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Journal Articles Oceania Year : 2021

Reading and Remembering the Anthropologist James F. Weiner

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Aletta Biersack
  • Function : Author
Laurence Goldman
  • Function : Author
Katie Glaskin
  • Function : Author
Michael Young
  • Function : Author
Marilyn Strathern
  • Function : Author
Tim Ingold
  • Function : Author
Tony Crook
  • Function : Author
Alan Rumsey
  • Function : Author
Francesca Merlan
  • Function : Author
Emma Gilberthorpe
  • Function : Author
James F Weiner
  • Function : Author

Abstract

This retrospective addresses the anthropological writings-both academic and applied-of James F. Weiner (1950-2020). Weiner would take the name Jaimie Pearl Bloom and begin living openly as a transgender woman in 2016. Jaimie was proudly transgender and worked in Melbourne (where she had moved in 2018) to support LGBTIQ rights and transgender issues. She co-founded the Bent Twig Alliance to address the needs of elderly members of the community. We are informed by several people who knew her in her last years that Jaimie accepted being referred to as 'James' or 'Jimmy' in commentary on her anthropological work. Largely because the contributors to this retrospective engage with James F. Weiner, the author of multiple anthropological texts dating from 1984 to 2017, many (but not all) have chosen to write about and refer to her as 'Jimmy'. No disrespect is shown or intended to Jaimie Pearl Bloom, whom most of us did not have the opportunity to meet. And so it is to 'Jimmy' that we now turn. James F. Weiner-author, teacher, researcher, and consultant-earned his master's degree in anthropology at Northwestern University, where he was influenced by Roy Wagner (see Leach's contribution). He went on, briefly, to the University of Chicago but finished his doctoral degree at the Australian National University (1984). His dissertation on the Foi of Papua New Guinea (see Young's contribution) would be published as The Heart of the Pearl Shell (1988), a year that also saw the publication of his edited collection Mountain Papuans. The Empty Place (1991), The Lost Drum (1995), and Tree Leaf Talk (2001) would soon follow. Weiner's contribution to Songs of the Empty Place (co-authored with Don Niles) was written by 1995 but would not be published until 2015. A raft of peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of topics, several of which were reprinted in important anthologies, cemented Weiner's reputation. During these early years he would teach at ANU, the University of Manchester (1990-1994), and the University of Adelaide (1994-1999). A mere thirteen years after receiving his doctorate, Weiner, an American, would be named Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. From the commencement of his career, Weiner's topics of choice, explored largely with reference to the Foi, were myth, poetry, music, space and topography, and philosophy and aesthetics, contributions to which several authors here, students and colleagues of his at the University of Manchester (Ingold, Strathern, Crook and Leach), discuss. Yet over the course of Weiner's career, this repertoire of interests and expertise would widen significantly. Although a Melanesianist by training, Weiner was also interested in Indigenous Australia. Alan Rumsey, Weiner's colleague at ANU, shared Weiner's fascination with both cultural contexts and collaborated with him first to organize an international conference at ANU in 1997, and then to co-author and co-edit two well-received conference volumes:
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halshs-03184674 , version 1 (06-01-2022)

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Aletta Biersack, Laurence Goldman, Katie Glaskin, Michael Young, Marilyn Strathern, et al.. Reading and Remembering the Anthropologist James F. Weiner. Oceania, 2021, 91 (1), pp.2-25. ⟨10.1002/ocea.5296⟩. ⟨halshs-03184674⟩
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