works through the posthumously published Diary in the strict sense of the term. Geertz’s ideas were, whereas, often shown as innovative and different than positivistic approach present in cultural anthropology. Author of the article noticed invariant components in both Malinowski’s and Geertz’s works, since various options of the anthropological theory in terms of functionalism and interpretative method have already been emphasized in analysis of other researchers. A profound insight into the Introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific and on a few selected articles of the American anthropologist allowed to reveal many similarities between their studies. Buchta debates if the differences are only superficial and the analogies are set in deep structure, whereas the common core in work of both of the researchers is the cultural anthropology paradigm? Author of Functions and interpretations agrees with Ewa Nowicka, who stated, that interpretative anthropology cannot be treated as separate, breaking through manner, school or orientation in cultural sciences, which is, in fact, confirmed by the comparative analysis of  Malinowski’s and Geertz’s methods. Buchta concludes, that those two theoretical statements should be regarded as regulative ideas, which, concerning, their width, exceed cognitive possibilities of an individual. This, however does not make those theories valueless. They can be read as the evidence of a specific research attitudes and approaches to studied subjects, irrespective of the stage of their fulfillment.


Marek Pacukiewicz, The Golden Fleece

The article is an attempt to look upon the history of anthropology not only through the diachronic lenses, the popular “science development” category, which has evolutionistic provenience, but also synchronic, through the process of moulding and shifting concepts. Thus, it is possible, to claim Argonauts of the Western Pacific not only as a pioneering “fieldwork monograph” or an origin of the “functionalism theory”, but also as – analogous to Claude Lévi-Strauss’ concept on the place of myth in culture – an alternative of cultural anthropology, or, its archive (in the sense explained by Michael Foucault).

In this case the analysis is cast upon the relations between structure and function. It appears that in fact Malinowski’s conception is not as far away from the latter structuralist theories of Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown and Lévi-Strauss. The domination of functionalistic thought in this case implies putting an emphasis onto the ways of realising and sensing the cultural constructs by the natives. As a result, the Argonauts… became primarily a description of a dynamic, living culture; for that reason, the core of the book – uncommonly for anthropological scientific works – is a journey showing the culture in action.


Paulina Miśkiewicz, Bronisław Malinowski – teacher of future reaserchers

The article is on the subject of analysis inspired by structuralism, of didactic statements in the chapter Introduction. The subject, method and scope of this inquiry which is an entry to the book Argonauts of the Western Pacific. An account of native enterprise and adventures in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. There are shown subsequent stages of learning (conservative learning interrupted by shocks, innovative learning), through which Malinowski helps future ethnographers to go without major difficulties. Based on analysis of the text there are pointed out ways of passing on information and kinds of knowledge used by Bronislaw Malinowski. Author refers to rhetorical abilities of formulating the text that polish researcher gained during his studies at Jagiellonian University.


Kamil Kozakowski, Malinowski’s bestiary, or a story about sorcerers and witches from New Guinea

Fear is ever-present in man’s history feeling, regardless of their époque or culture. In my paper I would like to examine what and whom the natives of the New Guinea fear as well as how the fears of the Islanders are constructed, basing my reflection upon Bronislaw Malinowski’s research. In my research I will focus particularly on two beings, sorcerers bara’u and witches mulukwausi, for they perform important civil functions in their communities. Researching upon New Guinea’s demonology will be a step further in my attempt to compare the Islander’s culture and the European culture, in order to bring out some invariant rules and mechanisms concerning fear, mutual to attributive culture. This paper has been inspired by Claude Lévi-Strauss’ structuralism.


Zuzanna Orzeł, Malinowski in the Yellow Rectangle, or why is anthropology needed?

The article is focusing upon anthropological research of Bronislaw Malinowski and the general purpose of anthropology as a science, in comparison to the problem of reducing anthropological theories by the media and their main public (audience and readership). The paper focuses upon the main purposes behind travelling to the unknown places, and a crisis in the media (travel programs, popular science magazines and travel literature). Nowadays, Malinowski’s postulate of an in-depth insight into a culture has been brought to the maximal exposition of most vivid differences and simultaneously presenting it stylised on proper scientific discourse. Thus, the author concludes, that this transfer of senses causes the recipients focusing on the shallow, superficial orientalism and expected exotics. It happens, because many nowadays travellers carries out Bauman’s conception of the “postmodernist tourist”, who seeks certain, stereotypical, phenomenon during their journey and does not connect them with an intense experiencing the culture and its members. Those questions lead to an attempt of defining if the main criteria of anthropology are still up-to-date.


Emilia Wieczorkowska, Between monograph and…?

In her review of Marta Rakoczy’s book, Słowo – działanie – kontekst. O etnograficznej koncepcji języka u Bronisława Malinowskiego, the author attempts to indirectly point on its placement on the circle of works concerning the life and work of Bronislaw Malinowski. A research-writing strategy of the publication is introduced: the ethnographic concept of the language by the Polish anthropologist is presented and compared to other theories, his contemporaries as well as the latter ones.


Kamila Gęsikowska, The story of a marriage

In the following analysis the author presents The story of a marriage, a collection of letters exchanged between Bronislaw and Elsie Malinowski, in order to show a character of their correspondence. In the paper author points out some specific forms used in the aforementioned correspondence and highlights its embedment not only in the context of anthropologic research and scientific career of Malinowski. The age they live in, the press, cities, but also foreign culture research and constant travels during their lives are just as important context. The marriage, or rather specific nature it was given by Bronio and Elsie, is a window that allows us to look into their world.


Dobrosława Wężowicz-Ziółkowska, There will be no further revolution

Bronislaw Malinowski’s A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, Published in 1967 or Dziennik w ścisłym znaczeniu tego wyrazu (Polish edition: Kraków 2002) was the cause for an important change in the already existing paradigm – it considerably inspired James Clifford’s and Clifford Geertz’s interpretative anthropology. In 2012, a polish edition of another Malinowski’s “work” has been published – a correspondence with his first wife, Elsie Masson. The author of a review presents the correspondence with a reflection upon if it will cause a revolution in social sciences. While putting an emphasis on the documentary importance of the edition, the author states, that this time, there will be no revolution, because the hieratic portrait of the master of anthropology was already deconstructed in a revolutionary way through A Diary… Simultaneously, the author ponders upon the demonstrative nature of Malinowki’s women actions – Anna Valetta Hayman-Joyce, who decided on making known to the public A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, and Helena Wayne, who complied and prepared for printing the letters of her parents, Bronio and Elsie. Are they an expression of acceptance of the great scholar and his field work practices, or, on the contrary, are they a way of painting a moustache, like Duchamps did once to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and initiated the Avant-garde movement? We do not know the answer to this question, although the reception of the The story of a marriage should be observed closely.



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