Partial Transcript: Peace Corps oral history project interview November 22, 2005 with Paul Winther
Segment Synopsis: Winther was born in New York to a European family. When he was thirteen, he started hiring himself out to farms. He went to a junior college and then got a soccer scholarship to Michigan State University, getting his B.A. in Sociology. He applied to a naval aviation cadet training program. He then chose go to Peace Corps. He describes his training at Ohio State University, which took three months. The language training was inadequate. He was supposed to be a dairy expert but was ended up being a group leader/administrator. The on paper program did not work out well in real life. He ended up going to refugee colonies and helped them start a toy business but after they left the business fell apart. They as Peace Corps people were suspicious to the people in India.
Keywords: animal husbandry
Subjects: Aeronautics.; Agriculture.; Animal culture.; Business.; Commerce.; Domestic animals.; Education, Higher.; Education.; Europe.; Farms; Illiterate persons; India.; Language learning and language teaching; Literacy.; Livestock.; Mentoring in business.; Michigan State University; Naval Officer; Naval aviation.; New Delhi (India); New York (State); Nonprofit organizations--Services to illiterate persons; Occupational training.; Ohio State University.; Pakistan; Panjabi language; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--India.; Pilots; Refugees.; Small business.; Soccer.; Social workers.; Sociology.; Toys.; Training
Partial Transcript: When you first went, what, you know, what, what was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Segment Synopsis: Winther says he was immediately stuck by the poverty and death, as well as the coldness, noise, smells, and filth. The lack of heating and different level of cleanliness and the different food stood out. He discusses when he had dysentery and lost a lot of weight and his parents were emotional about his health. He visited Denmark and contrasts it to India. He discusses his status as group leader/administrator. He says that they tried to sleep early to stay warm and that they had shortwave radios for recreation. He says they had recreation when they went to Delhi, but that being an unmarried male was viewed as suspicious.
Keywords: Calcutta (India)
Subjects: Adjustment (Psychology); Bureaucracy.; Caste; Cleanliness; Cold; Culture shock; Dead animals; Death.; Denmark.; Dysentery.; Food habits.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender politics, global issues; Gender, society & development; Health.; Hitchhiking; Housing.; India.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations.; Kolkata (India); Leaders; Lifestyles.; Low temperatures.; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs.; Passenger trains.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--India.; Recreation.; Shortwave radio; Social classes.; Social interaction.; Social norms.; Travel.
Partial Transcript: Tell me about that
Segment Synopsis: Winther did not realize how much India had impacted him until he returned to the U.S. He went to Thailand and heard people talking about bombing and realized that India had changed his point of view to be anti war. When he returned to New York, he felt alienated at seeing "fat" people. He says he became a citizen of the world and owes what he is to the Peace Corps. He got a Master's in Sociology from Michigan State University. He then got a fellowship to Cornell University for Indian Studies and Anthropology and got his PhD at Cornell. He went back to India for his dissertation and discusses his experience in detail. He had to come home because he got hepatitis.
Subjects: Adjustment (Psychology); Alienation (Social psychology); Anthropology.; Caste; Cognition and culture.; Cornell University.; Criminals.; Cultural awareness.; Culture shock; Dissertations, Academic.; Health issues; Hepatitis; India--Study and teaching.; India.; Kidnapping.; Manners and customs.; Michigan State University; Obesity.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--India.; Peace movements; Rajput (Indic people); Scholarships.; Social classes.; Social norms.; Thailand.; Tibet Autonomous Region (China); Tibetan language; Tibetans
Partial Transcript: So you got your PhD, uh, and, uh, then what
Segment Synopsis: Winther wrote his dissertation while teaching at Duke University. He briefly discusses his two marriages. He discusses the impact of Peace Corps service on him, saying it helped him understand the impact of culture on thought patterns. He thinks the role of Peace Corps should be the help with basic needs and to help them become independent. He mentions a specific book that impacted him called The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. He has taught at Eastern Kentucky University, Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of Kentucky. He briefly discusses the CIA's attempt to recruit him.
Keywords: CIA; Discourse on Voluntary Servitude; The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude; the politics of obedience
Subjects: Algeria.; Anthropology.; Cognition and culture.; College teachers.; College teaching.; Cornell University.; Cross cultural communication; Cultural awareness.; Dissertations, Academic.; Duke University; Eastern Kentucky University; Education, Higher.; Education.; Fear.; French language; Globalization.; Hindus.; Independent; India.; Intercultural communication.; La Boétie, Estienne de, 1530-1563; La Boétie, Estienne de, 1530-1563. De la servitude volontaire.; Multiculturalism.; Muslims.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--India.; Self-reliant living.; Self-sufficiency; South Asian studies; Teachers.; Teaching.; United States. Central Intelligence Agency.; University of Kentucky
WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview November 22, 2005with Paul Winther. Okay Paul, if you would please give me your full name and where and when you were born.
