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The anthropologist as heroine: contemporary interpretations of memory and heritage in an Indonesian valley
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences. (Concurrences)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7779-5820
2013 (English)In: Oral history in Southeast Asia: memories and fragments / [ed] Kah Seng Loh, Ernest Koh, Stephen Dobbs, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 1, p. 139-158Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

In 1937 the Swiss American anthropologist Cora Du Bois (1903–91) traveled by sea from New York, via the Netherlands, to the Dutch East Indies. She was a self-conscious social scientist, or as she writes in a letter: a “lady-explorer” on her way to an isolated part of the Indonesian archipelago. Du Bois was intentionally looking for a remote place, as her research within the fashionable culture and personality school required investigations into a society little affected by Western influences. Du Bois set out on a pioneering mission; she was the first to try out methods from psychoanalysis in a non-Western setting and had been advised to choose the island of Alor for the study.

Cora Du Bois’ book, The People of Alor, published in 1944, is an important work within the field of psychological anthropology. The author would later become the first woman to teach anthropology at Harvard University. What is less well known is that Du Bois is a celebrity outside the academic world. She has become a heroine in the Abui community she studied, and is quite famous across the whole of Alor. Since Du Bois left the island in 1939, never to return, she has lived on in collective memory as a vivid figure to which hopes for the future are attached. Following her departure, a cult emerged around the anthropologist, and it is still evolving. Du Bois was incorporated into existing beliefs in benevolent magical beings.

The main question here is, how and why an American woman, who appeared—and disappeared—in the late 1930s, has reached cult status in Alor.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 1. p. 139-158
Series
Palgrave Studies in Oral History
Keywords [en]
Oral history, Indonesia, Alor, Cora Du Bois, Abui, Heritage, Oral traditions, Anthropology, Cargo cults, Millenarian movements, Colonialism, Post-colonial
National Category
Humanities
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-33722ISBN: 978-1-137-31166-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-33722DiVA, id: diva2:711176
Available from: 2014-04-09 Created: 2014-04-09 Last updated: 2017-02-17Bibliographically approved

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Wellfelt, Emilie

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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