[lbo-talk] Interview w Graeber

123hop at comcast.net 123hop at comcast.net
Wed Dec 14 11:33:15 PST 2011

There's a kind of integrity to Graeber's presence and voice - simultaneously serious and light - that I find rare, humbling and inspiring.


Yes. One runs into this with people once in a while. Funny, the first time I encountered it, it was with another anthropologist: John Murra (did seminal work on the economic organization of the Incas). He was a childhood friend of my father's. He was coming to speak at U.C. Berkley, and my father called me up to go meet him and have tea or something. Reluctantly, I went. Another professor...ho hum. He was one of three speakers. Two of the speakers read their lectures, hardly glancing at the audience. He came up last and spoke for about twenty minutes, without notes, about the need and value for training indigenous anthropologists. He had the audience in the palm of his hands, despite the fact that he was delivering a message that most did not want to hear. Afterwards, we got together for tea.

I am not easily impressed or intimidated, but his lecture and his presence had floored me, so when we sat down I quickly apologized (in Romanian) for being "little and stupid" and hoped I wouldn't be wasting his time. He replied: "You're not little and stupid. It takes a long time to become little and stupid, and a great deal of collaboration." I was never to forget that. Amazingly, he took a liking to me and we corresponded for many years; and when I taught in New York, I visited him at Cornell a few times.

So perhaps, the way that anthropology questions our deepest assumptions, makes this humility, seriousness, and lightness possible. But, yes, Graeber. I need to write him a letter about the beautiful writing in "Debt".


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