Re: Memorial to Sol Tax

Cameron Laird (claird@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM)
9 Jan 1995 13:30:28 -0600

In article <3ercpk$jah@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM>, I posted:
>Mike Salovesh <> wrote what I've copied below. In
>permitting me to copy it for sci.anthropology and alt.obituaries
>readers, he mourned,
>Sol Tax's gifts lay in his human qualities, not in his anthropology
>as such. He had a genius for bringing others together to advance
>anthropology. Witness just an abbreviated list of what happened
>because Sol made them possible:
Since then, Greg Finnegan <> added these
comments, which I distribute with his permission:
As always, it's hard to add to a posting by Mike Salovesh, but there's
another area in which Sol made a major contribution: the bibliography, and
librarianship, of anthropology. Sol was a founder and guiding (and funding)
source for LARG, the Library-Anthropology Resource Group. This Chicago-based
organization of a dozen or so anthropologists and librarians (and some of us
who're both) has provided one of the few arenas for discussion of the
bibliography of anthropology, and has produced several valuable reference
tools in the process. Only now, and slowly, is there an organized effort to
get such issues before the AAA. Sol Tax encouraged this when few did.

PSYCH ABSTRACTS and SOC ABSTRACTS are supported by the APA and ASA, and the
RAI supports ANTHROPOLOGICAL INDEX, but the AAA does not consider tracking
the current scholarship of the discipline(s?) to be part of our collective
responsibility to ourselves. As in so many other things, Sol's vision (and
very practical leadership) was ahead of the profession.

His philosophy of publication was also a great lesson to us younger folk,
especially those of us too inclined to fuss over an infinity of details.
Sol's attitude showed a sense of research and writing both as a tool, a means
to an end, and as part of a collective, collaborative process: he urged
quick publication, with the statement that omissions and corrections would be
supplied by users and would improve the next edition. While that's not
utterly practical in a time of slashed book budgets, it's still an inspiring
reminder that our work--primary, secondary, tertiary (like much of
LARG's)--has its meaning only in a community of scholars critiquing (and
learning from) each other.

Sol's own lineage prepared him well to understand the information issues of
Anthropology: one of his daughters chaired an anthro dept, while the other
headed the country's leading Slavic studies library.

And it should also not be forgotten that Sol also was a major encouragement
to those relatively few anthropologists interested in visual anthropology; he
was a trustee of the Smithsonian's attempt to establish an archive of
ethnographic film.

As Mike said, we have indeed suffered a great loss--but insofar as such a
loss can be mitigated, the enormous legacy that Sol leaves us, in people,
journals, and organizations, is a great comfort. We should all aspire, in
our wildest fantasies, to 10% of what he accomplished.


Cameron Laird +1 713 267 7966 +1 713 996 8546