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Dorothy M. Spencer papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Dorothy Mary Spencer, born 1907 in Chester, Pennsylvania, was an American anthropologist who performed research on native societies of India and the South Pacific. She received her A.B. in 1930 from the University of Wisconsin. She earned her master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, with a thesis entitled, "The Dual Organization and Regulation of Marriage in Melanesia." She remained in the department and earned her doctorate in 1937. After a short lectureship in anthropology at Penn, she began ethnographic field research on the Chota Nagpur plateau in the Jharkand state of northeastern India. She lived there as a participant observer among the Munda, a tribe of India's Adivasi aborigines, from 1939 to 1942. She returned in 1946 to continue her research and remained for two years, followed by brief returns in 1951 and 1952. In 1958 she began a lectureship in the Department of South Asia Studies, a position which she held through the 1970s. During her career, she published a number of journal articles and monographs on Indian fiction and traditional medicine and religion in Fiji.

This collection consists of documentation related to Spencer's work in India between 1939 and 1952 among the Munda of Jharkand. The materials are divided into five series: Anthropological manuscripts, Meeting notes, Academic pamphlets, Class materials, and Multimedia materials and index cards.

The series Anthropological manuscripts is composed almost entirely of Spencer's handwritten field notes. They are organized into several subseries. Autobiographies contains Spencer's transcriptions of the life stories of several Mundari villagers. Economic and social arrangements comprises handwritten notes on topics such as caste organization, rites of passage, traders, measures, emotions and dreams, and customs of ownership, borrowing, and exchange, among others. Family features Spencer's notes on marriages and children. Field notes consists of Spencer's jottings on various aspects of tribal life and observations of several individual villagers. Folklore and spiritualism covers tales, songs, animals, witchcraft and a paper on the functions of a shaman. Rorshach test results and interviews includes pencil reproductions of ink blots and transcripts from ink blot tests and other interviews.

Meeting notes consist of Spencer's handwritten records of village assemblies convened to mete out punishments for various transgressions, among other disturbances. Academic pamphlets is composed of scholarly papers, including four written and autographed to Spencer by Indian anthropologist Surajit Chandra Sinha. Class materials features student exams, papers, bibliographies, and grade and blank exam sheets. One file containing student grades is restricted from use. Multimedia materials and index cards comprises six recordings on vinyl, two 8mm films entitled "Fiji," and two boxes of index cards featuring information on and terms related to villagers Spencer had studied intensively.

The collection features a very thorough set of notes on Munda villagers and their practices. It should accordingly be of great interest to anthropologists, ethnographers, and ethnologists, particularly those specializing in Indic peoples and Adivasi tribes. With the exception of the index cards and a few of the Rorshach test results and other papers, all of Spencer's notes are handwritten and looseleaf.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kevin Stuart Lee
Finding Aid Date
2014 June
Access Restrictions

The bulk of the this collection is open for research use. However, folder 6 in box 6 is restricted from use until 2048 and access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services ( for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Laro autobiography, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 1-2
Mora, Sanika, Ganju, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 3
Women's autobiographies, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 4
Caste (Marangdi and Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 5
Cultivation: Wild food nutrition, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 6
Disease, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 7
Dreams, 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 8
"Economic Magic" (Marangdi and Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 9
Economics (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 1 Folder 10
Economics: Borrowing, exchange, sale (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 1
Economics: Ownership, utilization of land, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 2
Economics: Stealing, Madait, Saja (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 3
Emotions, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 4
Land tenure: Inheritance (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 5
Laro's property (Marangdi), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 6
Markets: Traders, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 7
Measures, time, counting (Marangdi and Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 8
Rites of passage, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 9
Sandigao: Police reports, crimes, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 10
Servants, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 11
Social organization, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 12
Work (Narayob), 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 13
Children's games, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 14
Children's knowledge: Dreams, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 15
Kunjila genealogies, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 16
Marriage ceremonies, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 17
Marriages, funerals, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 18
Relationships within tribe, genealogies, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 19
Women and children: Baby talk, 1939-1952.
Box 2 Folder 20
Agom, Nam, Bonga, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 1
Animals, Marangdi genealogy, food, etc., 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 2
Bau, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 3
Economics, plant disease, magic, fishing, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 4
Haga Khut Bonga, Duar Hari, Maray Bonga, Saygi Hanj Kan, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 5
Oal, Soso, Pati, Bunafo, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 6
Sugumdas notes, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 7
Sukta notes, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 8-9
Sumarsing and Munda notes, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 10
Tokatn: Meetings, genealogy, autobiography, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 11
Tribal customs, 1939-1952.
Box 3 Folder 12
Tribal notes, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 1-2
Tribes, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 3
Miscellaneous, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 4
Animals (Marangdi), diseases, treatment, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 5
Poems and stories, transcripts, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 6
Sacrifices (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 7
Sandigao 1952: Were-tigers, burial rites, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 8
"The Shaman," paper, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 9
Songs, riddles, stories, 1939-1952.
Box 4 Folder 10
Tales: Duray Kahrani, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 1
Witchcraft (Madukamdi), 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 2
Witchcraft (Marangdi), 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 3
Interviews with villagers "Soma", 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 4
Marangdi Rorshach tests, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 5
Psychological tests on Calcutta Indians, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 6
Rorshach journal articles, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 7
Rorshach test results: Inspection bungalow, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 8
Rorshach tests: Tribal, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 9
Rorshach tests: Tribal women, 1939-1952.
Box 5 Folder 10

Meeting notes I, 1939-1952.
Box 6 Folder 1
Meeting notes II, 1939-1952.
Box 6 Folder 2

Linguistic pamphlets, 1939-1952.
Box 6 Folder 3
Surajit Sinha academic pamphlets (4), 1939-1952.
Box 6 Folder 4

Richard la Riviere: Exams from "Village Hinduism", 1973.
Box 6 Folder 5
South Asia Studies 531: Course data [RESTRICTED], 1970-1973.
Box 6 Folder 6

Index cards: Laro, Photograph of a man (Laro?) by a river, miscellaneous cards, 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 1
Index cards: Sugumdas, Sumarsing, Sukta, Mora, 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 2
Fiji films [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 3-4
Department of Anthropology, Government of India "Abor Music (1)" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 5
Department of Anthropology, Government of India "Abor Song (4)" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 6
Department of Anthropology, Government of India record "Abor Song (6)" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 7
Department of Anthropology, Government of India record "Abor Speech" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 8
Department of Anthropology, Government of India record "Andamanese Song" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 9
Department of Anthropology, Government of India record "Angaminaga Song (2)" [RESTRICTED], 1939-1952.
Box 7 Item 10

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