Marilyn Strathern

Interviewed by Alan Macfarlane
Filmed by Alan Macfarlane
Edited by Sarah Harrison
Interview Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes, and 21 seconds

Interviewed on May 6, 2009
Supported by the Leverhulme Trust

Description of Interview

At the start of the interview, Marilyn Strathern recounts a childhood memory of her father who used to breed moths and experiment with the effects of soot on samples he collected from across England. She recalls how her father would keep containers made of a “kind of cellulite material” and “filled with privet leaves, caterpillars crawling all over them.” They even had to take these containers away with them on holiday to feed the bugs. Strathern’s mother, who was also interested in the natural sciences, had read English literature at Girton (Cambridge). Her mother’s interests branched out into women’s issues, eventually becoming a member of the International Women’s Movement. Both her parents left a lasting impression on Strathern, and she describes her mother as a “great friend,” whom she misses a lot.

Speaking about her early fieldwork days, Strathern explains that although it was a tense period, she loved her time in Papa New Guinea. Her initial research thesis ideas were based on the instance of “divorce in relation to descent group solidarity.” Yet after completing a statistical analysis of the divorce rates and the strength of unilineal descent groups and producing completely uninteresting results, Strathern realized that she was actually observing what she would later understand as “gender ideology.” She says, “[T]he fact that women going from one clan to another in marriage have to be blamed for what goes wrong between clans, it is structural dynamic . . . that was the beginning of my interest in gender relations.” 

Strathern also gives her thoughts on talking and writing, explaining that she continuously fails to talk about what she writes. “I cannot actually represent what I write just in terms of talking.” For Strathern, writing is a rather long process with emotional effects: “Very often before I write something I fall into a depression, feel I have nothing to say or everything has been said, or I’m stupid.” Once ideas start to flow, a more enjoyable phase follows where she goes over what she has written. It is at this stage of assessing her writing where Strathern considers the “scholarship to come in.” Then there is the “long process of correction; it is like finding caterpillars in the salad—you don't know what you have swallowed or missed.”

Video Index and Transcript

0:09:07 Born in North Wales in 1941; looking back at father's family, Thomas Charles of Bala was the founder of the British and Foreign Bible Society; his grandsons were heads of theological colleges; the role that theology and theological dispute played in British society provided an intellectual arena that is inappropriate for the kind of society we are now in; I prefer to look on these ancestors as intellectuals rather than theologians. Mother's family were carpet makers in the Midlands, among other things. I knew my father's parents, who lived in Surrey; also knew my mother's mother, but her father died when she was seventeen; maternal grandmother had a wicked sense of humour and I like to think she has passed it on to me. My father should have been an academic, not unlike a person that I got to know well in Mount Hagen; he was a journalist trained at King's London but for only one year; he worked for the 'News Chronicle' in Manchester, a liberal paper run by Cadburys; it failed during my first term at Girton and my father was suddenly out of work; Cadburys had made no pension provision; he moved to the 'Telegraph' which did not reflect his views at all. He was very much influenced as a boy by a neighbour whose passion was natural history; in those days, collecting butterflies was a mark of interest not a trespass; he built up an exquisite collection of butterflies, moths and other insects, all of which were classified according to the Royal Entomological Society classification; he also bred moths and experimented on samples from the north and south of England to show the effects of soot; before the days of flexible plastics there was a kind of cellulite material, and I remember these containers filled with privet leaves sitting in the bath with caterpillars crawling all over them; we even had to take them away with us on holiday in order to keep them fed. He had a huge knowledge of ornithology; because robins have territories they become very possessive of them and become familiar with other beings living in them; when living in Pets Wood near Orpington -- the railway ran all night so my father was able to get home after work -- for two or three summers my father trained robins to take fishermen's maggots from his fingers or even his lips; he was fascinated by Darwin and his family and was well-read in evolutionary theory; my mother said that he was explaining Gould to her on the day before he died; he was also a poetry reviewer for the 'Oxford Times', and I have his collection of poetry collected from the fifties. He was rather diffident and shy but quite definite in his opinions; I found the combination of his definite opinion and erudition quite difficult and chose a subject to pursue during my teens that had nothing to do with his interests; that was archaeology! Petts Wood was a Roman suburb and there are archaeological digs all round.

