Transcription of a video interview with Ruben Oliven and Arlei Damo held at UFRGS postgraduate programme in Social Anthropology, Porto Alegre, Brazil on 27 May 2011. To be published in Portuguese in Horizontes Antropologicos 45, January 2015.
Q: This is an interview with Professor Keith Hart who has already been here several years ago. The first question, Keith, is how did you become an anthropologist?
KH: I was a professional student. I never imagined another life than to be an academic. When I was at school the high prestige subjects were Classics (Latin and Greek) and Maths. So I chose them; but when I got to Cambridge, where I was a classicist, mostly translation, I found there were several things about a career in classics that didn’t appeal to me. One was that the research possibilities were very narrow: the idea was to build up the textual tradition and most of the great authors had been dealt with long ago; so if I did any research, it would be on fragments of an obscure 4th century satirist or something like that. The second thing was that Classics was in decline: there were lots of bright boys like me and not many jobs.
This was a time in Britain, the early 60s, when the social sciences were booming. Sociology had not existed before as a proper subject, but suddenly it was taking off. I was an opportunist career academic more than anything. I loved the Classics, but it wasn’t offering me much chance, so I decided to change to social science, probably sociology, but sociology was part of the Economics faculty and, curiously in view of my later interest, economics was a turn off for me. Then I heard that social anthropology was sociology with travel thrown in and I thought that sounded good. But there were two decisive events. I had a rowing coach called Claudio Vita-Finzi who was a geographer from the Turin Jewish aristocracy. He used to spend the winters studying desert erosion in the Mediterranean basin, so he disappeared during the bad weather and went to Lebanon or Sicily to see how the goats were doing it; and then he would come back in the spring to take part in the rowing and all the rest. I thought that was good and maybe social anthropology could give me something like that. Continue reading ‘Keith Hart Interview in Porto Alegre’ »