Robert Redfield

Robert Redfield (December 4, 1897 – October 16, 1958) was an American anthropologist and ethnolinguist. Redfield graduated from the University of Chicago with Communication Studies, eventually with a J.D. from its law school and then a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, which he began to teach in 1927. After a series of published field studies from Mexican communities (Tepoztlán in Morelos and Chan Kom in Yucatán), in 1953 he published The Primitive World and its Transformation and in 1956, Peasant Society and Culture. Moving further into a broader synthesis of disciplines, Dr Redfield embraced a forum for interdisciplinary thought that included archeology, anthropological linguistics, physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and ethnology. Redfield wrote in 1955 about his own experience doing research in Latin America on peasants. As he did research, he realized he had been trained to treat the society as an isolated culture. However, he found people were involved with trade, and there were connections between villages and states. More than that, the village culture was not bounded. Beliefs and practices were not isolated. Redfield realized it did not make sense to study people as isolated units, but rather it would be better to understand a broader perspective. Traditionally, anthropologists studied folk ways in the “little tradition”, taking into account broader civilization, the “great tradition”. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950. Redfield and his wife Margaret are the parents of Lisa Redfield Peattie, Professor Emerita, Department of Urban Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James M. Redfield, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago and Joanna Redfield Gutmann (1930–2009). Another son, Robert (called Tito), died at the age of twelve from injuries suffered in a sledding accident. The papers of Robert Redfield and Margaret Redfield are located at the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.