10:15:15 My mother had an equally formidable knowledge of natural history, and wild flowers in particular; on any walk we would be aware of what was around us. She read English at Girton and then taught; she was broadly interested in all aspects of English literature and branched out into an interest in women's issues; this was pre Betty Friedan and the second wave of feminism; she would lecture to the Workers' Educational Association on women's interests, in the 1950s before it was fashionable; she was a member of the Fawcett Society and once stood for the local council; her political roots were really quite deep; before she met my father she had been to Russia to celebrate the dawn of a new society; she remained politically engaged in a way that my father would go along with but was never passionate about. She taught first in a boys school near Manchester; when I was born there were still issues concerning women with children remaining in jobs so she stopped school teaching; in Kent she started teaching in Maidstone Gaol and did correspondence courses for Merchant Seamen; I vividly remember her marking 'O' level English papers; she would take the exam scripts down to a National Trust wood with us when we were little so she could mark while we played. Her interest in women's issues, politics and internationalism led her to become involved with the International Women's Movement; she was also a great believer in the Commonwealth; she would have been proud of my being asked to represent Papua New Guinea at a celebration to mark sixty years since the change of name from British Commonwealth to Commonwealth of Nations; when I was in the upper classes at school she fed me ideas; when I was doing a project on the eighteenth century she took me to London and we walked round the eighteenth century parts, which was quite something; she had to carry all the social life of the family. She was a great friend; she died not so long ago and I miss her a lot. 

16:43:20 I have two younger brothers and both of them retired well before I did; my first school was Crofton Lane Primary School, though there was an earlier school, Poverest Road Infant School, next to a Baptist Church; I went on to Bromley High School[GPDST]. I remember a sports' day at my infant school, dressed in what seemed to be satin pyjamas, admiring my calves and thinking I was the bee's knees! Went to the primary school from eight until eleven when I took 11+; at that school there was a particular teacher that I remember in the last form, but I am not a great one for thinking of genealogy in that sense, who has influenced me; I do have distinct memories of being inspired by several of my high school teachers, in geography, English and history. While still primary school, when we were on holiday with my parents we would visit historic buildings; there are some very early drawings of mine of a Norman keep; I learnt to recognise different styles of church architecture, so history has played a part in how I learned about fitting things together in terms of explaining the world; history was one of my 'A' level subjects and I always enjoyed it; English literature I enjoyed enormously; I still recall a ghastly moment during the 'O' level exam, head full of everything from Chaucer onward, wondering how the questions could begin to touch on what I knew; I got a terrible mark and everybody was scandalised, but I couldn't turn my knowledge into exam answers. Music? My mother had been a disappointment to her own father who was musical, so she had me tested at the age of seven and I was found to be tone deaf; neither of my parents was musical so this is a huge gap in my education; I do listen to music but in ignorance and words mean more to me than music; I loved drama and can still remember the exhilaration of being in a successful performance; I think I was just a stage manager or something, but being part of the organization, the team work, that I enjoyed.

