Quote: Malinowski's Metropolis

Bronislaw Malinowski, in his 1936 article, “Culture as a determinant of behavior” Malinowski:determinant:1936:

Since in my opinion anthropology should begin at home, let me give you an anthropological impression of modern culture and recount a personal experience in which I very poignantly became aware of the power of things over man.
No experience in my exotic wanderings among the Trobrianders and the Chagga, among the Masai and the Pueblo, has ever matched the shock I received in my first contact with American civilization, on my first visit to New York, when I arrived there ten years ago on a fine spring evening and saw the city in its strangeness and exotic beauty. The enormous yet elegant monsters blinking at me through their thousand starry eyes, breathing white steam, giants which crowded in phantastic clusters over the smooth waters of the river, stood before me -- the living, dominating realities of this new culture. During my first few days in New York, I could not shake off the feeling that the strange "genius" of this most modern civilization had become incarnate in the skyscraper, the subway and the ferry boat. Large insects in the shape of automobiles crept along the gutter called street or avenue, subordinate but important. Finally, as a fairly insignificant and secondary by-product of the enormous mechanical reality there appeared the microscopic bacteria, called man, sneaking in and out of subway, skyscraper or automobile, performing some useful service to their masters, but otherwise rather insignificant. Modern civilization is a gigantic hypertrophy of material objects, and contemporary man will still have to fight his battle in order to reassert his dominance over the thing.