Keesing, Roger M., 1935-....

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American cultural and linguistic anthropologist, Roger Martin Keesing was born in Hawaii in 1935 and received his M.A. (1963) and Ph.D (1965) from Harvard University. During the early 1960s, Keesing conducted fieldwork in the Solomon Islands with the Kwaio people and returned regularly over the next two decades to continue his studies. He published extensively on Kwaio culture history and language including Melanesian pidgin and the oceanic substrate (1988) and co-authored Lightning meets the west wind: the Malaita massacre (1980) with Peter Corris. Keesing taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1965-1974); the Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University (1974-1990); and McGill University, Montreal, Canada (1990-1993). Keesing died in Toronto, Canada, in 1993.

From the description of Roger Keesing papers, 1962-1993. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 37991335


Roger Martin Keesing, anthropologist and linguist, was born in Hawaii on May 16, 1935, the second child of two anthropologists who had immigrated to the United States from New Zealand in 1928.

Keesing received a B.A. degree in social anthropology from Stanford in 1956. He then spent two years with the U. S. Air Force, taking advantage of a posting to Turkey to conduct fieldwork. Deciding to continue his study of anthropology, he began graduate work at Harvard University, obtaining an M.A. in 1963 and a doctoral degree in 1965. His dissertation, Kwaio Marriage and Society, was based on ethnographic fieldwork with the Kwaio, a native people of Malaita in the Solomon Islands. He remained both professionally and personally engaged with the Kwaio throughout his career.

He joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1965, becoming head of the anthropology department in 1971. His interest in the peoples of the Pacific region continued, and he served as Acting Director of the Center for South Pacific Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz, 1972-1974.

In 1974 Keesing accepted the chair of the anthropology department at the Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. He was there until 1990, when he returned to North America to teach anthropology at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Keesing did fieldwork in the Solomon Islands in the early 1960s, working on his dissertation. He made regular visits over the next two decades, recording ethnographic and linguistic data that would form the basis for numerous publications on the Oceanic languages of the Solomon Islands. His book, Melanisian Pidgen and the Oceanic Substrate (1988), made an important contribution to creole studies, building on his previous work, a Kwaio Dictionary (1975) and Kwaio Grammar (1985). He also carried out field research in Himalayan villages in India in 1978 and 1980-1981, but his most extensive contributions to anthropology are his studies of the language and customs of the Kwaio people.

Keesing was able to pose broad theoretical questions and respond to them with detailed research results that reflected the range of his interests: cultural theory, language, social structure, gender relations and the impact of colonial history and development. He published widely, writing more than one hundred articles and ten books. He completely reworked the introductory textbook his father had written, as reflected in the subtitle, Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, which became a successful introductory text.

Keesing died in Toronto, May 7, 1993.

[Sources: Jolly. M. Roger Martin Keesing: 1935-1993. Australian Journal of Anthropology, v4, n2 (Spring, 1993), 157-161; Macintyre, M. Roger Martin Keesing (1935-93). Oceania, v65, n3 (March, 1995), 193-194.

From the guide to the Roger M. Keesing Papers, 1962-1993, (Mandeville Special Collections Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Derek Freeman Papers, 1940 - 2001 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Roger M. Keesing Papers, 1962-1993 Mandeville Special Collections Library
referencedIn Floyd Glenn Lounsbury papers, ca. 1935-1998, Circa 1935-1998 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Freeman, Derek. Papers, 1940-2000. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Keesing, Roger M., 1935-. Roger Keesing papers, 1962-1993. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Akin, David, 1955-, person
associatedWith Fenton, William N., (William Nelson), 1908-2005 person
correspondedWith Fifi'i, Jonathan, 1921- person
associatedWith Fifiʹi, Jonathan, 1921-, person
correspondedWith Freeman, Derek person
associatedWith Freeman, Derek. person
associatedWith Haas, Mary R., (Mary Rosamond), 1910-1996 person
associatedWith Lounsbury, Floyd Glenn person
associatedWith Stanford University. Press. corporateBody
correspondedWith Strathern, Andrew person
associatedWith Strathern, Andrew, person
associatedWith Sturtevant, William C. person
associatedWith Swadesh, Morris, 1909-1967 person
associatedWith Voegelin, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1906-1986 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Kwaio language


Birth 1935-05-16

Death 1993-05-07





Ark ID: w6pv8120

SNAC ID: 72552658