Marshall Sahlins was the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Sahlins earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D from Columbia University.
An activist since the Vietnam War, he coined the phrase “teach-in,” meaning an academic exercise inviting open discourse, without limitations on where the discussion may lead. His work explored the power of culture to shape ideas and beliefs and the relationship between agency and structure. Sahlin contributed most notably to the fields of economic and historical anthropology, and performed most of his research in Hawaii and Fiji.
He wrote and published scholarly works beginning in the late-1950s. His works included Moala: Culture and Nature on a Fijian Island, The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology, and Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa.
After hearing of the efforts to support military research, Sahlin resigned from the National Academy of Sciences in protest. His principled approach to anthropology earned him a devoted following, including, of course, the many promising new anthropologists whom he mentored throughout his teaching career.
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