The Most Famous Anthropologist You Have Never Heard Of

His name was Umesao Tadao.


A Japanese Indiana Jones, Umesao did fieldwork in Afghanistan and Central Asia and later hiked on foot over much of Southeast Asia and Europe, in search of evidence bearing on his ecological theory of civilizations, a mixture of Marx and Hegel modified through his own observations. He saw Eurasia divided into Region 1, a periphery where rich soils and temperate climates made possible the development of agricultural civilizations, feudalism, and then the modern state, and Region 2, the central Asian core from which pastoralists, organized into transient hordes/empires, periodically invaded the periphery, but were never able to keep their act together to develop enduring states. As a writer, he was both popular and prolific. His complete works (starting with notes taken in high school) run to 22 volumes, published as a complete set by a major Japanese publisher. He was also a skillful academic entrepreneur and public intellectual, the founder of Japan's National Institute of Ethnology and several other institutions.


To learn more, see the Minpaku Newsletter, No. 32.



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Comment by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 18, 2011 at 7:14pm
glad to see he is widely-plublished.  I love the title "

Seventy-seven keys to the civilization of Japan."  Yikes!
Comment by John McCreery on August 18, 2011 at 5:22pm

Eugene, he was, in many respects, your kind of guy. Big thinker, big doer. You might want to check out


Tadao Umesao (2003), An Ecological View of History: Japanese Civilization in the World Context. Translated by Beth Cary and edited by Harumi Befu. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press. 


Comment by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 18, 2011 at 1:05pm
Hopefully in the future his work will be published more widely in other languages.  Sounds like interesting work.


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