Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Autobiographical notes on Sally Binford

A colleague recently pointed me to an oldish post on Susie Bright's blog (link just slightly this side of NSFW) which comprises an absolutely fascinating autobiographical interview with Sally Binford, published in Janet Clinger's book Our Elders, Six Bay Area Life Stories. When I say fascinating, I mean I literally couldn't stop reading it until I reached the end, so read it at the risk of your own time! Talk about a person who lived an interesting life and on her own terms.

I've mentioned before in passing how Sally Binford was one of the early figureheads of the 'New Archaeology' in the 1960's, and the interview provides a great deal of detail (some of which is not exactly complimentary) on her relationship with Lew Binford, as well as her life before and especially after her involvement with the New Archaeology. It also provides an insider's perspective on some of the politics of North American anthropology and academia during the Sixties. And I'm sure the students in my Lithic Analysis class who just had to wade through L. Binford's post-Sally 1973 paper on the 'functional' interpretation of Mousterian typological variability for yesterday's class will especially appreciate this quote from the interview:

"He was an extremely brilliant guy, but couldn’t write a sentence that made sense — that had a subject and a predicate. His writing was unspeakable. My job in the marriage became to translate what Lew wrote into English... I would attempt to steer him away from his more imaginative notions and help him in finding data to support the sounder ones, then help him write them up in comprehensible English."

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