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Marvin Kaufman Opler

(1914 - 1981)

OPLER, MARVIN KAUFMANN (1914–1981), U.S. anthropologist and social psychiatrist; brother of Morris Edward *Opler. Opler was born in Buffalo, New York. He received an A.B. degree in social studies from the University of Michigan in 1935 and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 1938. He did anthropological fieldwork among Eastern Apache tribes, such as the Mescalero Indians in New Mexico, as well as Eskimo and Northwest Coast Indians in Oregon. Between 1943 and 1946, he served as a community analyst at the Tule Lake Japanese internment camp in Newell, California. That experience and the complex issues inherent in the segregation program led him to co-author the book Impounded People (1946). After teaching anthropology, sociology, and social psychiatry at various American universities, Opler was appointed professor of social psychiatry at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine in 1958. He remained there for the rest of his teaching career, serving as chairman of the anthropology department from 1969 to 1972. He also served as professor of sociology and anthropology at the Graduate School of the State University of New York at Buffalo. Opler was, with Thomas A.C. Rennie, a principal investigator in the Midtown Manhattan Mental Health Research Study, 1952–60. On this topic, he wrote Mental Health in the Metropolis: The Midtown Manhattan Study (1962).

He was an associate editor of the International Journal of Social Psychiatry from 1958 and associate editor of American Anthropologist from 1962.

His principal interests were social theory, world areas research, psychoanalytic techniques in social analysis, and social psychiatry. Opler researched groups extending from the Ute Indians to modern social groups. He pioneered research on psychotic disorders among different ethnic groups to illuminate cross-cultural perspectives in mental disease and to establish the need for the collaboration of psychiatry and anthropology in defining contexts and differentials of mental disease. This is exemplified by his book Culture and Social Psychiatry (1967), originally Culture, Psychiatry, and Human Values (1956). He was editor of the book Culture and Mental Health (1959).

Opler was active in such professional organizations as the American Anthropological Association, the American Sociological Association, and the International Association of Social Psychiatry, and was the co-organizer of the First International Congress on Social Psychiatry held in London in 1964.

[Ephraim Fischoff / Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.