Kenneth E 'Mick' Read
13 March 2008
Mick Read was born in Sydney in 1917 and succumbed to cancer at his long time home in Seattle in 1995 aged 78. He was Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington.
Mick was born into the privileges of an upper class Australian country family and grew up in the outback, which coloured his values and gave him a love of nature, but forever made him over-sensitive to light and prone to cancer. His father was a wealthy grazier near Boggabri.
Read's undergraduate degree was taken at the University of Sydney. During World War II he served in the Australian Army in New Guinea. He spent two years in the Markham Valley, largely isolated from his comrades, and it was here he first became acquainted with village life, reporting that in the last few months he was dependent upon villagers for daily handouts of food to sustain him. He completed his PhD in Anthropology after the war. In his first and best known book, ‘The High Valley’, published in 1965, Read thanks Ian Hogbin as ‘my first teacher in anthropology (who) introduced me to the people of Melanesia and New Guinea’.
Read returned to the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University and returned to the PNG Highlands for two years (1950-52) to study the basic elements of social structure, religion, and social change following the war among the Gahuku-Gama people.
It is claimed by many that Mick Read opened Highlands anthropology as a culture area to the anthropological imagination, through the combination of his intensive theoretical and ethnographic studies. These were capped by his articles ‘Nama Cult of the Central Highlands’ in 1952 and two years later the landmark piece ‘Cultures of the Central Highlands’, both of which constituted initial reading for all serious students of New Guinea for a generation to come.
Read's career took him from ANU to Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the ASOPA in 1953-1956, where he taught culture and language. Here he made contact with some of the most influential names in the history of colonial New Guinea, including the Leahy brothers, who became friends. He moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1957.
Source: From an obituary written by Gilbert Herdt
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.