26:27:13 Both my parents had come from Baptist backgrounds but my father was an atheist and my mother would say she was agnostic; in later years she got some comfort from Quaker circles but she would never say she was a believer; being brought up in an atheist family gave me reverse problems; during the period when I went off digging - thirteen, fourteen - I would come home, eat the Sunday lunch left for me, then dash out to the Congregational Church; we had been sent to Sunday school but that was a routine practice and not a religious thing; I went to the Congregational Church for about two years; I had not been baptised so knew I could not take communion; I was rescued by the Astronomer Royal; Fred Hoyle in his Reith Lectures gave a descriptive vision of the universe that did not require a deity; I had been looking for some reason for not associating myself with the church and Fred Hoyle gave it; that was an incredible liberation and I have never looked back. Now I am an atheist to the core and find the present theisms really quite alarming; I now live in a world very different from what I imagined the world would be, with religions popping up on all sides, and faith schools and such nonsense. I do not agree with Dawkins: anybody who wishes to express belief can practice science and I don't think the two are incompatible; my younger brother is a devout evangelical and is a forester, a natural scientist; these things are not implacably opposed; that is not to say that there are not runs of theory which are incompatible; evolutionary theory and Darwinism, for example, because they touch on the origins of how we come to be what we are, quite clearly are challenging for religions that also propose to account for the same. Given that a number of anthropologists were believers, what is it that I substitute for religion that might have the same effect on my intellectual life? I think I would say an interest and love of institutions; I suspect that those aspects of religion that inspire social scientists are those aspects to do with the ecclesiastical organization of religious life regardless of what belief systems are involved; if you were to look for a counterpart of that in my own life I would say that I have always liked being in contexts where there was organized life around me; I like being in hospital, for example, and am not frightened by the notion of institution as such; I have enjoyed departmental life from the organizational demands that it makes; I am very much a college person and enjoyed being in the institution; that is where in my own life I might echo where people with religion might find some inspiration for being interested in other people and their social relations; it is also the rituals of institutions from which I derive a particular pleasure, in the relationship one has to a convention which one willingly follows, but in such a way it does not impinge on one's autonomy; a willing submission to a convention for the pleasure of the convention, but at the same time one is conscious of oneself as an active participant; I have always found that the relationship between person and office - which I discuss in a contribution to 'Cambridge Anthropology - is an actual source of intellectual pleasure, something that I enjoy managing. 

37:10:11 I feel very sorry for our Chaplain at Girton, who does a lot of good for College, who perceives that I can't join in as far as belief is concerned; when I was at Bromley High I would keep my mouth shut during assembly and refuse to sing although I would do the physical genuflection; funerals would be the most frequent other occasions when I would be in church; funerals are quite educative because it becomes very clear that as a participant in something that is important you are actually participating with other people; for the sake of the other people there, that you join in the singing; for funerals, the impossibility of the substance of what they are promising puts the content beyond rational thought; one is left with the singing as an activity; funerals that minimize that kind of collective participation are very unsatisfactory. When it became clear that in college I would be in chapel quite a lot it seemed to me that for the sake of the college it was important to play one's part and I did not sit there anguishing over the content of what is being said. I have no need for resistance, it is just not relevant.

