Rolling in Ditches with Shamans


Rolling in Ditches with Shamans

Jaime de Angulo and the Professionalization of American Anthropology

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz

Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology Series

362 pages
Illustration, map, 8 tables, index


January 2005


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Rolling in Ditches with Shamans charts American anthropology in the 1920s through the life and work of one of the amateur scholars of the time, Jaime de Angulo (1887–1950). Although he earned a medical degree, de Angulo chose to live on an isolated ranch in Big Sur, California, where he participated fully in the lives of the people who were his ethnographic informants. The period of his most extensive research coincides almost perfectly with the professionalization of anthropology, and de Angulo provides a link between those who are generally recognized as the most important figures of the day: Franz Boas, Alfred Kroeber, and Edward Sapir.
The fields of salvage ethnography and linguistics, which Boas emphasized, were aimed at recording the culture, language, and myths of the Native groups before they became completely acculturated. In keeping with these dictates, de Angulo recorded data from thirty groups, mostly in California, which otherwise might have been lost. In an unusual move for that time, he also wrote fiction and poetry describing the modern lives of the people he studied, something of little interest to Boas but of great interest today. His most enduring work is Indian Tales, a fictional synthesis of myths learned from various California Indians. De Angulo’s range of interests, originality, and expertise exemplified the curiosity and brilliance of those who pioneered American anthropology at this time.

Author Bio

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz is a professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside. She is the author of several books, including Wedding as Text: Communicating Cultural Identities through Ritual, and the editor of Social Approaches to Communication.


“An examination of the life and work of one of America’s most colorful linguistic anthropologists, seen against the background of the organization and funding of research on American Indian languages in the 1920s and early 1930s.”—The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas

“Wendy Leeds Hurwitz has done an outstanding, even exemplary job. . . . Grounded in reliable historicism (left happily untheorized in the book), the author writes with her won clear voice and draws her own spirited conclusions. The book is well and thoughtfully structured, each of its parts contributing to a soundly argued narrative whole, and it is altogether both authoritative and good reading”—Thomas Buckley, Ethnohistory

Also of Interest