Ruth Benedict: The anthropologist who believed that cultures have personalities

Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict. World Telegram staff photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ruth Benedict was born in a family of German immigrants who settled in New York City. Ruth was born in 1887 and attended the prestigious Barnard College. Her education focused on the humanities, and she developed an early interest in anthropology.

Benedict’s first job was as a secretary at the American Museum of Natural History, where she met Franz Boas. Boas was a prominent anthropologist and he mentored Ruth in her early career. He encouraged her to study the cultures of Native Americans living in the Southwest United States.

Patterns of Culture

Boas believed that cultures have personalities, and Ruth Benedict developed this idea into a full-fledged theory. She came to believe that each society has a distinct personality as a result of the unique experiences and challenges confronted by that culture.

Ruth Benedict wrote several books, including “Patterns of Culture” (1934) and “Race: Science and Politics” (1968).

“Patterns of Culture” is Ruth Benedict’s most famous work. The book explores the idea that cultures have personalities, and it has been highly influential in the field of anthropology. “Race: Science and Politics” is a more controversial work, in which Ruth Benedict argues that race is a social construct rather than a biological category.

She also wrote “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture” (1946). The book explored how the culture of Japan had evolved to take on a particular personality.

Ruth Benedict – contribution to anthropology

Ruth Benedict’s theory of culture has been applied to many different cultures, and her work is considered to be foundational. She was one of the first anthropologists to study Native Americans, and she developed the idea that cultures have personalities. Ruth Benedict’s work is still studied today, and she remains an influential figure in the field of anthropology.

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