WINTHER: Okay, my name is Paul Christian Winther and I was bornSeptember 2nd in 1937 in Jamaican New York on Long Island.
WILSON: Okay, tell me a little something about your family and yourgrowing up.
WINTHER: Okay, well I come from a very European family. My father wasan immigrant from Denmark. He came here in 1921, went back to Denmark, and came back again. And my mother was born of Danish and Norwegian parents, and she lived. She was born in New York but then she moved to Iowa, and her first language was Norwegian. She couldn't speak English until she was about seven years old. Then she came back to New York City and then she lived on Long Island as well. And we lived 00:01:00in various places on Long Island. My father was a small businessman, independent businessman. And I went to Sewanhaka High School on Long Island, and I graduated. Then I went to a junior college and I had played soccer in high school, when I was in junior college, and then I got a soccer scholarship and an academic scholarship to Michigan State University. And then I went there for two and a half years and I got my B.A. in--Actually I started out I was going to be, I wanted to become a veterinarian. And then I took a course in social science and sociology and I loved it so much I changed my major to social science with a majoring emphasis on sociology. And then I got my B.A. and do you want me to continue on?
WILSON: Yeah, you got your B.A. at Michigan State?
WINTHER: At Michigan State.
WINTHER: That was in 1960--1960-'61 I think, 1960. It was just before I00:02:00made application for the Peace Corps.
WILSON: Oh okay.
WINTHER: But it was really an accident I went into the Peace Corpsbecause I had been to sea before. I was at sea for a while; I was at sea. I loved that a lot.
WILSON: When was that?
WINTHER: Well I was--Summers and also yeah two summers I went to seaand also had worked in farms, and I had flown a little bit. And so my goal in life at that time in the very, very early '60s was to when I graduated from college postpone going onto graduate school because I wasn't too sure about that, but then becoming an eagle pilot. And if I had not been able to make it as an eagle pilot then I was going to become frogman. I had my career all set out for me. And I was a very idealistic and very naive, and I think a lot of us during the early '60s were. And so when I graduated that summer I made application to 00:03:00something called the Naval Education Cadet Training whatever it might be. It was a five year program and I was accepted into it. And that program you go to school in some place in Rhode Island for two years, become a naval officer, and then you go to flight school for three years. And so that was it. And I knew that when I came back I could still go to graduate school or things such as this. Then someone said that well you know something called the Peace Corps. And I didn't know a thing about that, but I had been overseas before. I had liked to travel and so on a whim I took a test. And when I took the test, Jack, I didn't think I could pass that. I said, "Aww, that was nice but I think they want people much more qualified than myself." And lo and behold late that summer like early fall three days, four days before I was supposed to sign the contract to try to become a naval pilot 00:04:00Peace Corps Washington called and they said, "Would you like to become, would you like to be? We would like to invite you to the first class that would go into training for assignment in India." And I said, "Well how could you possibly use me?" They said, "Well your agricultural background, you're interested in animal genetics and things such as that," even though I had a degree in something else that would qualify you. And so I said, "Well that's very interesting. Can I get back to you?" And so I hung up and began to think about it. Well no I, it was really, really agonizing because I had my heart set on becoming a naval pilot. But then I said, "Well I go into the Peace Corps for two years, when I come out of the Peace Corps then I would still be able to go to flight school." Because then I called the Navy up; I called the Naval Department and asked, "Could I take a two year break from this, go in the Peace Corps and then come back and still be eligible?" And they said yes, and so I said okay. And I had no, I had no--I didn't really 00:05:00think I would be qualified. I thought that would be washed out. Well I wasn't washed out and so I became a member of the first group that went to India.
WILSON: Okay let's go back just a little bit. Let me--Paul, tell me alittle something about the agriculture.
WINTHER: Yeah I lived in fairly close to metropolitan New York and Ireally didn't like the city. I was much more happy being out of the city. And at a fairly early age when I was 13 I began going away for the summertime hiring myself out to on farms, and I had been going up to upstate New York living very, very close to the St. Lawrence River for two years. And then I wrote to various kinds of employment agencies one summer and I got a job on a farm out in Wisconsin. And so I had a lot of exposure to agriculture and to dairy farms. I loved it. I 00:06:00absolutely loved that. And I went to junior college and I was majoring in animal husbandry with an emphasis upon genetics with a possibility of going to Cornell maybe and eventually becoming a veterinarian. And then I got this scholarship, this athletic scholarship to Michigan State. And they had an agriculture program as well and so--
WILSON: And the vet school I think.
