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Marvin Harris Dies



Updated January 10, 2002
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Sadly, I have to report that anthropologist Marvin Harris died on October 25, 2001.

His was not a household name, but he was one of the major figures in the study of food and culture in the 20th Century. He was one of the first anthropologists to take Lactose Intolerance seriously as a topic of study.

His book, Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture (also published under the title of The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig) contained a detailed discussion of why so few people in China and India ever became LI and why so many northern Europeans did. I drew heavily on this analysis for my book, Milk Is Not for Every Body. Nobody ever talked about this more clearly.

This Tribute Site has more to say on Dr. Harris' life and career, including a full bibliography of books and articles. His work is beautifully summed up in this section:

    Cultural Materialism is one of the most important ideas developed in the 20th Century, although its importance will not be recognized until the 21st. Its fundamental premise - that all human culture is shaped most significantly by the environment in which humans live - is so elegant, so parsimonious, and so superior to competing paradigms that it is frankly amazing that cultural materialism is not more widely accepted.

I've put links below to Amazon for some of Dr. Harris' books that are still in print -- many of them, fortunately. Just click on the book jacket. Please seek them out. They make wonderful, fascinating reading.

Cannibals and Kings: 
The Origins of Cultures Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches: 
The Riddles of Culture Good to Eat: 
Riddles of Food and Culture Our Kind: 
Who We Are, Where We Came From, and Where We Are Going


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