Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Harris, Marvin (1927–2001)
Maxine L. Margolis
Marvin Harris is one of the most prominent contributors to 20th-century anthropological theory. He is best known as the originator of cultural materialism, a theoretical paradigm and research strategy aimed at providing causal explanations for differences and similarities in cultural behavior. Cultural materialism assumes that cultural patterns are ultimately derived from the practical problems of human existence. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Harris received his undergraduate and graduate training at Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in 1953. He taught at Columbia for nearly three decades, and from 1980 until his retirement in 2000, he was graduate research professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. Like others in his student cohort in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia, Harris was trained in the four subfields of the discipline. His first exposure to anthropology came in Columbia's introductory course taught by Charles Wagley, who later became his mentor. The ...