George Foster

Foster.jpgOverview


George Foster (1914-2006) is considered a founding father of medical anthropology for his noteworthy contributions to the field of medical anthropology as well as applied anthropology throughout his career. Foster's accomplishments reflect the holistic perspective that is so revered within anthropology today. Foster's training as an ethnographer, working under renown anthropologists Franz Boas, A.L. Kroeber and Robert H. Lowie, complimented his analytic skills, which allowed him to produce classic works still used by anthropologists today. He was the first anthropologist representative for the Institute of Social Anthropology (ISA), through the Smithsonian Institute, to go to Latin America, where he was based out of Mexico City[1] . His long-term work with peasant societies in Mexico led to detailed publications on cultural change and the influence of technology on these processes, which led to analytical frameworks that would become widely utilized. Foster spent a year (1949-50) in Spain studying how Spanish culture influenced Latin America, which resulted in his well-known work,Culture and conquest: America's Spanish heritage, where Foster introduced his idea of "conquest culture", based on acculturation theory[2] In the applied field, Foster brought the anthropological perspective to assessment of health programs and cultural problems in Latin America through the ISA. Subsequent acknowledgements of the applicability of anthropological frameworks to health, contributed to the development of medical anthropology. Foster's impressive accomplishments within anthropology, both theoretical and practical, have led to the wide-spread use of his work in foundational and advanced courses on anthropology.

Biography


George Foster was born in 1914 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After spending his first year of college at Harvard University, Foster transferred to Northwestern University, where he received a bachelor’s degree, and then a doctor of philosophy from the University of California Berkeley in 1941. At Berkeley he studied in the American Historical School of Anthropology with noted anthropologists Franz Boas, Alfred Louis Kroeber and Robert Harry Lowie. For his doctoral degree, Foster focused on ethnography and historical reconstruction while working with the Yuki Indians of California as well as the Sierra Popoluca Indians of southern Veracruz, Mexico[3] . After one year teaching at Syracuse University in the Sociology Department in 1941, Foster returned to California in 1942 and worked as an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles[4] . He worked as the director of the Smithsonian Institution's Institute of Social Anthropology from 1946 to 1952 and joined the faculty at Berkeley in 1953[5] Foster was the American Anthropological Association president in 1970 and until his retirement in 1979 was active as a faculty member at Berkeley[6] . He was the chair of the anthropology department twice and ran the Phoebe K. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at Berkeley. He passed away in his Berkeley home in 2006, at age 92.

Research and Work


George Foster had diverse research interests throughout his career and is accredited with contributing to the development of the field of medical anthropology through his theoretical and applied research. While completing his doctoral work at Berkeley, Foster worked with well-known anthropologists, Boas, Kroeber and Lowie and was trained as a classic ethnographer and historical reconstructionist, while working at field sites in California and Veracruz, Mexico with indigenous populations in the 1930-40’s. Foster began fieldwork in Tzintzuntzan, Mexico between 1944-1946[7] , where he continued to work for the remainder of his career, resulting in numerous publications, including the notable book Tzintzuntzan: Mexican Peasants in a Changing World (1979) that documented cultural change among peasants in this community. His work with peasant economies in Mexico also resulted in ideas that were widely applied in anthropology, including the dyadic contract (1961), which is based on the foundation of reciprocity and the image of limited good (1965), how people act in environments of scarcity[8] . As Foster gained interest in pottery making in Mexico and technology, he began to become more interested in social structure, moving away from history. He studied technological change and focused on development and applied work, writing a book used widely in applied anthropology, Traditional Cultures and the Impact of Technological Change (1962). Foster focused on historical comparison in the 1950’s and he was the first to publish on the origins of early Iberian immigrants[9] . Foster compared medical beliefs in Latin America and Iberia and published “Culture and Conquest” (1960), which examined the influence of European cultural patterns on Latin American[10]. He developed a theoretical perspective on “conquest culture”, which would become influential in anthropology. In the 50’s and 60’s, Foster developed his ideas on medicine, publishing on Hippocratic humoral beliefs in Latin America. It is during this time that he began to take extreme interest in public health. Although Foster began to work for the ISA in the mid 40's, his work in the early 50's would prove to be a turning point in his career. Foster brought the anthropological perspective to assessments of health programs in Latin America, which led to positive feedback from the organization and ultimately to his own work as a consultant. From 1951-1983, Foster worked on 36 international consulting assignments, which focused on public health issues and community development[11] . His interest in communities and the organizations for which he worked (e.g. the World Health Organization) resulted in his book on Applied anthropology in 1969, which is considered the first textbook in the field[12] . Foster is also accredited with co-authoring the first textbook on medical anthropology in 1978[13] .

