ABSTRACT: “Un-American Anthropological Thought: The Opler / Meggers Exchange” By David H. Price and William J. Peace
This paper examines the public and private context of Morris Opler’s Cold War criticism that Betty Meggers and Leslie White’s theoretical perspective were laden with the ideas of crypto-Marxism. While White was significantly influenced by the Marxist tradition, the nature of Opler’s attacks went beyond the establishment of epistemological influences and entered the realm of McCarthyistic Red Baiting. The climate of McCarthyism gave Opler the opportunity to strengthen his criticisms of Meggers’ and White’s attacks on psychological anthropology with a powerful political threat by linking their work with Stalinism and Marxism. The history of White and Opler’s relationship, and the correspondence of Meggers, Opler, White and others indicate Opler’s criticisms were influenced by long-standing personal and professional quarrels with White.