Karl Heider interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 30th June 2007

0:05:08 Born Northampton, Massachusetts, 1935; father was an Austrian gestalt psychologist (Fritz Heider) who came to Smith College to work with Koffka for one year in 1930; met Grace Moore, a graduate student whom he married in December 1930; I was first of three sons and grew up in what should have been a bi-cultural environment but unaware that father was not American until about ten; father wrote important book 'Psychology of Interpersonal Relations'; in 1940 he made a little film of geometric figures as an experiment to talk about what became known as attribution theory; always remained in back of my mind; recently the problem that most interests me is how you use visual materials for research which is somewhat different from making ethnographic films; in West Sumatra over the last 20 years I have been trying to develop various ways to use video in research into emotions; realize what I was doing was quite similar to what my father had done in 1940; when I started working on emotions he was very opposed to the idea that there were any cultural components to emotions; like most psychologists he thought he was dealing with a pan species phenomenon; father never spoke German at home; his life before 1930 was a closed book and he didn't really want to talk about it; mother was also a psychologist; she worked with father and eventually got a PhD

8:16:09 We moved to Kansas in 1947 which I hated; summer that I graduated in 1952 I went on an archaeological dig in South Dakota reservation with Carlyle Smith, as a shovel hand for $17 a week plus room and board with other Kansas High School boys and boys from the reservation; entranced by stories of Indian life and became hooked on anthropology; went to Williams College in Massachusetts but they had no anthropology at the time; kept doing fieldwork in South Dakota in the summer; transferred as a junior to Harvard which at that time in 1954 had one of the few anthropology departments; interviewed by Hallam Movius and Ernest Hooten who said I could stay in the Peabody and do real anthropology or go to Social Relations; went to Department of Anthropology at the Peabody; already knew a lot; took courses from Cora du Bois which were not good though I did get to know and like her later on; over all I had three great teachers there, Cora du Bois, Clyde Kluckholn and John Pelzel; was in Kluckholn's seminar a year before he died which was marvellous; he knew a little bit about everything; I dedicated my revised dissertation when published to him; Cora du Bois gave me a studio photograph of him; contemporaries included Olaf Prufer, Herman Blibetroy and Marguerite Robinson; Olaf Prufer had been digging in Patiala (India) as the archaeologist to the Prince of Patiala; when Peabody Library closed at 5pm we graduate students would meet as the 'Hunters and Gatherers', among whom was George Appell; (George was always driven; he and Laura Nader are now the most morally driven anthropologists I know; George and his wife Laura were driving forces in the Borneo community; he did the first book on ethics in anthropology taking the Harvard Business School case study method); we discussed things we were reading like Julian Stewart on cultural evolution; I was still very oriented towards archaeology at that time

23:35:05 Hooten died in Spring of 1954 and they hired Bill Kelly who directed me to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation near Phoenix, Arizona; spent a summer there on an undergraduate research grant; wrote an honours thesis on acculturation; had intended to go straight on to graduate school but invited  to direct a production of 'The Mikado' and after was interviewed for a Sheldon travelling scholarship and opted to go to Japan; spent next year slowly travelling across Asia; did not, ironically, get to Indonesia where I spent the rest of my career; did some archaeology in Thailand; got an Austrian Government fellowship while in India and went to the Institute of Ethnology in Vienna where Heine-Geldern and Koppers were both there; Heine-Geldern came out of retirement to teach on South East Asia; very generous with his time and when he went to give lectures in Japan gave me access to his library; had an amazing memory; one of the reasons I have been working in Minangkabau  in West Sumatra for two decades was his fascination with the Asian multiple roofs which one also found in Norway

32:44:18 There was not any interest in film or photography in the institute; Koppers was pretty old and would give a lecture and leave; there were a couple of other Americans around, one I had know in High School in Kansas, who was then called David Horr but now changed to David Agee; Austria in a pretty grim state at that time so Austrian students had to work and study part-time; the Institute was above the Spanish stables; exciting as my first experience of becoming fluent in a foreign language and I immersed myself in theatre, opera and music; still intended to be an archaeologist; I had discovered a bronze age site in Thailand but that summer dug in the Dordogne with Hallam Movius; relations with him became difficult and he would not support me to go back to Thailand; got on to the Pennsylvania University dig at the Tikal (Mayan) site in Guatemala instead

38:46:21 At that time smoked heavily and met Robert Gardner, who also smoked, on the steps of the Peabody; had done a lot of still photography on trip across Asia and one of the places I was most interested in were Angkor Wat ruins; suggested to Gardner that it would be great to film the carved friezes; this came to nothing but Gardner suggested I make a film of the Tikal site; he had helped Marshall edit 'The Hunters'; he and Marshall were both poets and by the time the film was finished their relationship had deteriorated to the point that Marshall did not put Gardner in the credits; Gardner was director of the Film Study Center  in the basement of the Peabody which had been funded initially by the Marshall family; Gardner really wanted to do his own film; in 1960 a Dutch New Guinea official, Victor DeBruyn, head of the Bureau of Native Affairs came on a tour of the US to try to drum up interest in anthropology; Gardner jumped at this and put together the Harvard-Peabody expedition; turned out that Pennsylvania had a 16mm movie camera and Gardner showed me how to use it; came back at the end of the summer with good footage which I was editing under the title 'Tikal' when he asked me if I would like to go to New Guinea; Gardner had done the coursework for a PhD but discontinued when he became director of the Film Study Center; he had been a graduate student in history at the University of Washington and had made two or three films on the Kwakiutl myths; he intended to be behind the camera and I was willing to do my doctoral thesis there; went out in the Spring of 1961 and stayed almost three years; subsequently have published on the Dani and made a couple of films on them myself - 'Dani Sweet Potatoes' and 'Dani Houses'; acted as second camera on 'Dead Birds', the film Gardner made there; he can be difficult to work with but I get on well with him

