James (Jim) Andrew McDonald

‘Wi Goot (Ph.D. UBC 1985) b. 1951 – d. 2015

I first met Jim in the early 1990s. I think it was around a seminar at the North Pacific Cannery, but I can’t be certain. Funny thing is that I feel as though I had known him for much longer. It is, in fact quite possible that Jim and I had crossed paths in the decade or so before I first ‘knew’ him. I am a member of the Indigenous culture group that Jim made his life’s work to study. I knew and interacted with many of the same people, or least same families, that his work and friendships brought him into contact with. I do know that by the time I was serious about my academic work I knew Jim and his work.

According to Jim his research, starting in 1979, involved a “happy coincidence: Kitsumkalum Band Council decided it wanted an anthropologists to make a study of their social history that would assist them in their land claims and economic development. Since I [McDonald] intended to do an historical study of the political economy of an Indian population, our paths came together in a mutually beneficial way” (1985:22). From the start Jim’s work was a collaboration between the leadership of the community and himself. This was part of a new wave of engaged anthropology that had its roots in Kathleen Gough’s call for new proposals that placed anthropology at the service of colonized peoples (Gough 1968; see also, Menzies and Marcus 2005). As Jim noted he “usually met with people as a representative of Kitsumkalum Band Council, although the connection between [his] work and theirs was not clear cut” (1985:24). Upon completion of his dissertation McDonald worked for a decade as curator of ethnology at the Royal Ontario Museum. In 1994 he was hired by the University of Northern BC to take over chairship of First Nations Studies.

Jim’s work combines a detailed Marxist understanding of colonial oppression, industrial resource extraction capitalism, social class, and combines that with a fine grained understanding of the Tsimshianic intellectual and cultural tradition. This is an amazing accomplishment. Jim achieved by valuing Indigenous communities: he did not use us as laboratory or some source of data. Rather, his approach involved an explicit collaborative framework. Jim was not simply an outsider anthropologist knowledgably in Indigenous matters. He became a trusted insider.

McDonald’s form of collaboration created a space for the co-generation of knowledge. That is, working on projects defined and requested by Kitsumkalum McDonald was able to focus his research in ways that would illuminate issues and perspectives relevant from an Indigenous perspective. At the same time his theoretical framework (political economy) and engagement in the academic arena brought insights to community understandings on their own social history that would not necessarily have been the case had they simply hired a consultant.

At the end of his life Jim came home to Kitsumkalum. His funeral and honouring Banquet was hosted Waaps Niishaywaaxs Gitselasu. His life’s work lives on through the work of Jim’s many students, friends, and family members.



Anthony Marcus

Anthony is a prolific writer who backs up his words with action. We first met as students at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.  Almost immediately we realized we had met a comrade in arms. Throughout our tenure as students in the program we worked together on local political struggles at the Grad Center and in the wider community.  Our shared background in libertarian revolutionary socialism gave us a shared platform and a common language which we used to effect.  We organized in our classrooms, at the school, and when the conditions of fiscal restraint led to student occupations across the CUNY system we were part of the core organizing group that took over the Grad Center and shut our school down in an act of solidarity with the undergraduate student occupations and strikes.

We’ve built a strong friendship out of this experience.

Anthony’s work is thorough, focussed on issues of transformative social justice, and flawlessly marxist in a manner both pragmatic and sophisticated. He does not push data into his theories, but pulls from the data (the lives, stories, and details of real workers, drug users, displaced workers) nuanced accounts that are illuminated by theory and provide meaningful practical and policy implications and directions. In the world of applied social science this is, in my opinion, a remarkable and rare attribute.

Anthony’s book on the construction of a homeless problem in New York City, Where Have All the Homeless Gone, deftly outlines the ways in which the neo-liberal state created and then erased the issue of homelessness in New York City. I’ve used this in introductory anthropology classes to talk about all manner of issues.  One of my favourite lectures focusses on the construction of the “Black Family.”

Anthony tackles the often racialized and prejudicial popular commentary through a careful explication of the contemporary American family. Anthony shows us that in reality the American family, in both its ‘white’ and ‘black’ varieties are really very much the same: nucleated consumption units. He goes further to pull apart the way that systematic structural racism, as deployed in successive state and federal policies, has differentially disadvantaged the black consumption family relative to the white consumption family.

The consumption family is counterpoised to the accumulation family. Anthony does this, in part, to counter act the endless studies that use culturalist logics in comparisons of the impoverished black family to immigrant families that ‘make it.’  These kinds of culturalist projects argue that it is something culturally unique to American Black people that keeps them poor.  Anthony’s analysis undermines that kind of simplistic logic.  Accumulation families, which are common among certain immigrant populations, focus kin networks toward accumulation of capital and the deployment of family labour power in a way that creates gendered and social inequality within the family but allows the corporate kin group to accumulate wealth in a way that consumption families, that do not pool wealth, cannot do.

Anthony does not shy away from controversial subject matter.  A case in point is his direct critique of the human sex trafficking industry.  In a series of recent papers Anthony (and co-authors) document how the victimization narratives of the liberal attack against sex trafficking is both misguided and empirically incorrect. Anthony goes further to question the use of child sexual assault laws to suppress/police youth prostitution.  By using a marxist conception of labour and parsing out the process of production within sex work Anthony and his colleagues provide a very different analysis of the ‘problem’ of prostitution. They offer a view point that places a greater emphasis on participants actual roles and experiences than the dominant Neo-Puritan conception of sex work.

If you want to read good, theoretical, practically oriented anthropology then Anthony Marcus is an anthropologist to read!