Mandelbaum, David Goodman, 1911-1987

Variant names

Hide Profile

Professor David Goodman Mandelbaum was one of the first cultural anthropologists to undertake ethnographic research in India. He studied at Northwestern and Yale Universities. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in India and Burma. He taught at the University of Minnesota before coming to the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to his extensive fieldwork in Southern India, he worked with the Plains Cree and the Chippewa Indians. He died in 1987.

From the description of David Goodman Mandelbaum papers, 1899-1991 (inclusive), 1932-1987 (bulk). (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122333271


David Goodman Mandelbaum was born in Chicago on August 22, 1911. He majored in anthropology at Northwestern University, studying with Melville J. Herskovits, and received his B.A. degree in 1932. He spent the summer of 1933 studying the San Carlos Apache in Arizona, with the support of a fellowship from the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continued his ethnographic studies with the Plains Cree in Saskatchewan, while working as a research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History. He studied with Edward Sapir, Leslie Spier, and Clark Wissler at Yale University, and completed his doctoral degree in 1936. While at Yale, he studied the Jewish community in Ansonia, Connecticut.

At a time when most young American anthropologists were concentrating their attention on Native American peoples, Mandelbaum turned to India, which held a life-long fascination for him. While the recipient of a National Research Council Fellowship, from January, 1937 to May, 1938, he collected data on the Kota tribe in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, as well as the small Jewish colony in Cochin.

He returned to the United States to teach at the University of Minnesota. His doctoral dissertation, Changes in an Aboriginal Culture Following a Change in Environment, as Exemplified by the Plains Cree, was published in condensed form under the title The Plains Cree by the American Museum of Natural History in 1940. For six months, in 1941-1942, he had an Interdisciplinary Fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation to study psychology and anthropology at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

During World War II, while he was on leave from the University of Minnesota, Mandelbaum went to Washington, D.C., to work as a civilian and later as a U.S. Army officer in the Division of Research and Analysis of the Office of Strategic Services. Later he served for a year each in Burma and India as an intelligence officer. He left the Army with the rank of major. After the war, he worked briefly for the Office of Intelligence and Research of the U.S. Department of State, researching social and economic problems of India and Southeast Asia.

Mandelbaum joined the anthropology faculty at U.C. Berkeley in 1946, where he taught until he retired in 1978. He served as chair of the department from 1955 to 1957. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Cambridge University in 1952-1953, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in 1957-1958. He was a prime mover in the creation of the Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, and he served as its chair from 1965 to 1968. He returned repeatedly to Southern India to continue his fieldwork with the Kota and Toda tribes.

In addition to his many writings which explored various facets of Indian social and cultural anthropology, including the two-volume Society in India, he published works on racial segregation in the military, anthropological theory, ethnology, the study of personality and life histories, gender roles, applied anthropology, and the teaching of anthropology.

David G. Mandelbaum died on April 19, 1987.

From the guide to the David Goodman Mandelbaum Papers, 1899-1991, 1933-1986, (The Bancroft Library.)

Place Name Admin Code Country
Cree Indians
Kota (Indic people)
Toda (Indic people)


Birth 1911-08-22

Death 1987-04-19





Ark ID: w6wh2smd

SNAC ID: 29842925