Gregory Bateson

From Monoskop
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bateson with Margaret Mead in the late 1930s. Photo by C. H. Waddington.
Born May 9, 1904(1904-05-09)
Grantchester, United Kingdom
Died April 14, 1980(1980-04-14) (aged 78)
San Francisco, United States
Web Aaaaarg, Wikipedia,, Open Library

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields.

He was born in 1904 as the third and youngest son of [Caroline] Beatrice Durham and the geneticist William Bateson. Resisting family pressures to follow in his father's footsteps, he completed his degree in anthropology instead of natural science, and left England to do field work in New Guinea. It was on his second trip there, in 1956, that he met his fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead, whom he later married; their only child, Mary Catherine Bateson, is also an anthropologist. Bateson and Mead were divorced in 1950, but they continued to collaborate professionally and maintained their friendship until Mead's death in 1978.

In the years to follow, Bateson became a visiting professor of anthropology at Harvard (1947); later was appointed research associate at the Langley Porrer Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco; worked as ethnologist at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital (where he developed the double-bind theory of schizophrenia and formulated a new theory of learning). He worked with dolphins at the Oceanographic Institute in Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii. In 1972 he joined the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Visual anthropology[edit]

In the 1930s, Bateson and Mead conducted an ambitious photography and film project in Bali, inspired by Mead's conviction that visual anthropology could serve a scientific, objective method. They studied the people of the Balinese village Bajoeng Gede. David Lipset states that "in the short history of [their] ethnographic fieldwork, film was used both on a large scale and as the primary research tool". They took around 25,000 photographs, and also shot a short documentary Trance and Dance in Bali, which was not released until 1952.


The documentary An Ecology of Mind (2011) by his daughter Nora Bateson premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival.


(in English unless noted otherwise)


Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972, PDF; 1987, IA.
  • Naven, a Survey of the Problems Suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe Drawn from Three Points of View, Cambridge University Press, 1936; 2nd ed., Stanford University Press, 1958.
    • Naven: um esboço dos problemas sugeridos por um retrato compósi- to, realizado a partir de ... problemas sugeridos por um retrato compósito, realizado a partir de três perspectivas, da cultura de uma tribo da Nova Guiné, trans. Magda Lopes, Edusp, 2006, 384 pp, PDF, PDF. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • with Margaret Mead, Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis, New York: Academy of Sciences, 1942, PDF.
  • with Jurgen Ruesch, Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, New York: W. W. Norton, 1951.
  • Steps to an Ecology of Mind, San Francisco: Chandler, 1972, 542 pp, PDF; Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1987, PDF, IA; University of Chicago Press, 2000. Collection of writings.
    • Verso un'ecologia della mente, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1977, PDF. (Italian)
    • Ökologie des Geistes: anthropologische, psychologische, biologische und epistemologische Perspektiven, trans. Hans Günter Holl, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985, 675 pp. (German)
    • Pasos hacia una ecología de la mente, 1997. PDF. (Spanish)
  • editor, Perceval's Narrative: A Patient's Account of His Psychosis, 1830-1832, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1974.
  • Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979, PDF; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2002.
    • Espíritu y naturaleza, trans. Leondro Wolfson, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 1982, ix+204 pp; 2nd ed., 1997. (Spanish)
    • Mente e natura. Un'unità necessaria, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1984, EPUB. (Italian)
    • Geist und Natur. Eine notwendige Einheit, Frankfurt am Main, 2000. (German)
  • with Mary Catherine Bateson, Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred, 1987, OL; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2004.
    • Dove gli angeli esitano. Verso un'epistemologia del sacro, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1989, PDF. (Italian)
  • A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind, ed. Rodney Donaldson. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Collection of writings.




  • Mary Catherine Bateson, Our Own Metaphor: A Personal Account of a Conference on the Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation, 1972; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2004.
  • John Brockman (ed.), About Bateson, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1977.
  • C. Wilder-Mott, John H. Weakland (eds.), Rigor and Imagination: Essays From the Legacy of Gregory Bateson, New York: Praeger, 1981.
  • David Lipset, Gregory Bateson the Legacy of a Scientist, Beacon Press, 1982.
  • Mary Catherine Bateson, With a Daughter's Eye:: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, 1984; New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Robert W. Rieber (ed.), The Individual, Communication, and Society: Essays in Memory of Gregory Bateson, Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Peter Harries-Jones, A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson, University of Toronto Press, 1995, PDF.
  • Gerald Sullivan, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali: Fieldwork Photographs of Bayung Gede, 1936-1939, University Of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Noel G. Charlton, Understanding Gregory Bateson: Mind, Beauty, and the Sacred Earth, SUNY Press, 2008, PDF.
  • Jesper Hoffmeyer (ed.), A Legacy for Living Systems: Gregory Bateson as Precursor to Biosemiotics, Dordrecht: Springer, 2008, PDF.

Journal issues[edit]

  • Semiotics, Evolution, Energy, and Development 4(1): Special Issue on Gregory Bateson, ed. Peter Harries-Jones, Mar 2004.
  • The American Journal of Semiotics 18(4): "Gregory Bateson: A Sign", Dec 2004.
  • Cybernetics & Human Knowing 12(1-2), Special Issue on Gregory Bateson, eds. Frederick Steier and Søren Brier, 2005. [1]
  • Kybernetes 36(7/8): "Gregory Bateson memoriam", eds. Monika Silvia Broecker and Georg Ivanovas, 2007. [2]
  • Grey Room 66: "Bateson Dossier", ed. Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, Winter 2017. [3]

Book chapters, papers, articles[edit]

  • Lawrence B. Slobodkin, "Mind, bind, and ecology: A review of Gregory Bateson's collected essays", Human Ecology 2:1 (1974), pp 67-74.
  • Steve P. Heims, "Gregory Bateson and the Mathematicians: From Interdisciplinary Interaction to Societal Functions", Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 13 (1977), pp 141-159.
  • Ira Jacknis, "Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Photography and Film", Cultural Anthropology 3:2 (May 1988), pp 160-177.
  • Brian Stagoll, "Gregory Bateson (1904–1980): a reappraisal", Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39:11-12 (2005), pp 1036-1045.
  • Sarah Pink, "Interdisciplinary Agendas. (Re)situating Visual Anthropology", chapter 2 of The Future of Visual Anthropology: Engaging the Senses, London & New York: Routledge, 2006, pp 25-29.

Documentary films[edit]

  • An Ecology of Mind, dir. Nora Bateson, 60 min, 2010. [4] [5]