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Full circle: “analyzing countries by interviewing people, getting reports, and research”

We’ve had a couple of amusing discoveries about David Levinson of late, which have made me think about T. S. Eliot’s line, “In my beginning is my end.” How true that is; how often things come full circle. Here’s a little more about David than you usually get here, in celebration of his 60th birthday.

First, just as our Global Perspectives on the United States is rolling off the presses, a work he has labored over for two years and more, David found a letter amongst his parents’ papers that he wrote from his first assignment as an Army medic, in May 1967: “A sergeant was here from the Special Warfare School and unofficially he offered me a job there. He works for the Psychological Operations Branch. Their function is analyzing countries by interviewing people, getting reports, and research. He said to stop by and he’d set up an appointment with the CO and he promised me rank and I’d be in a slot not excess like here. I’ll look into it if things don’t shape up here in a while.”

That was before he began doing ethnography, his way of stumbling into anthropology as a profession. And his connection with encyclopedias goes back even further, as you can see from this photograph, circa 1949.

Since I’ve been working with photos this afternoon and thinking about our multimedia strategy, I should share a photo from David’s birthday party on Tuesday. Everyone in the office treated him to chocolate cake (with electric blue lettering that matched the new “motherboard” posted in the conference room to monitor all 2007-8 projects), and to a W.E.B. Du Bois doll. Who knew? There’s actually a line of “great thinker” dolls. We amused ourselves showing Du Bois the town hall across the street, where he learned about the art of democracy, and Castle Street, where he sledded in the cold winters they had long ago.

The real celebration takes place tomorrow, at a party at our house. My good friend Octavio Hernandez and his sons are providing the music and we’re clearing a big room for dancing. Wish my blog readers could join us!

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