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Róheim (Géza) Papers
MSS 0046  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Restrictions
  • Provenance

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Géza Róheim Papers
    Creator: Róheim, Géza, 1891-1953
    Creator: Muensterberger, Werner
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0046
    Physical Description: 0.8 Linear feet (2 archives boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1929 - 1953
    Abstract: Papers of Géza Róheim, a Hungarian anthropologist who applied psychoanalytic techniques to cultural studies. The collection includes drafts of writings and research materials, including transcriptions of the dreams and stories of Australian aborigines, and a vocabulary of the Normanby Islanders.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of Géza Róheim, a Hungarian anthropologist who applied psychoanalytic techniques to cultural studies. The collection includes drafts of writings and Róheim's research materials. The research papers document Róheim's field studies in Australia, Normanby Island and the southwestern United States, and include transcriptions of the dreams and stories of Australian aborigines, a vocabulary of the Normanby Islanders, and Freudian-influenced observations of Navajo families. None of the materials are dated, but it is probable that the papers were created between 1929 and 1953. This estimate is based on the subject matter, type of paper, and general condition of the materials.


    Géza Róheim considered himself a professional anthropologist, although many see his work as an example of the Freudian school of psychoanalytic theory. He is credited as one of the first to apply psychoanalysis to the study of world cultures.
    The scion of an affluent Hungarian family, Róheim was born in Budapest in 1891. He took an early interest in literature and history, later receiving formal training in geography and anthropology. In addition, he studied psychoanalytic theory under Sandor Ferenczi, one of the pioneers in the field. Travelling to Germany prior to World War I, Róheim pursued his professional education in anthropology at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin. Also in Germany, he came under the influence of the theories of Sigmund Freud. Róheim returned to Hungary and, in 1919, became the first professor of anthropology at the University of Budapest, a post he held until 1938.
    Throughout the 1920s Róheim remained primarily an academic anthropologist. However, in 1929, he embarked on a lengthy field expedition that would last until 1931. Financed by Marie Bonaparte (Princess George of Greece), the field trip was originally designed to apply psychoanalytic theory to the aborigines of Central Australia. Róheim expanded the original plan to include journeys to the Melanesian island of Normanby, plus short trips to Somaliland and Arizona. In his field work, Róheim focused primarily on the individual member of a community or culture. He used many techniques that were not common in contemporary anthropology, including dream analysis and the analysis of children's play activities.
    In 1938 Róheim escaped the political turmoil in Europe and emigrated to the United States. He worked briefly, during 1938, as a clinician at the Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. He then moved to New York City, where he entered private practice and continued his writing. In 1940 he lectured at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. Although he took short field trips to study the Navaho Indians in the southwestern U.S., Róheim remained in New York City until his death in 1953.
    Róheim was primarily a theoretician, although his theory was always based on rigorous observation and study. He was one of the first anthropologists to successfully apply Freudian theories to the analysis of cultures. His "ontogenetic theory of culture" is considered a major contribution to his field. In this theory, Róheim contended that cultural differences were largely the result of an individual's childhood traumas. The childhood experiences of the individual, he thought, were ultimately reflected in adult personality and in the collective institutions of a given culture.
    Róheim stated his theory most clearly in his work The Origin and Function of Culture, published in 1943. Among his other works, the most notable are Australian Totenism (1925), Animism, Magic, and the Divine King (1930), The Eternal Ones of the Dream (1945), Psychoanalysis and Anthropology (1950), and The Gates of Dream (1952).
    After Róheim's death, many of his works were collected and published by anthropologist Werner Muensterberger. Muensterberger's editions include Magic and Schizophrenia (1955), The Panic of the Gods and Other Essays (1972) and Children of the Desert : The Western Tribes of Central Australia (1974).
    [Sources: Paul A. Robinson, The Freudian Left : Wilhelm Reich, Géza Róheim, Herbert Marcuse (New York: Harper and Row, c1969); George B. Wilbur and Warner Muensterberger, eds., Psychoanalysis and Culture : Essays in Honor of Géza Róheim (New York: International Universities Press, c1951).]

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Géza Róheim Papers, MSS 46. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1984


    Original research papers in box 2, folders 2 and 3 are restricted until 2068 to protect the privacy of observed subjects. Redacted versions are available. Materials deemed to brittle for use have been moved to the ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series and may be restricted.


    The collection was donated to the UC San Diego Library by Werner Muensterberger, who received the materials from Róheim himself. The collection contains only a small fraction of the papers Géza Róheim probably created and collected.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Aboriginal Australians -- Psychology
    Aboriginal Australians -- Folklore
    Navajo Indians -- Psychology
    Normanby Island (Papua New Guinea) -- Languages
    Ethnology -- Papua New Guinea -- Normanby Island
    Dreams -- Case studies
    Psychoanalysis and culture
    Róheim, Géza, 1891-1953 -- Archives