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From Anthropometry to Genomics: Reflections of a Pacific Fieldworker

Jonathan Scott Friedlaender
As told to Joanna Radin

New York Bloomington

iUniverse, Inc.

Jonathan Friedlaender has devoted much of his professional life to studies of human population variation in Pacific Islanders. His anthropology and pioneering genetics research was conducted largely with what are known as Melanesian peoples on the islands of Bougainville, Malaita, Ontong Java and the Bismarck Archipelago in the Southwestern Pacific. This work began in June 1966 when he was a graduate student at Harvard University and it spans more than a forty-year career that continues to the present. His most recent publications draw on fieldwork conducted in north Bougainville, New Britain, New Ireland, and New Hanover during a series of genetics surveys conducted between 1998 and 2003. His collaborator on this memoir of his life and experiences in the Pacific is Joanna Radin, a young but remarkably knowledgeable historian of science currently conducting graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. These two professionals weave a fascinating fabric of complex texture that incorporates the educational, political, governmental, and research climate of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with the trials and tribulations of a young researcher and academic trying to make his way in a highly competitive arena. The book is much more than a series of recollections about one man's life; rather, it is a history of an important era in the development of anthropological genetics and the dramatic transition in this science that took place in the early 1980s. The book is largely chronological but with some movement forward and backward in time when ideas were being developed. It begins with Friedlaender's youth in North Carolina and the transformation of his intellectual life when he attended Phillips Exeter Academy and, later, Harvard College. He came from a family in which the pursuit of learning was not only encouraged but was also supported educationally. His first experiences in an alien field situation were under the umbrella of the Harvard Solomon Islands Project (HSIP) where he worked with a large professional research team. In many ways, working with a team is an excellent means of introduction to socially-, culturally-, and physicallydemanding field conditions (similar to my own experience). Later that same year (1966), after gaining some knowledge of the area and its


people, he began to work on his own with Bougainville villagers, who, until the Second World War, had had very little contact with Western peoples. His success, during this independent research conducted under challenging conditions, resulted from a combination of hard work, honesty and sensitivity in dealing with his research subjects, good luck, and good judgment. Also, Friedlaender has a cheerfulness and pleasant nature (which might not be totally apparent from the interview commentary), and this personality attribute probably served him well in working with the people he studied. Those who know Jonathan Friedlaender recognize this good nature, but one overlying a powerful determination and creative ability. Following this initial fieldwork in 1966-67, Friedlaender made ten more trips to conduct research in the South Pacific. As he notes, the early work in population genetics focused on blood constituents (blood groups and serum proteins). He also took anthropometric measurements, and gathered information on language distributions which were found to parallel the patterns of genetic diversity (extraordinary language and genetic diversity on New Guinea and Island Melanesia characterizes this region of the South Pacific). Between 1975 and 1985, the field of population and anthropological genetics was transformed by the development of techniques to identify DNA directly – both mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear (nDNA) DNA. Friedlaender and most other geneticists had to make this transition from the genetics of phenotypic inference to the genetics of DNA analysis. Friedlaender also provides insightful commentary on the failed Human Genome Diversity Project and the politics of the time, the changing conditions of field research in Melanesia from the mid1960s to the present, the ethical challenges that were presented early on and how they have changed through time, and how the roles of women students and professionals in the field have changed over the past half century. The final section of this work discusses in some detail both the theoretical and material outcomes of this important research and the prospects for future investigation of genomics. Friedlaender's book should have appeal to a number of audiences – students, professional anthropologists, and lay readers, alike. It might serve as a primer for all those about to embark on research in the South
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From Anthropometry to Genomics

Pacific, and as a valuable text on field research, particularly the practical aspects and ethics of field research. Perhaps, the book's most valuable contribution is as a chronicle of the history of the small, but significant, science of human population genetics and its development. Much of human population genetics today has arisen from anthropological interests in human biobehavioral evolution. Jonathan Friedlaender's Reflections is a valuable addition to the historical record of this important science. This is also a worthwhile book to read for anyone with interests in the history of science or the history of a science. Michael A. Little Anthropology Department Binghamton University September 2009

