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Philip Singer Papers

A description of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Singer, Philip, 1925-
Title: Philip Singer Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1925-2016
Quantity: 49.5 linear ft.
Abstract: Medical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker. Collection consists of ethnographic field notes, interviews, and correspondence, audio and audio-visual material.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Philip Singer (1925-2016) was a medical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker who received his doctorate from Syracuse University in 1961. His dissertation, Hindu Holy Men: A Study in Charisma, was based on fieldwork among Indian ascetics (sadhus). At Syracuse, Singer was closely associated with Ernest Becker (1924-1974), the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Denial of Death (1973), and with Swami Agehananda Bharati (1923-1991), a Sanskrit scholar and Hindu monk who taught at Syracuse for more than three decades. Singer went on to conduct long-term research among Hindus in British Guiana (now Guyana), on the northern coast of South America. While serving on the faculty at Albany Medical College (1961-67), he studied Kali Mai, a Hindu mother-goddess cult in rural Guyana. In 1963, he began to work intimately with Jamsie Naidoo (1913-1997), the leading figure in the revival of the Kali Mai tradition, which has now taken root in Indo-Guyanese communities in several North American cities, including New York, Orlando, Tampa, and Toronto. From 1967 until his retirement in 2002, Singer was Professor of Anthropology and Behavioral Sciences at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Over his career, he made more than a dozen ethnographic films and other documentaries, including Divine Madness: Trance, Dance and Healing in Guyana (1978), Medicine Woman, Medicine Man: Traditional Holistic Medicine in Middle America (1985), The Haitians, the Healers, and the Anthropologist (1997), The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz, M.D. (2013), and Final Participant Observation: Senior Cultural Anthropologists Confront Their Mortality (2016). Philip Singer died in New York City in 2016 at the age of 91.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Philip Singer Papers include ethnographic field notes, interviews, and correspondence, more than 400 audio recordings, and more than 900 videotapes and DVDs.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is unprocessed and remains in original order.

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Access Restrictions

The collection is currently unprocessed and not available for research. Please contact Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Singer, Philip, 1925-


Anthropology of religion.


South America.

Genres and Forms

Documentary film.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Philip Singer Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Paula Singer, 2018.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: SM
Date: 10 May 2018
Revision history:

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An inventory has not yet been created for this collection. Please contact the Repository listed above for more information.

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