11 November, 2010
Biography of Victor Witter Turner (Part 2 of the series)
Victor Witter Turner was born on 28, May 1920 in Glasgow, Scotland as the son of Captain Norman Turner and Violet Witter. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother an actress and also the founding member of the Scotland’s national theater. The influence of his mother can be inferred from his lifelong interest in drama and performance. At the age of 11, Turner left Scotland and went with his divorced mother to live with his maternal grandparents in Bournemouth, England. After attending Bournemouth Grammar School, he studied English language and literature at University College of London (1938-41).
At 29, he received a bachelor honors degree in anthropology. He left London for university of Manchester to do his graduate studies under Max Gluckman. Max Gluckman was the director of Rhodes Livingstone institute and in association with this institute he conducted field work among the Ndembu of Zambia. He began by examining the demographics and economics of the tribe but then shifted to ritual.
From then on his interest in rituals made him to focus on it and completed his PhD in June 1955. His dissertation was on ‘Schism and continuity in an African Society: a study of Ndembu village life’.
Turner’s American life began in 1961 at Stanford University. He returned to Manchester a year later but his interest in American academic life led him to accept an appointment at Cornell University in 1964 where he completed 3 books and conducted a field work among the Gisu of Uganda.
Turner moved to Chicago University in 1968 as the professor of anthropology and social thought. There his interests shifted from tribal to world religions, more generally, from small scale to mass societies.
His final academic position was at the University of Virginia. There he became more interested in performative play and experimental theater as a modern form of liminality.Victor Turner died on December 18, 1983.