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VOL. 22, NO. 15FEBRUARY 21, 1997

Famed Anthropologist Arensberg, 86

By Suzanne Trimel

Conrad M. Arensberg
Conrad M. Arensberg, an anthropologist and Columbia professor emeritus who was a pioneer in the study of modern industrial societies, died Feb. 10 in Monmouth County, N.J. He was 86 and lived in New York City and Rumson, N.J.

He died of respiratory failure after a long illness, said his wife, Vivian Garrison Arensberg.

He was president of the American Anthropological Association in 1980 and received the Society of Applied Anthropology's Malinowski Award in 1991.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he helped define the scope of anthropological investigation at a time when the field was turning away from the study of exotic non-industrial societies to the examination of complex industrial culture.

He conducted pioneering research on industrial organizations before World War II and played a key role in establishing applied anthropology as an essential area of inquiry. His research paved the way for the application of anthropological studies to solve social problems.

His first book, The Irish Countryman, is a classic ethnography on rural Irish life and is still in print and used as a college textbook today.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1953 and served as chairman of the anthropology department from 1956 to 1959. He held the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professorship of Human Relations from 1970 until his retirement in 1980, when he joined the faculty of the Joint Applied Anthropology Program at Teachers' College.

He and Alan Lomax related folk songs and dance styles to subsistence economics and social structure worldwide. In their 1942 book, Measuring Human Relations, he and Elliot Chapple analyzed non-verbal behavior. With Karl Polanyi, he developed methods of analyzing the economies of ancient empires, comparing them with modern market economies. Their book, Trade Markets in the Early Empires, was published in 1957.

Arensberg also wrote Introducing Social Change with Arthur Niehoff in 1964 and Culture and Community with Solon T. Kimball in 1965.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and worked on a document outlining the whereabouts of Japanese units that was critical to the Allied success at the Battle of Midway. After the war, he was a consultant in Germany and later research director of UNESCO's Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne. In 1949-50 at the request of anthropologist Margaret Mead, he directed a Columbia research project on Eastern European Jews.

He received his B.A. in 1931 and Ph.D. in 1934, both from Harvard.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Emily Barton and Margaret Olson; a son from a previous marriage, Cornelius, and a brother, Charles.