Emiritus Professor, Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
In 1965, having completed a PhD in political theory at the University of Michigan, Jane Schneider embarked on two years of anthropological fieldwork in Sicily, then became an anthropologist. Her career has been an interdisciplinary one, in which she has self-consciously considered the political, social, cultural and economic dimensions of whatever problem she undertook to study. The problems she has wrestled with fall into two categories: those related to the modern transformation of Sicilian society, and those related to selective strands of world history — textiles, in particular. Her interest in the latter grew out of invitations, in the mid-1970s, to critically review and teach on Immanuel Wallerstein’s The Modern World System. Concerned to demonstrate, but also to understand, what she perceived to be a Euro-centric bias in this path-breaking work, she went on to examine in the history of cloth important challenges to the triumphalist story of the “rise of Europe.” Her essays, “Peacocks and Penguins, the Political Economy of European Cloth and Colors,” “Was There a Pre-capitalist World System?” and “Spirits and the Spirit of Capitalism” explore these challenges. New writing, concerned with crime and criminalization, and with cities damaged by organized crime, is under way.