40:35:19 In those days you could apply for both Oxford and Cambridge and I got in at Somerville as well where I would have read history; of Girton, Newnham and New Hall, Girton was the obvious college and I got an exhibition there while only a place at Somerville, so that made the decision for me; I came to do archaeology and anthropology as I had done a lot of digging but I knew I never wanted to be an archaeologist; we had studied the eighteenth century and I had read Rousseau, and became quite carried away with notions of society, and what society was; Meyer Fortes was the Professor of anthropology; Girton was looked after by Doris Wheatley who was quite an idiosyncratic person; I was also taught by Audrey Richards and Esther Goody. Now in my mind, Meyer [Fortes] and Edmund [Leach] are very much a pair; this is bizarre given their histories; I think of them as a pair precisely because what was exhilarating to a student at that time was having them dispute with each other; the knowledge that they disagreed but that both were interesting was an inspiration; Edmund delivered his lectures in a very forthright and engaging way; I came up in 1960 so this was the time that he was bringing Levi-Strauss to an English audience; the audacity of his ideas was conveyed in the energy with which he delivered things; Meyer was more removed, quite calm, very precise, detailed; go back to those two volumes on Tallensi, they are quite incredible works; the impact he had wasn't at all the same as Edmund's but he managed to be a little bit patriarchal without being pompous; I was fond of him; I think I was more in awe of Edmund because of the flamboyance which was so far removed from the kind of person I was; I quite empathised with Meyer; they had very distinct differences. Reo Fortune and G.I. Jones were there, so was Martin Southwold and Jack Goody; there were few students so we would go off together to the Bun Shop [or Meyer's room in King's], particularly when I became a research student; my contempories were Steve Gudeman, Maurice Bloch, Liz Kennedy, Susan Drucker-Brown and Geoffrey Benjamin; as a student I didn't appreciate Audrey Richards, her manner was dry and remote; by the time I knew her as a teacher she was tired, was teaching on methods; as a supervisor, because she was in Newnham, she was quite wonderful; she would read what I wrote quite carefully and made very interesting comments and I really began to warm to her in a way that really didn't come over in her public persona at that point in her life. In the summer of 1961 I went digging with Charles McBurney; in summer 1962, Audrey and Edmund decided to take a troop of students to Elmdon to teach them genealogical methods; Andrew Strathern came along as well; I have to say that none of my experiences in New Guinea were nearly as terrifying as that; in New Guinea I didn't really know the conventions, but here I knew the conventions but had been brought up with them; as an English person I was incredibly sensitive to people saying go away we are not interested, or go and look in the local library. It was an enormous kindness that she let us use her house and make her materials available; what in her lectures I had thought of as remote and dull, quite clearly had another side which was a degree of detachment from what she was and where she was which enabled her to include other people in her project; very different from Edmund who got fed up very quickly and removed himself from what she was doing; that detachment then translated much later into her allowing me access to all her materials; I had offered to help her write up a chapter but that turned in the end to my authoring the book on Elmdon; there was this generosity to her that was really quite impressive; I also became extremely fond of her.

52:28:20 I got a 2:1 and there being no firsts that year and my being top of the 2.1s, I had bitter thoughts about the external examiner! There were no grants or scholarships and fieldwork funding which one had to find oneself; became engaged to Andrew in my third year and we married the summer of 1963 just after I graduated; the reception was at the Garden House Hotel; Audrey, the Goodys, Meyer and Edmund were there, and Edmund discovered that one of my father's doctor cousins had treated him during the war. No one apart from Reo Fortune knew anything about New Guinea; the story of why we went to New Guinea in my mind is that it wasn't Africa; it was also the case that the New Guinea Highlands were being opened up and there were one or two anthropological reports from there; the Highlands were not discovered until 1933 and then the war came and there was not much access; in the early 1960s they were still fairly recently opened up; Esther Goody was my supervisor.

