HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in English, on Ernestine Friedl as an accidental feminist anthropologist.

Allen, Peter S., 2023. “From New York to Vasilika: Ernestine Friedl, an Accidental Feminist in a Greek Village,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris. 

URL BEROSE: article3117.html

This article is a comprehensive account of the life and work of Ernestine Friedl (1920–2014), a professional anthropologist, teacher, and university administrator. Born in Hungary, she immigrated to New York and settled in the Bronx. Her academic career began with her graduation from Hunter College and a PhD from Columbia University, where her doctoral dissertation concerned the Chippewa, whom she had studied on their reservation in Wisconsin. Friedl then taught at Queens College of the State University of New York for more than 20 years before becoming the chair of the Anthropology Department at Duke University in 1973. Meanwhile, she accompanied her husband, classicist Harry Levy, to Greece where she conducted fieldwork in a small village, resulting in her monograph, Vasilika: A Village in Modern Greece (1967), a pioneering work of European ethnography. She was the first American female anthropologist to conduct modern—if not innovative—ethnographic fieldwork in Greece beyond folklore studies, and one of the first to do so in a European society. The article outlines Friedl’s peculiar place in a broader history of anthropological research on Europe, while focusing on feminism and discrimination within her academic and scientific milieu. A special section reveals the ethnographer in the field, her coping with local ways, and the privileged but not necessarily easy interactions of an “American wife” with Greek interlocutors, both female and male. Friedl’s stature in the discipline is testified to by her presidencies of the American Ethnological Society (1967) and the American Anthropological Association (1975), her service on the Board of the National Science Foundation (1980–1988), and her editorship of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies (1986–1990). Friedl concluded her career by spending five years as the dean of arts and sciences at Duke and several years teaching at Princeton University.

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