The Lewis Henry Morgan lectures at the University of Rochester were inaugurated in 1962 and have been presented annually ever since. The lectures commemorate not only Morgan’s contributions to the founding of the University of Rochester and his support for the founding of a women’s college, but also his legacy in anthropology, as reflected in the topics of the first three lectures, which focused on kinship (Meyer Fortes, 1963), native North Americans (Fred Eggan, 1964), and technology and social evolution (Robert M. Adams, 1965).
As the oldest and longest-running such lecture series in North America, the Morgan Lectures have produced some of the most influential texts in modern anthropology, to name but a few: Victor Turner’s The ritual process: Structure and anti-structure (1966), Marilyn Strathern’s After nature: Kinship in the late twentieth century (1992), and Nancy Munn’s The fame of gawa: A symbolic study of value transformation in a Massim society (Papua New Guinea) (1986). A view of the lectures after more than fifty years illustrates the ways that anthropologists have moved well beyond Morgan’s Enlightenment roots, and also how they have expanded upon the topics that preoccupied him: kinship and social organization, political economy, indigenous peoples, and cross-cultural comparison.
Many of the lectures have culminated in the publication of an original monograph. Some of them that have not appeared in print will now enjoy a second life online, thanks to a new collaboration with HAU, which will bring past, unpublished lectures to a wider audience. In addition, more recent lectures will be available as video on HAU’s website.
We are delighted to present Emily Martin’s public lectures, “The meaning of money in China and the United States,” which were first delivered in 1986 and are presented here for the first time in their entirety. These four lectures combine ethnographic richness, conceptual brilliance, and cultural critique, connecting with Morgan’s interest in property and his comparative approach. They offer an illuminating analysis of money, value, and morality through the lenses of rural Taiwanese social life and the pursuits of prosperity among a Methodist sect in urban Baltimore. With the passage of time, they have remained lucid and fascinating. Moreover, they have proven to be prescient, as debt, money, currency, and finance capital would become objects of renewed ethnographic attention especially at the turn of the millennium.
We extend heartfelt thanks to Emily for her graciousness and enthusiasm for this project. We also thank Giovanni da Col and Sean Dowdy for their energetic investment in this collaboration, and are grateful to their colleagues at HAU for their careful attention throughout the production process.
Department of Anthropology
University of Rochester