Second Part

0:09:07 Esther I remember more as an undergraduate supervisor; I used to go round to the house on Shelley Row as her children were little; I still remember the first essay I wrote for her; it was such a leap forward from what I had been doing in Part 1 and I was so excited; I went to the University Library and the question was (roughly) "Taking Durkheim's method in 'Suicide', how, using other materials, could you make an argument for the presence of social facts"; she was requiring one to think through different materials and thus actually focus on the method and procedure of enquiry; she was a wonderful undergraduate supervisor; as a PhD supervisor, I don't know whether it was customary then, but it was fairly hands off; one was left very much to one's own devices. I was also appointed a field supervisor, Paula Brown, who was at the A.N.U. in Canberra; I was married in July and we set sail in November; Andrew had waited that year so must have occupied himself, but I recall that it was reading and personal preparations for Papua New Guinea, nothing else like fieldwork training. The West African roots showed themselves in the subject of my research; Esther was interested in sibling order and its effects on achievement; I thought that I would investigate this in relation to cash crops because I knew that coffee had been introduced; pitching up in Hagen itself I realized that coffee was hardly embedded in local practices and sibling order was not an organizational principle for them; it had been a good topic to get me there, but once there I studied what was in front of my eyes. We were both very naive and luckily took quite some time to get to the final place where we were going to have a house built; I remember travelling up from Port Moresby in a very small plane that actually landed along all the air strips along the Wahgi Valley, and the one just before Mount Hagen was called Banz, and as we got out somebody said Mbanz and I thought "I've heard a pre-nasalized B"; landing on the air strip in Mount Hagen which was very close to the town, seeing people with bark belts and tangets [cordylines] was a romantic moment! We took some time to get up to the eventual place where we had a house built; that was a good thing because we left behind us a trail of mismanaged relations; the place was spectacularly beautiful, on a ridge with two drainage systems, one valley on one side and one on the other; the tops of the mountains were wooded, people planted fallow after their gardens, and quite steep - you were always going up or down; its beauty had an effect; I don't think I ever stopped feeling grateful that I was there. Managing relationships was fraught; for a while I was by myself because we thought we had different PhDs to get from this work, and Andrew went off in one direction and I in another; I had a house built much closer to Hagen town at a place called Kelua and I was there by myself for two or three months, and quite lonely; the tension manifested itself in indigestion; after the evening meal I would withdraw to have a bit of time to myself, but it would invariably end with me lying on my camp bed on my stomach trying to get rid of indigestion; at the original field site at Buk we had an open kitchen as we put money into the cash economy by buying food and always had more than we could eat; I loved walking but people don't live in villages, everybody having their own homestead, so the chances were that people would not be at home either, so it was quite frustrating in some ways; managing the demands that were made was quite difficult, but I loved it. 

10:13:20 In 1964-5, one of the things that was going on very publically were local courts, dispute settlement arenas; these sessions were held by people who called themselves either 'council' or 'committee', having borrowed the word for a group for a person; these happened with great frequency and would attract people, and many of them involved women; many times women were being accused of some form of disloyalty - running away, wanting a divorce - a persistent theme; I gradually began to build up the idea of a research thesis based on the instance of divorce in relation to descent group solidarity; this was Gluckman and the Zulu - straight 1960s social anthropology, and Esther obviously thought that was a good idea. I set about trying to put things on a statistical basis; not trusting my ability to sample, I did a complete count of marriages according to people's life histories within the set of clans we were most closely associated with; recorded marriages, deaths, widowhood and remarriages; had to make a decision on what was and wasn't marriage beforehand; I had John Barnes's formula for working out divorce rates and also had with me an early piece by Richard Salisbury, by Bulmer and by Marie Reay, who all worked in the Highlands, and had some sense of the marriage rates in other societies; assumed that my thesis would be about the high rate of divorce as against the strength of the unilineal descent group; it took me a couple of months to complete this survey, then to compute it and apply Barnes's different types of divorce rates to work out something on which I could make a statement; I was very pleased to be doing a little bit of statistics as I had wept over the counting machines doing statistics in Part 2; when I had finished, the results were completely uninteresting. Then I suddenly realized the phenomenon that I had been observing; it was not a high divorce rate or a particular anxiety about divorce; I had been observing what I later learned to call "gender ideology", the fact that women going from one clan to another in marriage have to be blamed for what goes wrong between the clans, it is a structural dynamic; that was the beginning of my interest in gender relations, although at that time one talked in terms of sex roles or relations between the sexes; 'Women in Between', published in 1972 didn't have the word "gender" in it; I first came across the word in 1971 or 1972 in a book by Ann Oakley. 'Women in Between' was really an assessment rather than an argument, of how one might think about including women in a description of social life; when you were dealing with the lineaments of society that quite clearly privileged men in terms of their membership of groups, their activity in ceremonial exchange, their prominence in warfare, yet where crucially men and clans depended upon women - men even depended on them for display: one of the problems men had was when in their finery, whom were they displaying to but to women who weren't worthy of the display! There were all kinds of dynamics like that; women half believed what men said, and although circumscribed, led lives of their own; it was less an argument, more an adjudication. 

