About the Author

Dr. Marvin Harris was born in Brooklyn in 1921 and passed away in 2001. He completed his degrees at Colombia University and was a figurehead at the University of Florida from 1981 to 2000. Harris conducted field work primarily in Latin America and Brazil but also worked in Mozambique, Ecuador, and India. Over the course of his life, he wrote 17 books that revolved around cultural materialism; he is known to be pivotal in this subdiscipline. Harris’s theories concentrated on how productivity and demographics influences culture and how society is organized. He was very controversial in his field and his critics tended to think he relied too heavily on being a generalist (Elwell, 2001).

Harris published Cannibals and Kings in 1977 at perhaps the peak of his career. Throughout the novel, one can see that he intertwines philosophy into his anthropological theories and ideas. He incorporates Marx and Malthus into his ideas about how diet and population sizes affect culture (Page 185). In Cannibals and Kings, Harris methodically works through the history of humankind in the general shift from hunter gatherer to reliance on agriculture.