Chapter 2

Malinowski as Applied Anthropologist
Thomas Weaver

During the 1920s and 1930s, Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) was a leading figure in the nascent but growing discipline of anthropology. He is best known for emphasizing participant-observation as the primary approach to anthropological research and for championing the notion that cultures are integrated wholes that serve to meet basic human needs. He also promoted the practical use of anthropology, especially in colonial situations. Anthropologists, he argued, should act as interpreters and advocates for native populations, involve themselves in policy matters and politics, and direct their research attention to the study of change, acculturation, and contemporary social problems. A great popularizer of anthropology, Malinowski was widely published, a frequent public speaker, and famous during his lifetime. His reputation among anthropologists has waxed and waned, but his status as a pioneer in many fields, including applied anthropology, cannot be contested.