WINTHER: Yeah the vet school, but I don't think I could have got in thevet school because they only take people from the neighboring states, and I was not a resident of that area so I had to go back to Cornell. Any case, Michigan State is a huge school and I was working full time, I was playing soccer full time. I really, really loved it. And I was always a terrible student in high school. I hated high school, but then I took some courses out there especially in social science in sociology and that just opened a tremendously new world to me. It was fantastic. I was an A student. I never was an A student before; I became an A student. And so it was really a wonderful experience for me. I said that's--I want to do something in social science. Maybe 00:07:00I can work overseas somehow in Foreign Service, something like that. But I want to go to military. And again at that time Jack now we weren't involved in Vietnam. We were always the good guys, and I never ever connected becoming, going into the military, flying with killing people. I never did. And I had this; I had that idea even when I went into the Peace Corps. But the Peace Corps was a wonderful experience for me, a traumatic experience for me because first it was very, very frustrating. We were the first group in India and it was chaotic, total chaos. I mean in any group in Peace Corps that goes there the first time, totally new program, it's going to be chaotic. And but also--
WILSON: And so tell me about the beginning, about the training and soforth. You said you made this decision to go to the Peace Corps rather than the Navy. And that was in the fall of '61? 00:08:00
WINTHER: Well that was just shortly after Sargent Shriver announcedthe creation of the Peace Corps. And so again I was very leery about getting--I'm sure they had many more much more qualified people than myself. Well it turned out they weren't that more qualified. And so--
WILSON: So where did you?
WINTHER: We trained at Ohio State.
WINTHER: This was the first group and so the language training wasn'tthat good. It was very much an experiment, and we had a fairly--I think we started out with 36 and we had 24 people wound up--all males except for one female. She was married to one of the volunteers. So it was pretty much a male group. And we were taught be Sikhs from Punjab and they cooked for us, and that was interesting. But we were trained at Ohio State and we had no training once we got to India. And I think that's changed since then. So we really went to India pretty 00:09:00much cold turkey.
WILSON: So the training at Ohio State was for how long?
WINTHER: Gosh we went--I think it was about three months, maybe a littlebit less than three months. We started in October and we were supposed to spend Christmas Eve at Ambassador Galbraith's residence in New Delhi.
WILSON: Oh wow.
WINTHER: And so October, November, so obviously not even three months.
WILSON: So you left before Christmas?
WINTHER: Yeah, yeah.
WILSON: And you had language training?
WINTHER: Language training was very, very inadequate, very inadequatebecause the people who were training us they really weren't language trainers. They were graduate students who happened to be at Ohio State. And so--
WILSON: They're teaching you Hindi?
WINTHER: Well Punjabi since we were going to be up in Punjab.
WINTHER: See since after we left Punjab split into two places--theHaryana and Punjab. But Punjabi is pretty much the language that's spoken. It's one of the major languages of India. There's 16 major languages as a sounds--So we were taught that, but it really wasn't 00:10:00that good. But I think now the language training you have in the United States plus overseas is very, very good. And so again it was just an experiment and we were pretty much the guinea pigs. And so they made a lot of mistakes and they learned from the mistakes. I wish they could do it all over again because I think we could contribute a lot more. In case it was exciting in a way because I had been overseas before and my family is from Europe and my mother and father always encouraged me to travel. And so that was interesting. I never really had the idea that how can a young person like myself, how could a lot of the people in my group same age as me, what can we really teach these people?
WILSON: And what was it that they were training you to do at Ohio State?
WINTHER: Well for me I was supposed to be a dairy expert and I wassupposed to try to improve their herds at the place where I was 00:11:00assigned. And then when we got over there the administration and the volunteers chose me to be their group leader, and so I had to be an administrator as well as trying to do this other job. The other job was really pretty much non-existent. All the jobs for us Jack we went there were non-existent. And a lot of kids, a lot of young people got very, very frustrated. But I really admire some of these people; they really did a bang up job once they got their sights on something independent from the Indian government. The Indian government in many cases didn't even know we were doing that, and so I was a liaison person between the Washington bureaucrats who really didn't even have a Peace Corps group leader for a year. We had a series of individuals who came from Washington, stayed a few weeks, and went back. We had four of them in one year.
WILSON: So there was no permanent Peace Corps staff?
WINTHER: No, no. There was a permanent Peace Corps staff but no leader,and we were all trying to--And they were all trying to figure out what we were supposed to do, what we were supposed to do. So it really was, 00:12:00it was a pioneering attempt. And the India administrators some of the people I talked to didn't even know we were there. And then of course I got all the flack from the volunteers because they said, "What are we supposed to be doing? What are we supposed to be doing?" And that was a very enlightening experience. It was very, very frustrating. And for a year I said" like what in the world am I doing here?" because I had to do a lot of traveling, I had to talk to India administrators trying to justify what we were doing. The volunteers didn't know what they were supposed to do. I mean everything looked very, very good on paper.
WILSON: And what was that on paper? What was the--?
