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Rodman William, Professor Emeritus

William Rodman

Professor Emeritus

Emeritus Faculty
Department of Anthropology


Research & Supervisory Interests

The three general topics that interest me the most are the translation of experience, the production of meaning, and the construction of ways of thought and action. I consider myself to be an interpretive anthropologist, and I view my work as part of an interdisciplinary endeavour in the human sciences. I have both teaching and research interests in the theory and practice of representation. These include a broad range of subjects, from visual representation in advertising, the cinema, and other media, to new textual strategies that ethnographers are using to represent the voices and lives of the people they study. Recently, I have developed a special interest in the reshaping of the goals of interpretive anthropology in the post-9/11 world, a turn in the direction of critical, engaged, multi-sited and reflexive ethnographic studies.

I have conducted most of my fieldwork in the South Pacific, in the Republic of Vanuatu. I first went to Vanuatu (then known as "The New Hebrides") in 1969; my most recent fieldwork was in 1995. My writings on Vanuatu cover a broad range of topics, including law, politics, colonialism, witchcraft, and the experience of fieldwork. In one of my most recent articles, I discuss the idea of "witnessing" and "real" consequences of memory - that is, how present-day conditions might be explained in terms of events and perceptions of things that happened in the past. In another article, I examine some of the ways in which autobiography and translation are intertwined, and the role of narrative in the translation of cultures and languages.


PhD Chicago, 1973



2007 "Lost and Found in Translation: An Education in Narrative in Fieldwork and the Classroom." Interchange, A Quarterly Review of Education, Special Issue on Narrative Knowing and Learning: Interdisciplinary Issues and Themes, edited by William Randall and Dolores Furlong  38(3): 245-262.

2003 “When Questions Are Answers:  The Message of Anthropology, According to the People of Ambae.”    In:  The Dolphin Reader (Sixth Edition), edited by Douglas Hunt and Carolyn Perry.  Princeton, N.J.:  Houghton-Mifflin. (Reprint of 1991 article inAmerican Anthropologist 93: 421 - 434).

2000 "Outlaw Memories: Biography and the Construction of Meaning in Postcolonial Vanuatu" in Identity Work: Constructing Pacific Lives. P.J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern (eds). ASAO (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania) Monograph Series No. 18. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Pp. 139-156.