Paul Radin Papers

Paul Radin Papers

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The bulk of the collection consists of surveys from Radin's supervision of over 200 workers who interviewed ethnic groups in the San Francisco Bay Area for the State Emergency Relief Administration of California (SERA) over a period of nine months in 1934-1935. Known as SERA project 2-F2-98 (3-F2-145), its abstract was published in September 1935 as The Survey of San Francisco's Minorities: Its Purpose and Results. The stated purpose was a cultural survey to find employment for "white collar" unemployed workers on temporary relief. Radin's focus was "to study the steps in the adjustment and assimilation of minority groups in San Francisco and Alameda counties, from the first arrival to the present time, with particular emphasis upon certain aspects of this acculturation such as...making for the acceleration and retardation of this process and specific influence of such major disturbance of the Depression." Bypassing a typical questionnaire method, Radin instead had the amateur interviewers record anything and everything which the interviewees wished to say. The results appear in a narrative format-- sometimes in the form of poetry and short stories-- and encompass all manner of immigrant experience. Survey materials include typed and handwritten interviews and research on ethnic groups; many duplicated and variant versions are found. Some interviewers identify themselves, and their report appears in their own hand. Sometimes the interviewees are named or given pseudonyms or just a form of address and initial ("Mr. X"). Occasionally, the reports take the form of correspondence to "Dr. Radin," and some are written on hotel stationery from San Francisco. Radin wanted to present the material in two forms: monographic analyses of minorities and illustrative autobiographies. He states: "The information obtained was divided into two groups, that which was definitely autobiographical, and that which consisted of comments on every imaginable topic of contemporary life, in San Francisco and the world in general. Since the survey was made in 1934-35, the General Strike and the effects of the Depression were naturally favorite subjects, and since many of those interviewed had either themselves gone through the Great War or whose fortunates had been specifically affected by it, we meet references to it in almost every account." (p. 6) In the first series of general files, those on the Italians are also those used in Radin's monograph, The Italians of San Francisco: Their Adjustment and Acculturation published in August, 1935. The second series contains the work of Jon Lee of Oakland, a recent graduate of Oakland Technical High whom Radin hired to collect and translate Chinese folklore. The materials were collected as part of the SERA project that contained the other ethnic surveys but were later published separately as The Golden Mountain: Chinese Tales Told in California by the Sutro Branch library in 1940 (WPA no. 666-08-3-236). The collection includes a series of index cards containing survey data on Italians in San Francisco, which was received as a separate accession but appears to be from the same SERA survey. In addition to records from the WPA project, there is one folder of later correspondence from Jon Lee, as well as a small amount of Mary Wolf's research materials on Radin, which includes Wolf's academic papers, a few of Radin's files, and some biographical information.
Branch Call Number: SFH 23
Characteristics: 4.0 cubic feet (4 cartons)
Additional Contributors: Wolf, Mary Sacharoff-Fast - Creator

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