WINTHER: Well we were other--There were supposed to be agriculturalspecialists, there were supposed to be field extension specialists. And these things looked good on paper but then if you were encountering a cross-cultural situation with a bureaucrat you're supposed to interact with don't know why you're there, that can be really frustrating. And we had some people who were architects. To make a long story short all the volunteers I know about who survived 00:13:00realized that you could not rely upon the Indians to give you too much guidance. You really had to create the job for yourself. And they did a wonderful job; they really did. And I think the volunteers in our group were a lot more independent, very independent, very sarcastic, in some ways very, very bitter about the fact that there was nothing really there for us to do. So we made our own jobs. And some of the volunteers they started the poultry industry in north India, and that's fantastic with nothing. So the first year for me was, "What in the world am I doing here? I should have gone to the Navy," because the job I had, they had no dairy cattle. And then another volunteer and myself was an RP, he was an engineer from RPI--Steven Keller from Brooklyn. He also was, he was supposed to be advising small businesses about efficiency and he was so discouraged too and so he said, "Let's do something different." And he knew I was very discontented. And he said, "Let's start a small industry on our own." And so he did some 00:14:00research and he realized that in India there's a huge gap as far as education is concerned--educational wooden toys for small children. So he said, "Let's try to, let's go to a refugee colony." A refugee colony means these are people who fled from Pakistan in 1947. Even in 1960s there were still refugees, these huge enclaves. And some of these people were poor people. And so we selected a town that wasn't too far away from New Delhi, about 60 or 70 miles away from New Delhi. We picked a refugee colony that had a lot of men who were underemployed or unemployed and we said, "We're going to start a small business and we're going to teach these people how to become entrepreneurs with a product." And the product we had was to make educational wooden toys using no electricity, only hand tools locally obtained hand tools with minimum capital expenditures. And we, Steve and I used our own 00:15:00money--our own meager Peace Corps allowances to start this business. No electricity, nothing whatsoever, we started out in a field where everybody dumps where pigs go to the bathroom. And we started this small business called Lion Toys and we began to market these toys in--
WINTHER: Lion, L-I-O-N. And we trained these guys how to make the toysby hand. We were making toys ourselves, and really fine toys. And so Steve would take care of the marketing and I would handle the men and procuring supplies in this place. And he would go down and he had contracts with some very, very nice government emporiums. If you go to India the government emporiums are the places where to get all these crafts from rural areas and they sell them to tourists and to well the Indians. So we had contracts with these people. It was going really, really well, but that was only one year.
WILSON: Now that was?
WINTHER: That was 1962. We were there in 1961.00:16:00
WINTHER: Well the beginning was January, we went, what was it? We wentDecember '61 and then it turned to January of '62. So we did this between '62 and '63 and I loved it because I was doing something hands on. I was working with people; I really felt as though I was doing something useful. And we desperately tried to train these people to become literate and to be able to handle business and the accounting and things, which is a real, real big challenge.
WILSON: So did you have sort of special classes in--?
WINTHER: No we just had these people and we had, well not reallyclasses. We would train them as we were working. Now they were illiterate so we had to do this well. One man could work; one man could read a little bit but not too much. And so we were novel and that was a fantastic challenge; I liked it a lot. We were doing something really, really positive and then we had to leave. And so we 00:17:00trained another volunteer. We asked another volunteer in a neighboring town who had just arrived if he could oversee this and give these guys some guidance. And we had an Indian social worker in that town who volunteered to take over the business and to help them out. Then we found out after we left and it went on for a while but they needed our leadership and the business just went kaput.
WILSON: Did you set it up like a cooperative?
WINTHER: Cooperative, yeah. We had everything organized, but thenwe realized that an idea like that it's really, really good but you have to spend many, many years really developing. We were really starting from scratch but we tried. And it could be done; it could have been done. And so that was the one positive thing I gained from that; I felt as though I had done something instead of just talking to Indian bureaucrats or filling out forms and things such as this. And we couldn't stay long because he got a fellowship to MIT and I got a scholarship also; I had to go back. And so we couldn't stay 00:18:00any longer, but that was my Peace Corps experience. But not only that Jack, the first year when I was a group leader I was living in a place called Ludhiana, and that's attached. We were living in a house that's attached to the agricultural college Ludhiana. And being typical Americans we were very open to everybody; we were very, very friendly. And so we'd invite Indians. They'd come in and have dinner with us and we'd tell them what we were doing and so forth and so forth. And I can remember one time just before I was supposed to go on a trip, make my tour around Punjab seeing the volunteers, asking how they were doing, somebody came with a paper and with a paper called Blitz. And Blitz is the Communist newspaper from Calcutta. And I can remember these guys, they thought they were said they were newspaper reports from Calcutta and they wanted to welcome us to India. And so they were going to write a story about us and just let people in east India 00:19:00know what we were doing. Because we were in New Delhi and they're in Calcutta, and so we opened our hearts to these people. And we just told them this, we told them that, and my gosh the article. Man we were working for the CIA, we're spies; they mentioned names. Holy Christmas! And that was the first year and I said, "My gosh, this is horrible. What did we get ourselves into?" And I read that article and I thought, "My gosh, I'm bad. I'm a really bad person." But then you realize that you're the first group there and you have all these wonderful opportunities. We met Prime Minister Nehru twice. We had seminars with him; I mean we were lucky because we were the first group there. That's a positive. But in also too being the first group there you were subjected to a lot of, a lot of suspicion. And at that time India was leaning toward the Soviet Union, leaning to the Soviet block. And so we were suspicious in the eyes of many people. In some ways it was a wonderful experience because it made me realize that oh Americans 00:20:00we have a self-conception of ourselves as being good, and everybody had that. So I learned an awful lot about myself; I learned a lot about India. I hated India; I loved India. I was ambivalent. And I think that's why I went back because I couldn't really understand what the hell is India.