Grants and Awards

George Foster saw the need for anthropology in medicine at a crucial time and recognized the government's interests. Between 1965 and 1979, Foster was granted $3 million from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) (equivalent to $15 million in 2007) to support anthropology students at Berkeley. In 1976, Foster was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980[14] and was awarded the Society for Medical Anthropology's lifetime achievement award in 2005, which was later renamed as the George Foster Practicing Medical Anthropology Award[15] .

Major Publications


Foster, George M.
1979. Tzintzuntzan: Mexican peasants in a changing world. New York: Elsevier-New York.
1973. Traditional societies and technological change. New York: Harper & Row.
1960. Culture and conquest: America's Spanish heritage. New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
1969. Applied anthropology. Boston: Little, Brown.
1994. Hippocrates' Latin American legacy: humoral medicine in the New World. Langhorne, Pa: Gordon and Breach.
1966. A primitive Mexican economy. Seattle: University of Washington.
1962 Traditional cultures: and the impact of technological change. New York: Harper & Bros.

Foster, George M., and Barbara Gallatin Anderson. (1978) Medical anthropology. New York: Wiley.
Potter, Jack M., May N. Diaz, and George M. Foster. (1967) Peasant society; a reader. Boston: Little,Brown.


Online Resources


George Foster photographs
http://hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu/exhibitions/tzin/splash.html

Biographical Information
http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/inmemoriam/georgemfosterjr.htm

Published works of George Foster
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/ANTH/emeritus/foster/pub/index.html

George Foster's National Academy of Sciences biography



Further Reading



Foster, George (1963) The dyadic contract, II: patron-client relationship. American Anthropologist 65:1280-1294.

Foster, George M. (1979) Tzintzuntzan: Mexican peasants in a changing world. New York: Elsevier-New York.

Foster, George M. (1973) Traditional societies and technological change. New York: Harper & Row.

Foster, George M. (1960) Culture and conquest: America's Spanish heritage. New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Foster, George M. (1969) Applied anthropology. Boston: Little, Brown.

Foster, George M. (1994) Hippocrates' Latin American legacy: humoral medicine in the New World. Langhorne, Pa: Gordon and Breach.

Foster, George M. (1966) A primitive Mexican economy. Seattle: University of Washington.

Foster, George M., and Barbara Gallatin Anderson. (1978) Medical anthropology. New York: Wiley.

Foster, George (1965) Peasant society and the image of limited good. American Anthropologist 67:293-315.

Foster, George (1961) The dyadic contract: a model for the social structure of a peasant village. American Anthropologist New Series, 63(6).

Potter, Jack M., May N. Diaz, and George M. Foster. (1967) Peasant society; a reader. Boston: Little,Brown.

References


  1. ^ Kemper, Robert V. (2007) George Mcclelland Foster Jr. 1913-2006: A Biographical Memoir. Washington, National Academy of Sciences.
  2. ^ Kemper, Robert V. (2007) George Mcclelland Foster Jr. 1913-2006: A Biographical Memoir. Washington, National Academy of Sciences.
  3. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader. (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  4. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader. (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  5. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader. (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  6. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  7. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  8. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  9. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader(1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  10. ^ Hammel, Eugene and Laura Nader (1979) Will the Real George Foster Please Stand Up? Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 55-56:159-164.
  11. ^ Kemper, Robert V. (2007) George McClelland Foster Jr. 1913-2006: A Biographical Memoir. Washington, National Academy of Sciences.
  12. ^ Kemper, Robert V. (2007) George McClelland Foster Jr. 1913-2006: A Biographical Memoir. Washington, National Academy of Sciences.
  13. ^ Wellin, Edward. (2007) Medical Anthropology: A Comment on Recent Publication Accessed May 2, 2011.
  14. ^ Kemper, Robert V.
    2007 George Mcclelland Foster Jr. 1913-2006: A Biographical Memoir. Washington, National Academy of Sciences.
  15. ^ Society for Medical Anthropology (2011) Awards Accessed May 2, 2011.