He was the founder of British social anthropology and the first ethnographer in a non-Western society. Malinowski was born in 1884. He studied mathematics and physical science in his native Poland, receiving a PhD in 1908.
But he became interested in anthropology after reading the Golden Age, Sir James Frazer’s cross-cultural study of myth.
Malinowski did field work in the Trobriand Islands, part of Melanesia. There, between 1914 and 1918, he helped to pioneer the technique of ‘participant observation,’ which emphasized the anthropologist’s deliberate interaction with the individuals being studied and involvement in their activities.
His work in the Pacific Trobriand Islands led him to the view that the crisis of death was the source of religion, a comfort both socially and psychologically, since death disrupts the social bonds which make up society.
In 1839 he secured an appointment at Yale University, determined to remain outside Europe for the duration of World War II; he died in New Haven.
Malinowski is highly regarded as a fieldwork researcher and was among the first to incorporate ethnographic descriptions that included native commentaries concerning their likes and dislikes, daily routines, actions and beliefs.
Bronisław Malinowski (7 April 1884 – 16 May 1942)