WILSON: So when you first went what, you know what was the hardest thingto adjust to? What were you struck by?
WINTHER: Oh man, oh gosh. All of us were struck by the poverty. We gotthere in December. We couldn't fly into Delhi because it was fogged in, so we had to fly to Calcutta across the country. And I can remember we got off the plane and we had to take, we took a bus I think from the plane from the airport to the train station to take a train ride all the way. And we saw people in the train station. It was very, very cold in Calcutta. It was a very, very cold year and Calcutta doesn't usually get cold. Poverty stricken. They were dead. They all died. 00:21:00It was the first time I had seen dead people in the streets. And the smells and the filth and the dirt--the difference, it was incredible. Then coming back on the train we all were looking. It was just, and I think we all really--I mean we all began to say you know, "My gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into?" because it was so, so different. And I can remember we were eating in the dining car and they have these bearers or porters with their Indian dress on and they were serving us food. And then I think one of the volunteers said, "Well my plate's dirty. Could you take it back?" And so that volunteer was over there and I was here, and so the waiter took the plate, he turned around, and just wiped it on his pants and he gave it back. And that made us realize that well Indian standards of cleanliness are a lot different from ours. And so it was a difference, and then we got to Delhi and it was bitter, bitter cold. And we didn't have any central heating so we were freezing and freezing and freezing and the smells. 00:22:00And then we left; we had lunch I think with Ambassador Galbraith, which was nice. It was a nice home, and then we went north to Punjab. And we left early in the afternoon and it got dark very, very quickly. And we'd stop at these places; we were so cold and Punjab again very, very cold. And all this smell and the noise and the filth was just exotic, totally exotic. And we got used to it after a while, but I think it was that and also the next day when we finally got to our locale to see dead animals in the fields and lots of vultures eating the animals. And so it was the difference in climate without any heat. It was the really the filth, incredible amount of filth. And the dust and the different languages and the smells--it was tough. 00:23:00
WILSON: Were you at all--?
WINTHER: It was culture shock. We were told about it but it neverprepares you when you go--never does. So we talked about it as much as--
WILSON: So in training you did talk about that?
WINTHER: Yeah, but Indian guys they won't talk to you that much aboutit. I mean they're so used to it. Now if I were training volunteers I'd say well India is kind of dirty. I don't think it makes much of an impression upon us, my training and it didn't upon us. And these guys, these Indians are so used to--I'm used to it. I can go to India; I have no problems now. I'm probably, probably look like an Indian right now anyway. So it's a matter of getting used to that. Some of those things really, really struck us though. It was just and after a while it's amazing. After a while I can remember we had, I was living in a hostel with other volunteers when I wasn't traveling. And it was attached to this agriculture university. And again the food was different. The Indian students who taught us cooked for us and they 00:24:00were terrible cooks--horrible cooks. And so I was just, "Well I'm going to come back from India really, really, really, really thin." And then the volunteers wanted to have something that reminded them of home, so they hired an Indian cook who had worked for missionaries. This guy was a thief, but also too the food he cooked was half Indian, half English or half American or half western. It was terrible food; I didn't like it. And what happens when I moved out of that place and I moved with my friend Steve to this village. We were living with these people. We were eating tea stalls, then I began to love it. It seems like that one year when I had something that I was doing something that I thought was going to contribute to the welfare of the people that I was supposed to do that my whole attitude changed. I didn't see a lot of dirt and also too I began to love the food. But it took a long time for a lot of this, and some of us couldn't adjust because India's 00:25:00really is different. And very, very--No other Americans, very, very few other Americans to talk to. And being the first people no one we could, no former volunteers we could voice our frustrations to. But it was mostly male. I really do admire them.
WILSON: So you said there were 35 or 36 of you went through training?
WINTHER: Stop, yeah 24 or 26 were selected and two had a--I think onehad a, one just gave up. And my good friend had hepatitis. He went back to California and then he came back to India. And so we, you know ----------(??) I don't think it was that bad.
WILSON: That raises is another issue. What about health and did youhave training? Did your training include information about how to take 00:26:00care of yourselves? Did you follow that?
WINTHER: Yeah but we didn't--Well not too much.
WILSON: And what kind of health issues did you have?