17:37:00 'The Gender of the Gift' really unwrote 'Women in Between'; the latter had been concerned with social dynamics but even when it came out it was already theoretically very much of its time; in the intervening years with the whole wave of post-structuralist critique and ways of thinking about ideology, to which Edmund of course made a contribution, with the emergence of Marxist anthropology, and of a feminist anthropology that included recourse to literary studies, quite clearly the kind of description produced for 'Women in Between' simply wasn't adequate. 'The Gender of the Gift' was an attempt to rewrite the basis on which I had produced 'Women in Between'; it doesn't proclaim that is the case but that was always in my mind; what it does is survey a lot of the literature across Papua New Guinea and attempts to work through a mode of description that was to my mind the solution to certain problems in gender analysis; it is not the definition that matters but what is the problem to which that is the answer; the problems to which the second part of 'The Gender of the Gift' is the answer are there in the first part; there are four chapters 3-6, and one by one they take up different aspects of what was then quite hotly debated in the feminist literature - aspects of economics, labour and exploitation, public and domestic domains, prominence in politics etc.; I worked through what for other Papua New Guinea societies had to 1984 (when I began the book) been the outcome of feminist-inflected attention to New Guinea materials; each one of these results in an impasse and there are problems. I then bundle all those problems up and say that it lies in the way that people are thinking about gender and gender identity; I found a term for it, that they are treating gender as a possession, something that people have or don't have; that seemed to me typical of a particular way of dividing up and thinking about the world that I thought could be resolved by suggesting that if that is commodity logic let me use gift logic; I have been tripped up so many times having used this antonym but the terms really are irrelevant; the point is it enabled me to put all those arguments aside, and to go on to develop a schema for thinking about Melanesian societies, their theories of social action etc.

22:42:13 Individuals? The circumstances under which people individuate themselves or elements in the world around them have to be contrived; one of the things that clans do as groups is insist on their individuality through spectacles, dancing, claiming identity etc.; it is not the case that there are no individuals, individuation is an aspect of what they are doing but it is not taken for granted; in our world we take the individuality of items and persons as grounding nature, and all our efforts are to think about the relations between them; it seemed to me that in the Melanesian material - and here I was quite guided by Roy Wagner's 'The Invention of Culture' - that it was very much the other way round, that individuation was an achievement so that the 'Big Man' was the achiever which is what big manship was about, and what that came from was a state of non-individuation which took a very particular form if you are thinking about persons. Persons are always divided, by their substance, their loyalties etc., [minimally] between their mother's side and father's side; although these have unequal weight in social organization, in terms of the way in which persons imagine themselves they are forever divided; that division is constantly repeated so that when a man marries he dispenses with the feminine side of himself that he was born with in order to meet his wife and create another dualism; at the most intimate level we are talking about division as a social imperative; husband and wife are radically divided by their origins, and that division will be there in the children they produce; I borrowed 'dividual' from Mckim Marriott simply as a way of talking about how people are imagined as always composed of distinct entities.