47:46:14 Think there are four great ethnographic film makers -  Jean Rouch, John Marshall, Bob Gardner and Tim Asch -  none of them ever took a course in cinematography; still don't know where Gardner learnt to use a camera; according to Jean Rouch he just bought a camera and took it to West Africa; John Marshall bought a camera in Harvard and was shown how to use it in the shop; Tim Asch studied still photography with Minor White; Gardner now 82, had extraordinary energy, very curious; when among the Dani he was always out either shooting or doing ethnography; he is about to publish another book on the making of 'Dead Birds'; he filmed in 16mm without sync sound; Michael Rockefeller was recording wild sound which was post-synced; had great trouble with 16mm film in the humidity of New Guinea

53:16:00 Because of the four field approach, although nominally an archaeologist, could function as a cultural anthropologist/ethnographer; came back from New Guinea and wrote my dissertation on the material culture of the Dani; one of the rare occasions when an anthropologist saw tribal warfare going on and although I was interested in it not prepared to think deeply on it; also published a monograph on the Dugum Dani which has just been reprinted as a classic in anthropology; spent another year at Harvard as an instructor and then went to Brown as a cultural anthropologist and have never taught archaeology but am interested in artefacts; finished PhD in 1965 and spent five years at Brown from 1966; at that time quite involved in anti-Vietnam activity but Brown did not have the student unrest of other places; the award of an honorary degree to Bob Hope, a hawk, prompted student action and led to students being part of the selection panel for such degrees after that

59:35:04 Started corresponding with Jim Siegel who had also been in Cora du Bois's class but two years later; he worked in Sumatra and I asked for suggestion of where was an interesting group to study; he suggested the Batak  but appalled by the difficulty of many languages; thought again of the  Minangkabau as a subject for study; had found the Dani practised a four to six year post-partem abstinence; psychologists and family did not believe this could be right; made me want to return to get more information to prove or disprove it; National Science Foundation anthropology panel had no interest in this but the Foundations fund for research in psychiatry gave me money; by that time I was married to the experimental cognitive psychologist Eleanor Rosch; we went together to New Guinea and found my earlier information was correct; published article in MAN called 'Dani Sexuality. A Low Energy System' to much media interest; however, most anthropologists still do not accept this

1:05:58:50 Married Eleanor Rosch who was a graduate student in psychology at Harvard; we stopped off in Berkeley on our way to New Guinea and stayed in Elizabeth Colson's house; met up with Paul Ekman who was working on facial expressions of emotion; he suggested we replicate his experiments with mainly American subjects with the Dani; we found the Dani replicated the pan-cultural findings of Ekman and his colleagues with one exception; showing them the pan-cultural anger face they would see it as the same as a disgust face; I had noted in my monograph that Dani do not confront in anger situations but withdraw; upshot was that I got more involved with emotions and have spent the last thirty years on the subject; moved from New Guinea to West Sumatra as I'd always wanted to work in an old high culture;  Minangkabau is very close to national language of Indonesia and Malaysia; marriage didn't last; stayed in the Bay area for four years in different posts and at that time wrote a book on ethnographic film

1:11:42:08 Had earlier had tenure at Brown but left to go to California with Eleanor who could not get a job at Brown; after four years in limbo as it was a difficult time for jobs got a job at University of South Carolina as chair of a new department of anthropology and have been there ever since (for 33 years); then started the work in  Minangkabau on emotion; met Malie, my now wife, almost immediately after arriving in South Carolina; took three children aged from one to five to Sumatra for the first time and spent a year there; returned then spent a second year and did the basic work on emotions which was published in 1991 as 'Landscapes of Emotion'; spent evenings watching Indonesian movies on video to improve my language; was teaching anthropology at the provincial university at the time; had previously spent a year at Cornell on the intensive Indonesian course; realized that these were not bad American movies but good Indonesian movies based on principles that I was getting from my emotion research; ended by doing a study on Indonesian cinema which also came out in 1991, taking Indonesian films as cultural texts; this was important in supporting the detailed ethnographic work on emotion behaviour and they really complemented each other; on the whole American anthropology has not been interested in looking at cinema; one brilliant book 'Movies' by Wolfenstein and Leites published 1950; Wolfenstein was an anthropologist who had worked with Mead and Bateson during the second world war; looking at British, French and American movies and relating them to the basic principles of the three cultures; thinking of that and Bateson and Mead's work on Bali which I increasingly found methodologically sloppy

1:17:26:10 Thought highly of both of them and dedicated my book on ethnographic film to them both; on the Mead-Freeman controversy supported Mead; had written an article 'The Rashomon Effect: When Ethnographers Disagree' about the baggage people bring to the field; had given a copy to George Appell who revealed what Derek Freeman thought of Mead but couldn't publish during her lifetime: no problem in understanding why Mead should have one version and Freeman another given the obvious differences between them and the informants they chose to use and the time difference; did my own study over two years on  Minangkabau based on the Bateson Mead work on Baii but tightening up the methodology; the data was comparable but also used video as a research tool; in the end I couldn't use it; I retire in a year and will spend the following year writing; couldn't use the data because it is too personal and revealing and can't be published for that reason

1:24:02:11 I am interested in ethnographic film but we know how to do that; what I am interested in is how we can use video to enhance ethnographic research; I have some partially finished papers that I want to get out to show what visual anthropology can be as tools to add to our methodology; would still love to do an ethnographic film on the Minangkabau and another round of emotion research but need to get this out of the way first