The Bennington Papers

The Bennington Papers (Ken Kensinger)

The Bennington PapersTo honor the memory of Kenneth M. Kensinger, SALSA presents this portal to the life and work of the legendary ethnographer. With the kind permission of Bennington College, we offer selected issues of two series of publications that Kensinger edited, which we name as The Bennington Papers: Working Papers on South American Indians (WPSAI) and South American Indian Studies (SAIS)(See The Bennington Meetings, from which these papers came out.)

Working Papers on South American Indians originally appeared in seven print issues, published at irregular intervals from 1979 to 1985 by Bennington College. Kenneth M. Kensinger served as series editor. During these years, Kensinger also hosted an annual meeting of lowland South Americanists at Bennington College. These meetings, often called the “Bennington Meetings,” were one of the most important sites for exchange of information and presentation of new research amog lowland South Americanists. Kensinger’s dedication to this flow of information was passionate: in the introduction to the first issue of WPSAI, Kensinger stated: “It is our belief that any increase in the flow of communication between persons interested in South American Indians can be beneficial to our common and individual scholarly pursuits.” Thus, in addition to hosting the Bennington Meetings, Kensinger edited Working Papers on South American Indians to facilitate “the rapid dissemination between specialists of new data … without the normal impedimenta of journal and book publication.” WPSAI published papers presented at lowland South Americanist symposia in the AAA and ICA meetings, with added forewords, introductions, commentaries, as well as wholly original writing. Often cited, but now very hard to find in print, we hope that this digital reissue will facilitate access to Working Papers on South American Indians for a new generation of students and scholars.

In addition to these series of papers, in 1984 Ken edited a volume,  Marriage Practices in Lowland South America, from which we offer here a selection of chapters.

South American Indian Studies originally appeared in five print issues, published at irregular intervals from 1993 to 1998 by Bennington College. Kenneth M. Kensinger served as series editor. Like Working Papers on South American Indians, the publication of SAIS was related to Kensinger’s hosting of the lowland South Americanist summer meetings at Bennington College. Kensinger dedicated energy and enthusiasm to the task of facilitating the flow of information among lowland specialists. The Bennington meetings were one approach to this goal; the publication of WPSAI and SAIS was another. SAIS published mostly papers presented at sessions of the American Anthropological Association conference, where there was always at least one session dedicated to lowland South America. Papers presented at the Bennington meetings were also published in SAIS.

The idea to reissue Working Papers on South American Indians and South American Indian Studies on this website arose out of discussions that occurred on the SALSA email list following the passing of Kenneth Kensinger in May 2010. During this period of mourning, many people suggested we honor Ken Kensinger’s memory through our website, and that reissuing WPSAI and SAIS could be an important way to do so. Newly elected president-elect Jonathan D. Hill organized the scanning of extant print issues and requested authorization from Bennington College and from individual issue editors for the project. We thank Bennington College for this kind permission. We also thank Carolina Izquierdo, who provided several issues from her personal collection so that they could be scanned for this website.

We hope that the materials published on this portal will highlight the outstanding contributions made by Ken Kensinger, with the support of Bennington College, in the field of lowland South American Studies. We hope further that these materials will highlight the many ways Ken inspired and encouraged other scholars to work in and write about lowland South America.


Read Philippe Erikson’s obituary of Kenneth Kensinger (in French): Kenneth M. Kensinger (1931-2010), Journal de la Société des Américanistes, 2011, 97-2, pp. 388-396. It includes a fairly exhaustive bibliography of his publications, plus major reviews of his books.


“My greatest debt is to the Cashinahua who took me into their hearts and homes and patiently, kindly, and gently instructed me in the way ‘real people’ ought to live.”
—Ken Kensinger, 1995

“Haskaken, nukun haibu KENSINGER nuticia(kaka) nun ninkaa, nun nui haidaxinaki, el dia 16 de mayo de 2010 anudan ixinkendan.”
—Tufí Torres Silva, 2010