WINTHER: My, the second year the fellow with whom I instructed smallindustry he had hepatitis and so he was out for a long time and very, very sick. So I took over the industry. And I had dysentery, oh lots of dysentery. I mean and I was traveling around too. When you travel around you can't go to a four star restaurant and get a safe meal. And after a while you just get tired of being so careful. And so I know I took some chances and I had dysentery. When I got off the plane--When I left India I flew to Denmark via France on Thai International Airlines and I had Indian clothes. It was in October I think, and I had not seen my parents for two years. And they wanted to show me my ancestral home in Denmark. My father was very excited about that, and so I can remember my father when I got off the airplane in Copenhagen at the airport. I walked down and my father started 00:27:00crying. My father never cries! Never cried, he said I was very, very skinny. I was very, very skinny. I was down to about at that time 124 pounds. And I went over 150 and almost 160, and so they said I looked like I was in a concentration camp. And my mother was, I never saw my father emotional--never. He was a wonderful man, a very warm man, but he was really, really struck by that. It was hard for me to get used to Denmark because everything is so clean. Oh! I felt terrible. And I remember having an argument with my dad because I said, "I've got to be alone, Dad. I have to be alone." He couldn't understand that. But I was nice, it was nice. I met my relatives for the first time in Denmark and I bought a Volkswagen. I traveled; I ate my way through Europe for about six months. And it was difficult coming back, yeah totally different--horrible coming back in the United States. The one person with whom I'm very, very close was named, a guy by the name of Lee Knutson. And Lee had gone in one year or six months before. He 00:28:00volunteered for something called International Voluntary Service, which I think IVS, which I think was a prototype for the Peace Corps. And he lived in a tree hut in Liberia for two years. And we were supposed to travel in Africa together. In any case when I went home I went back to Michigan State to go on for my master's degree.
WILSON: Yeah before you get back there, a couple of other things aboutIndia and your work there. You initially were then?
WINTHER: I'm supposed to be an agricultural dairy specialist.
WILSON: And you weren't, but then you became a group leader out of Delhior out of?
WINTHER: Yeah well the administration or the people in theadministration in Washington or some place, they had given us personality tests and psychological tests. And I don't know what they did but then I guess they had a vote among the volunteers too and so to make a long story short I was selected to be the group leader. And again I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I was supposed 00:29:00to be, again I was supposed to collect bills. I was supposed to tell the administration, non-existent administration the problems that the volunteers are having. And I was supposed so explain our presence in these various locations in Punjab to the federal government and to local officials. And I tried, but there's no way if you get no guidance from Delhi it's all, you're all doing it on your own.
WILSON: Was there a Peace Corps staff in Delhi?
WINTHER: There was this Peace Corps staff. There had some Indians;the only guy I could really ask for advice was an Indian who had been hired by the Peace Corps. And as far as the administrators we had a couple, we had, no we had four in one year. And they came out from Washington and they said, "We're not going to be the permanent, we're not going to be the permanent administrators." No, I'm sorry, Roger Ernst was the administrator when we first came. But he left about two months after we got there. Now if he had stayed because he had worked 00:30:00with us for the American government in India, and so he would have been good. But he would have given us some continuity. He's the one who got us in to India, so as long as he was there it was fine. He was the guy who chose me to be the group leader. And but then he left. Then after that we had a succession of administrators or bureaucrats in Washington, nice people but they didn't know what was going on. And so a volunteer had a problem they would ask me, I'll say I'll try and get back to you. But who I was supposed to ask--So gradually all the volunteers I think realized that we had to, we were in this for ourselves. We cannot rely upon anybody, and I think they made them very independent and also some of them very, very bitter because of a lack of support. And I don't blame them; I felt the same way.
WILSON: What did--?
WINTHER: And trying to cope with a foreign country and the differentcustoms, different diet, different way of life, it was a big, big challenge--incredible big challenge. But I'm glad I did it.
WILSON: What did you for recreation?00:31:00
WINTHER: What do you do in India? I mean Jack if you had no heat inyour house and you're in north India in wintertime you go to bed at about 7:30 and just try to stay warm. We had radios, we had short wave radios. I didn't use the radio that much because I was traveling so much, and then no it was pretty non-existent. The only time the volunteers had any kind of recreation at all that was considered to be proper in the eyes of Indian people was when they went to Delhi and they could go to a bar maybe find I don't know find some women together something like that. But you can't do that in the villages, you just can't. And you're suspect anyway because all the taxed males 20-21 years old not married, that's very suspicious, very suspicious indeed. And you had the caste system where you can't look at some women and they can't look at you. And even Punjab is fairly modern it still is 00:32:00very, very Indian. So it was lonely, extremely lonely.
WILSON: Did you travel?
WINTHER: I traveled all the time because of my job. The second year no,not so much.
WILSON: And how did you travel? What were your means?
