Wanni W. Anderson, class of 1962


In this interview, Wanni W. Anderson, class of 1962 MA, and Adjunct Professor Emerita of Anthropology, discusses her life and education in Thailand, her transition to American life, her graduate work, and the historical landscape of women’s work and roles in the academy.

Anderson begins by discussing her early life in Thailand. She explains that her father was a government prosecutor in Bangkok and that he encouraged all five of his children to pursue a college education. She talks about the catholic school education she received from the Mater Dei School and how that factored into her majoring in English at Chulalongkorn University. She remembers earning a Fulbright scholarship to Brown and not knowing anything about the university.

Anderson goes on to reminisce about the Fulbright scholars going to Hawaii in 1960 for an orientation program on American way of life before traveling to Providence. She happily recalls her dormitory house on Euclid Avenue, her best friend Anne who was also an English major, as well as experiencing her first snowfall. She also describes the rigor of the English program.

Anderson talks about meeting her husband, Douglas Anderson, at Brown, and adjusting to life as a housewife in Philadelphia shortly after graduation. She quickly decided to earn a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in order to have enough credentials to join her husband, anthropologist Douglas Anderson, on excavation trips to Alaska. She explains that while there, she found her passion for working with Eskimo peoples whom she would work with for the remainder of her career.

In reflecting on her life, Anderson explains how she feels her career was restricted because of her gender, ethnicity, and marital status. She talks about the successful courses she taught at Brown as well as the scholarship she produced, and regrets that she was never able to attain the title of full professor. Anderson encourages today’s students to never give up, be persistent, and be resilient.


Recorded on October 19, 2021 in Alumnae Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Amanda Knox, Pembroke Center Assistant Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: Anderson, Wanni W. Interview. By Amanda Knox. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. October 19, 2021.


Wanni W. Anderson was born in Thailand where she lived with her parents and four siblings. She was raised with the expectation of going on to college. After graduating from Mater Dei School, Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in English from Chulalongkorn University in 1959. She went on to Brown University as a Fulbright scholar and earned a master’s degree in English in 1962. Anderson continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a PhD in Folklore and Folklife with an anthropology focus in 1973. She also held two postdoctoral positions at Harvard University in Psychological Anthropology (1981-82) and in the Cross-Cultural Studies of Adolescence (1982-83). Anderson’s research spans several topics including comparative human development, folklore, self and identity; new ethnic group formation, and Asian ethnonationalism. She taught several anthropology courses at Brown University and published seven books. She retired from Brown in 2018 as Adjunct Professor Emerita of Anthropology.