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The genesis of this publication was an interview of Dr. Jonathan Friedlaender I conducted over two days in December 2008. Earlier that fall, I had approached Dr. Friedlaender with the hope that he might be willing to reflect upon his career for the benefit of my research as a doctoral candidate in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. I was interested in fieldwork practices of biological anthropologists who had been influential in incorporating the techniques of population genetics. He sat with me for over eight hours of interviews in a quiet corner of Temple University’s Anthropology Lab. Following the interviews, Dr. Friedlaender and I worked together as I transcribed portions for him to review. Reading these recollections stimulated new memories and insights and these were added to the transcript, which Dr. Friedlaender reorganized to enhance clarity and readability. The resulting document retains the conversational tone of the oral history interview, but may be more practically considered a scientific memoir. When he learned of it, Dr. Michael Little, who has major interests in the history of biological anthropology, strongly encouraged us to formally publish this manuscript. We are grateful for his suggestion and enthusiasm. Dr. Friedlaender’s career was of particular interest to me because its arc reflected important changes in the application of genetic, and later genomic, techniques to the study of human history. This document, which he adapted from our interview, situates those changes in the context of his early life in an assimilationist Jewish family in the segregated South, numerous fieldtrips among South Pacific villagers, his intellectual development at Harvard and Wisconsin during the Vietnam and post-Vietnam War period, and subsequent controversies concerning Sociobiology, Non-Darwinian evolution, the Human Genome Diversity Project, and gene patenting, among others. Because this document is intended for a heterogeneous audience, readers may wish to focus on those sections that best satisfy their interests.
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The first two chapters include details about Dr. Friedlaender’s formative years with particular attention to his family, childhood interests, and schooling. The next several chapters consider his relationship to his teachers at Harvard and his early experiences as an anthropologist in the field and the classroom. This portion focuses on personal, intellectual, and practical considerations of profound influence on the trajectory of his career. In the final few chapters, readers will find reflections on the practice, politics, and contemporary societal and ethical implications of anthropological genomics as it has emerged over the last several decades. The process of producing this memoir motivated Dr. Friedlaender to begin gathering up letters, photographs, and video from his time in the field. The Melanesian Archive at the University of California, San Diego has now accepted the donation of Dr. Friedlaender’s materials, including the raw transcripts and original audio files from the interview, which will make them accessible to a wide audience. All proceeds associated with the sale of this book will be donated to the Library Fund of the Institute of Medical Research in Goroka, Papua New Guinea. It has been a special experience to take part in the production of this document and I thank Dr. Friedlaender for his enthusiasm, candor and thoughtfulness. Joanna Radin Department of the History of Science and Sociology University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Summer 2009


Table of Contents
Foreword by Michael Little . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Preface by Joanna Radin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Acknowledgement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi Photo Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xii Vital Statistics, Jonathan Friedlaender . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii Chapter 1. Family Background and Early Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Chapter 2. Graduate School: Deciding What to Do (And Where) . . 11 Chapter 3. The 1966-1967 Harvard Solomon Islands Expedition. . . 49 Chapter 4. Going Solo: 1965-1966 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Chapter 5. Thoughts on the First Year of Fieldwork . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Chapter 6. Wisconsin: 1969-1971 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Chapter 7. Harvard: 1971-78 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Chapter 8. Temple and the Follow-up Pacific Fieldtrips: 1978-1986 . .137 Chapter 9. The National Science Foundation: 1991-1995 . . . . . . . 156 Chapter 10. Fieldwork in the Bismarck Archipelago: 1998-2003 . . . 167 Chapter 11. Analysis of the New Genetic Data. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173 Chapter 12. Some Final Opinions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 Chapter 13. What Have We Learned?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216 Postscript. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 APPENDIX 1: Jonathan Friedlaender’s Publications . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 APPENDIX 2: Fieldwork History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243

