Wednesday, February 27, 2008

David Maybury-Lewis (1929-2007)

In 1992 I sat glued to the television screen for the entire 10 episodes of Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World hosted by anthropologist, author, ethnologist, educator and activist David Maybury-Lewis. I have just learnt that Maybury-Lewis died on 2nd December 2007 aged 78 years. For me Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World was a turning point in my life. Maybury-Lewis inspired for me through the PBS series (financed by the late founder of the Body Shop chain Anita Roddick) a deep interest in alternative social and cultural systems to those which I had grown up in or been taught at school. It was at around this time in my life I also was reading John Pilger's book A Secret Country and came to an alternative understanding of the Aboriginal history of Australia since colonization than that which I had been taught in school. Combined, A Secret Country and Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World formed a large part of the basis for beliefs I still hold today. Writing about his work Maybury-Lewis described it as being concerned with feelings, personal reactions and the day-to-day business which is mysteriously known as 'doing fieldwork.':

"My wife and I lived among the Sherente for eight months in 1955-56 and among the Shavante for slightly longer in 1958. This book is an account of our experiences; it is not an essay in anthropology. Indeed I have tried to put down here many of those things which never got told in technical anthropological writings - our impressions of Central Brazil, our personal reactions to the various situations in which we found ourselves, and above all our feelings about the day-to-day business which is mysteriously known as 'doing fieldwork.' The narrative is therefore intentionally anecdotal. To those readers who find that this book is not as thrilling as a book about the wilds of Brazil should be, I offer my apologies. I can only add by way of explanation that every incident is true"-Maybury-Lewis, Preface to The Savage and the Innocent. Beacon Press, Boston: 1956

In 1972, he and his wife Pia founded Cultural Survival, an organisation committed to guaranteeing indigenous peoples a voice in the policies affecting their lives, a sustainable means of livelihood, and the means of adapting their cultures to change. I believe the world is better for having had David Maybury-Lewis.
Unfortunatly Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World is not presently available as a DVD or online. I hope the program is republished soon in some way and more people can see it. Anyone have a torrent?


Anonymous said...

I just returned from David Maybury-Lewis's memorial service at Harvard. Our family is fortunate enough to be close family friends with the Maybury-Lewis's, and feel enormously grateful for that privilege. The intensely erudite and gifted speakers at the service spoke to David's keen intelligence, his ground-breaking work in supporting indigenous people, his mastery of 9 languages, and how their own intellects and accomplishments paled in comparison to his. He was unusally gifted, passionate, kind, and generous, and his passing was truly a loss to us all. I too am hoping to find Millenium on DVD; I'd like to show my young son, who only knew David in his last few years when illness robbed him of his former resplendence, what a truly great man he was.

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Thanks for the comment Charlie. Have you seen the film Lucky People Center International:
It is a artistic look at human communities and how we relate to the environments around us. A sort of postmodern Millenium.
I hope your son remembers David, as I will.

The Dream said...

I am very sorry that it has taken me this long to find out that David Maybury Lewis passed away.

I do not know him personally, but I do understand and agree with his contribution and insights into many things having spent over 20 years in Africa myself. Although a different continent than the one he was known to lecture about. Tribal societies prevail to this day in Africa.

However the real reason I am doing this is to see if you ever had any luck with finding Millenium DVD. If not, I think I can help you a little with that.

((Jim)) said...

Dream, you blog is the dissolved Logos. I have not found a copy of Millennium and would love to visit it again. Let me know if you can help.

The Dream said...

I am not sure what you mean by dissolved logos. Please clarify. Is there something wrong with my blog that I am unaware of?

IN response to your message I wanted to say that I have two episodes of Millenium on VHS. They were never released on DVD. But now that I am thinking about this, I might be able to upload to youtube or Vimeo

The Dream said...

I thought it would also be helpful to mention that the two episodes in question are titled.