27:16:00 I have had several interviews recently and have come to the conclusion that talking is a completely different activity to writing and when I am asked to talk about what I write I fail; some people can do it, some can't. When I had my portrait painted at Girton the painter, Daphne Todd, used a very tiny paintbrush, drew hardly an outline, but simply observed colours in relation to one another and gradually crept over the whole canvas like this; I suggested to her that it was just like writing, that little words all matter and all take their colour from one another; she did not agree and asserted that she just painted what she saw; that was somebody who couldn't put in words what they painted whereas other people can; we have a collection of portraits in Girton, and another artist came to expound his portrait and was most eloquent. In a similar way to painting, writing is such an important activity of mine and has such a distinct part in my life, I can not actually represent what I write just in terms of talking; coming to that realization, after doing some terrible interviews, I think talking and writing are quite distinct genres. I began writing longhand, then a mechanical typewriter and then getting on to a computer; for many years the typing would come at a point where the writing was already quite well developed, so it was always a polishing activity; that somehow is retained even when I no longer do those pre-typing stages. Very often before I write something I fall into a depression, feel I have got nothing to say or everything has been said, or I'm stupid, and this actually was a real crisis at the time of writing my inaugural lecture which was in October [1994]; I had given myself [the month of] August to write it and halfway through I was in despair because I couldn't think of anything; the writing then becomes a process of lifting myself out of that moment, so it actually has quite an emotional effect; I can't fake it, fake being depressed because I need to write, because it doesn't work like that; then when I write I very often write very fast and carelessly over the whole span of what I want to do, and ideas come very quickly; that is then followed by a quite pleasurable period when I do the real work which is going over what I have written and actually assessing whether any of this is any good, and what can be retained and what needs to be discarded; that's where the scholarship comes in; I might write a few notes to guide me and even for a shorter piece I may do a little schema beforehand, of after I have done this first bit which gives me the schema, then visually I know roughly where things will appear; then there is this long process of correction; it is like finding caterpillars in the salad - you don't know what you have swallowed or missed; in the end, tend to get to a point where you just stop correcting. 

34:27:07 My interest in audit? In 1985 I went to Manchester as Head of Department; in 1986 there was the first big Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and I was quite oppressed by it but at the same time, because of the position I was in I was therefore responsible for having these people perform well, I had to do everything I could to encourage them while at the same time being highly sceptical of the exercise; out of that I wondered how I could make sense of what I didn't like, and that if I studied it seriously then maybe I could make it interesting; think that it also meant that I remained naive in the sense that I didn't have the knowledge or facilities to put things into an historical or political perspective which people in other disciplines might have; I was always driven by a sense that criticism was what was at issue. I have been really taken aback by the extent to which the few pieces I have written on audit have been picked up all over the place and across many disciplines; I think that not so many people were writing on these issues at the time and I was drawing in higher education in a very direct way; it just spoke to people's concerns. In an article for 'Cambridge Anthropology', I was following a particular writer who laments the demise of the old-style civil service and the notion of a bureaucracy as a service order within government distinct from politics; what is being lamented is the [new-style] personalization of administrators, the extent to which civil servants are meant to have ownership of their projects; what is regretted is not bureaucracy per se but this very particular form of understanding in the Civil Service that there were procedures and principles that saved one from the effects of too much personal investment in what was going on; one of the things I do mention is that some of the functions of that old-style bureaucracy you find these days not in bureaucrats but in some of the techniques they surround themselves with. One of our problems in the current era when we feel oppressed by bureaucracy is not so much the activities of individuals but it is the kinds of programmes that are set up that we have to conform to; the head of department has a constant pro-forma, things to be filled where only certain answers to questions will do otherwise the machine throws them out; this is a new way of dealing with process and procedure. 

40:40:01 On art, my mother would take me round art galleries; the book on body art in Mount Hagen was a joint book; Peter Ucko was starting up a series on art and James Faris had written on the Nuba, for example, and he commissioned us to do it; in 1967 I undertook some fieldwork dedicated to photographing aspects of people's decorations. I received a letter while still in the field asking if I would be interested in the post of assistant curator of Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology when I returned; I said yes, so immediately on return from the field I took up that position; the arrangement was that I would be in the museum four days a week and would write my thesis three days a week; that was very good training as it meant I really used those three days; I was given quite a free hand and remember enjoying revamping the New Guinea collections which are quite notable; one memory I have is sitting in the office which caught the afternoon sun, just feeling tired, I'm afraid, of questions from all kinds of people; this was a kind of pre-email moment where however many questions there were, there were always more. In the early 1980s I was an Official Fellow at Trinity; I had been at Girton as an Official Fellow and then went to Canberra for a period; it then became obvious that I would divorce Andrew Strathern, and returned to Cambridge; failed to get a job as an assistant lecturer in the department but Trinity made me an Official Fellow; then Manchester asked whether I would be interested in going there as Head of Department - my first departmental job; I knew that before I had actually been inducted into the Trinity fellowship; I told Trinity I would only be there for a year before going to Manchester, but they agreed to have me; they behaved very handsomely; it is an impressive place whichever way you look at it. 