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I was flattered and pleased when Joanna Radin first approached me about doing an oral history, and I hope that you have found this edited version with the added photos interesting and perhaps entertaining as well. In retrospect, the process made me realize a number of points about my career that I would like to underline. First off, it is apparent just how fortunate I was to be in certain situations and environments at particular times. My parents strongly encouraged my education and scholarship, which was an extraordinary gift. If I did not pursue science and mathematics training with conviction in secondary school and college, I was influenced to develop a strong skeptical and critical sense at Exeter and Harvard. While I was easily bored or dismissive of many teachers or colleagues, there were a few good ones that caught my attention, sometimes intimidated me, and influenced my ideas and plans. It is clear that I was often attracted to particular individual personalities as much as, or more than, to their ideas. Many early decisions I made were not well thought through, and I was just lucky some worked out so well. In particular, being a graduate student and junior faculty member at Harvard during the post-Vietnam period, with the evolutionary controversies swirling around the work of Mayr, Simpson, Wilson, and Lewontin, as well as learning and evaluating the anthropological approaches of Howells, Damon, and others, made me think that all this was important and worth devoting my professional life to. Having the chance to tag along on the Harvard Solomon Islands Expedition was obviously a major turning point, and I never regretted my commitment to the Southwest Pacific afterwards. Amorous concerns were more important than one might like to acknowledge, sometimes much for the better (as with Françoise), and sometimes for the worse. Balancing extensive fieldwork stays with marriage was difficult in my life, for example. I think that is a common thread in many anthropologists’ careers.
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Certain aspects of my personality were also important (again for better or worse). I have a somewhat cautious and passive nature typical of second children. Understanding new approaches or concepts was never easy for me – their logic took a while to sink in. While I was often attracted to new paradigms, I usually was equally quick to look for their weaknesses. No one could say I was single-minded in a drive to become a human evolutionist interested in Pacific genetics. However, I was always interested in how things got to be the way they are (whether it was the development of Western civilization, the evolution of art styles, or human biological evolution). My interest in human genetic variation was not something that evolved over the course of my career. It was there early on, along with many others. However, it was only recently that the power of genomics enabled us to realize the potential to describe human population relationships and history, and I took advantage of that, with the critical help of others. Many of my “decisions” were more in the nature of deciding not to pursue certain interests of mine. The first rejection was classical archaeology and then cultural anthropology. Later, I turned away from primate behavior studies because I thought their explanations lacked rigor. Teasing apart hereditary and environmental factors in behavior studies with statistical approaches gave misleading or unsatisfactory results. It is only now that geneticists are beginning to have some success in identifying how certain genes, or sometimes many dozens of genes, can contribute in a significant way to clinical psychological conditions, for example, or can influence essential human characteristics such as speech. This is finally becoming exciting. Although cautious and critical, I still could be quick to decide on a course of action in the field. Once I had the chance to go to Melanesia, I made a prompt and decisive decision about which island to study, what problems to study, and what information to collect. Bougainville had considerable linguistic diversity, but it appeared to be manageable to survey, unlike New Guinea. Subsequent research decisions followed logically from that, although not always in a linear sequence. Looking back, I’m pleased that our studies, coupled with those from other regions, have now established the broad outlines of human
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From Anthropometry to Genomics

population relationships, and I am confident that our conclusions will not be significantly altered in the future. In terms of my career, I’m also happy that I chose to become a biological anthropologist. I could probably also have become a decent physician, a classical art historian, or even a Foreign Service officer. I’m sure, however, that I never would have been a good or happy businessman or lawyer. Jonathan S. Friedlaender Sharon, CT Summer 2009

Returning from work. Foueda, Lau Lagoon. 1978.

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