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Robert Redfield (December 4, 1897 – October 16, 1958) was an American anthropologist and ethnolinguist, whose ethnographic work in Tepoztlán, Mexico is considered a landmark of Latin American ethnography.[1] He was associated with the University of Chicago for his entire career: all of his higher education took place at Chicago, and he then joined Chicago as faculty in 1927 and remained there until his death in 1958, serving as Dean of Social Sciences from 1934–1946.[2]

Robert Redfield
Born(1897-12-04)December 4, 1897
DiedOctober 16, 1958(1958-10-16) (aged 60)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago High School, University of Chicago law degree, 1921; PhD, Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1928.
Scientific career


In 1923 he and his wife Margaret traveled to Mexico, where he met Manuel Gamio, a Mexican anthropologist who had studies with Franz Boas. Redfield graduated from the University of Chicago with Communication Studies, eventually with a J.D. from its law school and then a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, which he began to teach in 1927. After a series of published field studies from Mexican communities (Tepoztlán in Morelos and Chan Kom in Yucatán), in 1953 he published The Primitive World and its Transformation and in 1956, Peasant Society and Culture. Moving further into a broader synthesis of disciplines, Redfield embraced a forum for interdisciplinary thought that included archeology, anthropological linguistics, physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and ethnology.

Redfield wrote in 1955 about his own experience doing research in Latin America on peasants. As he did research, he realized he had been trained to treat the society as an isolated culture. However, he found people were involved with trade, and there were connections between villages and states. More than that, the village culture was not bounded. Beliefs and practices were not isolated. Redfield realized it did not make sense to study people as isolated units, but rather it would be better to understand a broader perspective. Traditionally, anthropologists studied folk ways in the "little tradition", taking into account broader civilization, the "great tradition". He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Redfield was the son-in-law of University of Chicago sociologist Robert E. Park. Redfield and his wife Margaret are the parents of Lisa Redfield Peattie, Professor Emerita, Department of Urban Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James M. Redfield, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago and Joanna Redfield Gutmann (1930–2009). Another son, Robert (called Tito), died at the age of twelve from injuries suffered in a sledding accident.

The papers of Robert Redfield and Margaret Redfield are located at the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Published worksEdit

Redfield's published works include:

  • Redfield, Robert 1930 Tepoztlan, a Mexican village: A study in folk life Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Redfield, Robert 1948 Folk Cultures of the Yucatán. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Redfield, Robert 1954 The Role of Cities in Economic Development and Cultural Change Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Redfield, Robert 1956 The little community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Redfield, Robert 1958 Talk with a Stranger. Stamford, Connecticut: Overbrook Press.
  • Redfield, Robert 1953 "The primitive world and its transformations 1953", Cornell University Press Ithaca, N.Y.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Delpar, Helen (2008). Looking South: The Evolution of Latin Americanist Scholarship in the United States, 1850–1975. University of Alabama Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8173-5464-0. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Robert Redfield–Anthropology". University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues. University of Chicago Library. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter R" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 April 2011.

External linksEdit