Edmund Carpenter

American, 1922-2011

Edmund Carpenter was born in Rochester and educated at the University of Pennsylvania under the anthropologist Dr. Frank G. Speck. His education was put on pause by World War II, but his wartime experiences in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marianas, and Iwo Jima only increased his interest in anthropology. After earning his doctorate in 1950, Carpenter started fieldwork among the Aivilingmiut Inuit in Nuvanut. He published several books on Inuit language and lifestyles, but he interest soon turned to his own culture: modern, media-saturated life. In 1956, he published the famous article “The New Languages,” which analyzed the role of modern media in culture change. In subsequent years, Carpenter wrote and spoke extensively on this subject, which became part of the body of communication theory known as “the Toronto school.” In addition to writing, he propagated his ideas via film, including producing and hosting a television series for the Canadian Broadcast Company, directing a “surrealist” documentary about Eskimo masks, and co-authoring a documentary about Gullah song and dance. His permanent exhibit on Eskimo masks, Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision, is in permanent exhibition at The Menil Collection in Houston.