Anthropology Vincent Crapanzano
Stephen D. Glazier
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0283


Vincent Crapanzano was born on 15 April 1939 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the son of Domenico and Florence Crapanzano. In 1967, he married writer Jane Kramer. The Crapanzanos have one child: Aleksandra. Crapanzano served as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University, 1970–1974; as an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Queens College, 1974–1979; and—since 1990—as Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center City University of New York. Crapanzano graduated from the Ecole Internationale in Geneva and received his A.B. in philosophy from Harvard in 1960 and his PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1970. From 1961 to 1964, he served in the U.S. Army at the Army Language School in Monterey and in Frankfurt/Main. Like most anthropologists of his generation, Crapanzano’s writings reflect his life experiences. He did more fieldwork than most. He worked among the Navajo, the Hamadsha (a Moroccan Sufi order), White South Africans, Christian Fundamentalists in the United States, and the Harkis (Algerians who served as auxiliary troops for the French during the Algerian war of independence). With the possible exception of his Navaho fieldwork (begun while still an undergraduate student at Harvard), all of his research was conducted in complex, multiethnic societies marked by intense political, economic, and religious conflicts. Crapanzano is an American, but his sensibilities are largely European. Much of his secondary education took place in Europe. He was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Jensen Memorial lecturer at the Frobenius Institute (Frankfort), and he received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as the Fulbright Commission in Brazil, and the CNRS (France). His wife—Jane Kramer—was the European editor for New Yorker magazine. Vincent’s publications transgress disciplinary boundaries. His initial appointment at Queens College was in the department of Comparative Literature. His A. B. was in philosophy. Many of his publications lie at the intersection of psychiatry, psychology, and religion. His father was a psychiatrist. The eminent Psychological Anthropologist Margaret Mead was his advisor at Columbia. He was elected as President of the Society for Psychological Anthropology. At Princeton, he taught graduate seminars in Anthropology of Religion.


Vincent Crapanzano’s major publications are: The Fifth World of Forster Bennett: A Portrait of a Navaho; The Hamadsha: A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry; Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan; Waiting: The Whites of South Africa; Hermes’ Dilemma and Hamlet’s Desire: Essays on the Epistemology of Interpretation; Serving the Word: Literalism in America from the Pulpit to the Bench; Imaginative Horizons: An Essay in Literary-Philosophical Anthropology; The Harkis: The Wound That Never Heals, and Recapitulations. He is co-editor (with Vivian Garrison) of Case Studies of Spirit Possession and published articles in major scholarly journals as well as a contributing to The New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and TLS. His publications have been translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Czech. Beginning with his Navaho research, Crapanzano recognized the importance of portraying the “humanity” of those he studied—even when those studied had been widely vilified (e. g. South African whites; the Harkis). Crapanzano’s writings are not “politically correct.” He understood the writing of ethnography as a process, and he recognized his obligation to accurately represent the moral ambiguity of his informants. His sensitive, highly nuanced portrayals make it clear, for example, that many South African whites do not/did not support apartheid and that Harkis children struggled mightily due to choices their parents made. Perhaps this is Crapanzano’s greatest contribution to the writing of ethnography.

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