Danny Yee >> Anthropology >> anthro-l >> Biographies

John O'Brien

    Born 1941 in East Liverpool, Ohio in a working class family established
in the pottery and ceramics industry along the banks of the Ohio River, 30
miles from Pittsburgh.  Graduated from highschool with the `perfect - C'
average in 1959 . . . then off to Athens, Ohio and Ohio University.  My step-
father died in October of '59 of a cerebral hemorrage, and after two years
of emotional floating at O.U (major in psych and minor in theatre) it was
off to DC to take a job with the Navy Dept. under the Kennedy Administration.
     Two years, one marriage, a contract stint as a programmer with NASA at
Cape Canaveral and one assasination later - it was time to go back to finish
a BA, which was done at la Universidad de las Americas in Mexico.  Thus, after
exposure to a totally different culture with a rich but destroyed heritage . .
 .led to a love of anthropology.
     When the marriage caved in during the upheavels and drug culture of the
late 60's, after graduation in '65 and after my ex-wife taking off to live
in Zihuateneho and smoke dope, it was on to NYC for a stint in Advertising and
Marketing research with Y&R . . . a scholarship with Uta Hagen's studio and
a few years of off-off broadway work along with earning a better living than
I now do.
     In 1970 it was MA time, and a year's field work in Mexico based in
the U. of A. and working with Nahuatl speakers in Guerrero.  '71 saw a broken
neck a remarriage and a move to Santa Barbara after the accident.  Late '71
saw admittance to the Europeanist program at U. Mass and an eventual MA as
an ethnologist - commuting six months each year to Santa Barbara where my
wife was doing an MA in technical theatre.
    '74 was a divorce at the end of the MA program, and '76 was admitted to
UCLA's doctoral program in Anthro plus a remarriage.  '76 & '77 saw a
 remarriage- a stint at Berkeley with Gene Hammel and George DeVos as a visiting
scholar, a reserch grant that took me to the Gaeltacht in Ireland and Montreal
in Quebec for pilot field work . . . as well as a complete financial collapse
as the economy went through the Carter inflation.  The UCLA degree never got
finished, . . . so it was the joint Ph. D. program at Kent State and the
University of Akron in the mid '80's that finally say the degree finished in
'91.  After that it was an immediate post-doc with David Heise at Indiana
University to study the sociology/anthropology of emotions (funded by NIMH)
. . . which NIMH killed the funding for totally in 1993.
     In the interim, there are ten years of teaching experience and about
twenty of research and consulting . . . as well as the current unemployment
at the end of this stint as a visiting assistant professor with the Anthro.
Dept. here.
     My interests of course tend to run to general systems, futures, cognitive
and symbolic studies, social problems and social anthropology - with a
massive dose of theory thrown in and theory development.
     My daughter is now 16, live with her grandmother in LA.  My ex from '76
is a folklore archivist in Middlebury, Vermont . . . and my dog is a seven
year old yellow lab . . . my car an '82 Subaru - my other car a '56 volkswagen
- and both on their last legs.
     What I do is study the feasibility of linking culture as a mental system
and culture as a social system . . . thus, my background is broad - generalist
and spans both sociology and anthropology.  I'm published, one book in the
works as soon as I can pull together the income to take the pressure off so
that I can finish the final revision for the published (already committed) and
no job . . . not surprising at age 52 just coming onto the job market in
a period of anti-intellectualism and downsizing . . . but a real pain in
*** none-the-less.
     My specialization is model building, technique of replicating
qualitative perceptions with empirically measurable data from emic
sources . . . and using that data to predict probable social behaviors . . .
a far cry from the qualitative field work I was trained to do, but
still dealing with the identification of emic meaning and still highly
qualitative in both concept and application.
     My guess is that I will draw social security before getting a full-time
academic appointment, especially with the way departments evaluate background
and hire these days - and especially with the strange priorities that have
begun to develop.
     My research is neither post-modern nor positivist, rather it leads to
a synthesis that transcends both . . . based on a suggestion made by Bateson:
if the problem can't be solved at one level, analyze it a level higher.

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