WINTHER: Oh we hitchhiked! It was wonderful. We hitchhiked and at thattime it was so easy. All you do is put your finger out or hand out and somebody's going to stop because they ----------(??) foreigners and Americans and they just love us. I mean Indian people are so hospitable to all of us. And we would travel third class in Indian trains. We'd sleep; oh we'd sleep on platforms. I mean we were, it was wonderful. We had no property, we had very little money, and we got by very, very well when we traveled. And we met some really, really, I met some really fascinating people on trains. And they would, volunteers would take us home and live with them for heaven's sake because we were foreigners. And so in one way Indian people are so nice to us, but the people a little more politically astute they 00:33:00were very suspicious of Peace Corps people. And then you had the bureaucrats who didn't know what we were doing there. So we got a whole, we got a wide range of experiences. And but it's a tough place I think for single, not so much for married people. Married people would be accepted more so than single males.
WILSON: But your group with one exception was all single?
WINTHER: And that couple was in a different location fairly far southso you never saw them. And so I think they were accepted a little more in Indian society than we were. We were never invited out. Mostly we were never really invited out, but there again it tends if you were in a city or if you were in a rural area. No it's not easy and so different. But like I, it's a real motivator to go over and you get used to it after a while Jack, you just you were traumatized and you don't realize how Indian you become. But what's really hard is coming back; that's tough. 00:34:00
WILSON: Yeah you were starting to talk about that and I took you back.
WINTHER: Oh I'm just rambling. I mean you get me started I'll veeroff here.
WILSON: But tell me about that.
WINTHER: Coming back?
WINTHER: It was horrible.
WILSON: In what ways?
WINTHER: Absolutely horrible. I felt totally strange from everything,totally because I had been exposed to lots of poverty, very, very few material possessions. And I didn't realize how much of India I had become a part of or I should say how much India in some insidious way had insinuated itself upon me mentally. And I didn't realize that my gosh I'm seeing the world through my colleagues' eyes, my Indian compatriots, my fellow woodworkers. And when I got, I went to Thailand. I had a break; I was able to go to Thailand. That was okay 00:35:00and I can remember I was in a couple of bars in Thailand. There were a lot of American, that's when of our military presence in Thailand was becoming very big. And they were talking about war.
WILSON: This would have been '63?
WINTHER: '63, early part of '63 and they were talking about bombing andblah, blah, blah. And I remember getting very, very--I was just turned off by that and I began to realize that my attitude, my naivete like going into the Navy--you can be a naval pilot. If I had gone I would probably be talking just like these people and not really thinking twice about bombing peasants, the very kind of people that I was working with, only in India. And it really made me begin to, it made me really begin to see myself and see my background and see my country in a different light with a much more critical eye. And that I can remember when I came, one of the things I remember coming back and my 00:36:00mother said she was glad I didn't get into the Navy because I would have gone to Vietnam; I would never have come back. Two of my friends were killed in Vietnam; they were naval pilots--never came back. And when I came back I can remember I thought to myself, "I can't become a naval pilot." I could have gone into the Navy; I was still eligible for that. I said, "I can't do this because I know that some day I might be in a situation where I might be taking a life again of the same kinds of people, innocent people with whom I worked." They were not Vietnamese but they were Indians. And I think that made me really, really think as to what my government and all governments are doing. In other words I became really more sophisticated about politics I think.
WINTHER: It was--Oh and when I came back, that's political. Anotherthing I remember coming back and I had such a hard time getting used 00:37:00to being with my parents and seeing all this, all these healthy kids, these blonde haired plump kids and all the wealth of Denmark and all the stuff in western Europe. I just couldn't take it. I just, oh I had to get away. I just had to get away. And then when I came back to New York I tried to get a job on a ship again. I finally I couldn't do that. And then I came back and I can remember coming to--
WILSON: Oh you mean tried to get a job in a Europe?
