Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Jane Richardson Hanks

(1908- Present)

Born August 2, 1908, Jane Richardson Hanks is known for her anthropological work concerning Native American Indians and people of Southeast Asia (Ebihara, 1988). She is noted for her pioneering studies of rural Thai villagers and Thai upland tribal peoples. Although her career did not take a traditional route of holding an academic professorship, she nonetheless remained involved in the field of anthropology through "research, writing, lecturing, and attending Wenner-Gren, American Anthropological Association, AAS and other professional meetings" (Ebihara, 1988, p. 144). She is noteworthy both for her anthropological contributions and as an example of how some women in anthropology balance academia with family and community.

Jane Richardson Hanks entered the field of anthropology through a few "fortuitous events" (Ebihara, 1988, p. 140). Alfred Kroeber quickly enrolled her in three undergraduate ethnology courses at University of California at Berkeley shortly after they met and discussed Mexican history and Greek culture. She was admitted to the graduate study program in anthropology in 1933 after completing these courses and two language examinations. Kroeber was an important mentor to Hanks during this time. She was his research assistant on an article about "culture change as exemplified in women's dress styles". For her contributions, he "graciously listed" her as senior author (Ebihara, 1988, p. 141). Kroeber also helped to arrange field work for her with Kiowa Indians, and then arranged for a traveling fellowship with Berkeley so she could study at Columbia with Ruth Benedict. She completed her dissertation in 1938 on Kiowa law.

Jane met her husband, Lucien M. Hanks, Jr. during a summer's fieldwork in Mexico. They have collaborated a great deal throughout their careers, for Lucien studied social psychology in graduate school and became more focused on anthropology, possibly a bit due to Hanks's influence. "Along with her husband Lucien, Jane Hanks created a rich and diverse body of ethnographic literature, beginning with studies of central Thai populations and later focusing on highland ethnic minority groups in Thailand" (Anthropological bridges, 2002). Her 1951 article "Reflections on the Ontology of Rice" is considered an "unrivaled contribution" to anthropology due to its "sharp insights on Thailand, gender roles, and ethnography". It came from two years of ethnography on rural Thai villagers. Jane and Lucien also lived in Thailand on and off between 1963 and 1979, this time working with upland tribal peoples. This ethnography was pioneering, for she was one of the first people to research upland tribal people with such a wide scope (Ebihara, 1988). She was also one of the first people to study Akha women (Anthropological Bridges, 2002).

Although Lucien was a professor of psychology and anthropology at Bennington College for most of his career, Hanks did not really work as a professor until her children were grown (Ebihara, 1988). Her career seems to have two "major peaks of professional activity: the first as a graduate student and newlywed Ph.D., then a renaissance of research and writing in later life as her children became grown, with a diversified mix of personal and professional activities between the two" (Ebihara, 1988, p. 144).

Hanks states she "never felt disadvantaged" as a woman doing fieldwork (Hanks in Ebihara, 1988, pp. 144-5). She believed that "'women have to adjust more artfully than men when entering a new culture'" because they have to "'balance'" "their professional activities, behavior congruent with native expectations of female roles in order not to 'lose face' or rapport, and our own cultural norms about gender behavior and interaction" (Ebihara, 1988, p. 145).

Hanks's contributions to anthropology are not through theory, rather, she subscribes to the Boasian tenet of accumulating information first, and then thinking of theory. Her work has stimulated the work of others studying Thai culture, and has helped form the foundation of knowledge on Thai villagers and tribal peoples


Additional References on Jane Richardson Hanks

Selected Works of Jane Richardson Hanks

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