46:50:11 I was at Manchester from 1985 to 1993; that was a wonderful period of my life and I very much enjoyed living there; the twins were little, Barbara hadn't finished her 'O' levels and stayed behind here in Cambridge for a while; I was an aging person when I arrived and much younger when I left! I was the only woman in the department when I arrived and I had some excellent colleagues there; there was a wider social science faculty than in Cambridge that took a lot of the executive decisions, but in the faculty everybody was negotiating from the point of view of their own departments; what Manchester did provide, which I only really realized when I came to Cambridge, was that I knew my steps to the Vice-Chancellor so the structure was very clear. Cambridge was a wonderful Department; [however] it took me four years before I stopped saying I don't know my way around this University and I had been an undergraduate, a research student, been here in my middle years as a college bye-fellow and official fellow, but coming back to the William Wyse Professorship and as head of department, it took me a long time to feel comfortable again; I think it is because the University is running in many epochs, there is a monastic culture, an eighteenth-century coffee room culture, a nineteenth-century entrepreneurialism, twentieth-century management, and these things are all running simultaneously and it is a very complex place; that of course keeps it creative; the complexity means that there are all kinds of metaphorical nooks and crannies that allow idiosyncratic procedures, or used to, to flourish; on the Department itself, I have to say that the liveliness of the students, especially the graduate students, has remained a joy. I enjoy lecturing but have never regarded myself as particularly good at it and could never tell whether I was going to leave a lecture elated or otherwise; it seemed to bear no relation to the amount of preparation I did; latterly, the writing-up seminar really emerged as the piece of involvement with students that was the highlight. 

53:07:16 Of Girton, I enjoy being part of a complicated institution, witnessing the way different parts of what is going on work or don't work together; there is an incredible team of people there in the form of the Bursar, Senior Tutor, Secretary to Council, and so forth, who do a lot of the day to day administration; I was of course only a part-time Head of House which means that much more of my administrative time has gone on departmental or university matters, including other universities as well. Within College something that I thought I wouldn't enjoy, I enjoy tremendously, that is actually sitting down with roughly the same people two or three times a week to eat; the College has a very good spirit about it. I knew right from the outset in Manchester that the one thing you need to prevent is a cleavage; you can have any number of prima donnas, alliances, whatever, but as long as the alliances keep on cross-cutting with one another, and different issues engage different constellations of interests, everything is fine; as soon as you have a cleavage in a department, a crevasse, then every issue falls into it; this worked in Manchester, it had to be worked at in the Cambridge department, but is really true of Girton, that although from time to time the Fellows divide themselves, and although they have to always overcome some arts-science divide, simply because of the different kinds of demands of the University, I think I can fairly say there are no divisions that have split the community. If people work together well you can do anything with [that] good will; whether people are critical or supportive of what you want to do there is a way of working through issues; caretaking, household management, is actually very important. 

57:32:16 In retirement, I have various invitations, commitments, ahead of me; I want to go back over what I have been doing these last few years; although I have been carrying on writing, I have not done any thinking; I want to look at what I have done and think what is worth taking forward or not. A lowly aspiration, but that will do for the moment. My phrase, Cambridge's "genius of scale"? That means that the University can go on growing larger while conserving small-scale associations in the colleges, as long as the colleges are the size that they are now; you should add another college rather than enlarging the colleges; this structure is a brilliant structure for simultaneously being large and small at the same time; I can't think of a cleverer solution for institutions to do with educating people.