WINTHER: In Amsterdam, yeah, working my way back because I liked workingon ships. And then when I came back to New York I can remember it was a Sunday afternoon and I didn't want to call my parents. I said I'd call them when I get to the airport. And I can remember getting off at the Kennedy Airport, at that time it was John F. Kennedy. And I can remember seeing everybody, everything was fat. Everything was fat! There were fat cars, there were fat sandwiches, there were fat people; even the skinny people were fat. And I felt so, so, so estranged, the same kind of estrangement when I felt when the first time I'd gone 00:38:00overseas when I was 14 years old. I didn't want to come back. And I said, "My gosh, I'm going to have a real hard time." And I came home, my mom and dad were so happy I came home. And they can talk to me for a while. My mom and I had a lot in common so she can relate to some of the things. But then most of the other people I'm sure you had the same kind of feeling. Most other people say, "Oh! You've been overseas? Well tell me about it." And after a certain couple of minutes they can't relate to this. And I had no other volunteers to talk to because all the others were still traveling around the world. So then I went back to Michigan State and I went on for my master's degree. And then as I told you my good friend with whom I'd been corresponding in Liberia, Lee, he had had--He was the only person I could really talk to when I came back. And I said, "Lee, I don't think I'm going to be able to--I'm not going to be able to live here in anymore. Just I can't do it." I can't explain the feeling. It was just a feeling of foreignness; it was dissonance. And if I hadn't happened to talk 00:39:00to him I don't know what I would have done. He says, "I have the same feeling and I'm working my way through it." So I guess it's an experience a lot of volunteers, I wasn't unique I think, had when they first came back and they really had no creative outlook to talk about their experiences, like they were talking to a blank wall even though the blank wall was made out of people. And I've never had that feeling--I've been back to India several times but now I know what I might feel, so I've matured. Although India was, I hope I did a little bit of good. I hope I was able to convince people that all Americans aren't the same, that we do have some positive viewpoints, American society has many, many good points. It must be because a lot of them came to India, but also to adjust. I was never the same after I came back, never. I wasn't that sophisticated but I was not as naive as I was before, especially about politics. And not only that Jack when I was in India, before I left India, before I left for India I remember 00:40:00looking for a job; I was interviewing with--The CIA interviewed me in 1960. I was--Wow, becoming a spy? And the reason why they said they wouldn't go through with this because they said I had relatives living in Denmark and the job I might be doing eventually might put them in danger, because this was the height of the Cold War. And so I forgot about them. They contacted my, they contacted me when I was in India. They contacted my family; they wrote my family. They wrote me a letter and they called my home and they said, "We want to talk to you when you come back from India," and they weren't supposed to do that, but they did it. And then when I came back from India I couldn't, I just could not do this. I could not work for this organization which might in some small way put the people whom I came to respect who had nothing in some kind of danger. In other words I think in some ways I became although I might have been, I had a proclivity. I became a citizen of the world. I'm honored to be an American citizen; I 00:41:00appreciate the society. But I feel very much at home in many other places. I'm not just talking about the material possessions other places might have or not have. I'm just talking about that we're all the same; we're all molded by our particular experiences. And just by accident I happened to be born here. These people were born in one society, very different but I can't hate them; I just can't. And I think it's a tolerance towards the--I don't know what it is. It just is a feeling I have. I just can't shake it. And I think I was, I came from an environment which kind of encouraged that. And my parents, they were very conservative in some ways, but my mother always told me that who made your friends the same way--You remember your parents for some things they stood for. My father said a long time ago to always think for yourself; don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Always think for yourself and he did it. And he struggled in the 00:42:00United States and he succeeded. My mother said, "Always, always try to understand the other person's perspective." Those two thoughts I think molded me when I was a young kid. And those two thoughts plus their encouraging me to go out and see things, that led me to go to India and I still have those things. And in a sense I owe what I am right now to the Peace Corps, to my wife, to my parents, a lot of other kinds of things. I owe it to the people whom I lived with in India. And in India the people hated me, so it's--That's it. And that's, and I think about India all the time. I think about my Peace Corps experience all the time. I don't necessarily talk about it; I'm surprised I'm talking to you about it but I trust you. But no it's--
WILSON: So but you went back to Michigan State to begin some graduatework?
WINTHER: Yeah, got a master's degree. And I got a fellowship.00:43:00
WILSON: In what?
WINTHER: That was in, got a master's in sociology. And then I wasgoing to, I wanted to go on for a PhD, but then I got a real, real nice fellowship from Cornell University, really, really handsome fellowship and for Indian studies in anthropology. And I was a finalist for the Ford Foundation Foreign Areas Training Fellowship, and this is from a kid who was--My high school class had 980 people in it. I graduated; I was 930th in my class. I was an idiot; I hated high school. I wanted to drop out of high school and just travel and just do something. I couldn't stand it. But something happened to me when I was in Michigan State, just got turned on by that and I blossomed. And so I overcame my whatever it might be and I was given opportunities in the 1960s and late '50s, 1960s and I'm really happy I had that. And I think I will always be homed to anything or anybody who did that for me. I think 00:44:00we all had a lot of opportunities in the 1960s; we really did. I don't know if those opportunities exist right now, but you had to be of a certain kind of personality to take advantage of them as well.
WILSON: So tell me something about the Cornell experience and the Indianstudies and--
WINTHER: I was looking to do a fellowship and I realized when I wasat Cornell, "What in the world am I doing here?" because I was still in India.
WINTHER: Yeah, oh and the competition, the cut-throatness, and thestupidity of some of the--Oh man alive. And it was just a total--I don't see how I got through Cornell; I don't. My mind was elsewhere. I got through it, but how I got through it I don't know. I wanted to--I wanted to do things, I wanted to write, I wanted to study, but oh it was a horrible experience--horrible experience. And the people--I had some contact with Tibetan students there, so it was the graduate school--Any graduate school especially Cornell was really, it was tough. 00:45:00Mentally it was tough, not because the studies were hard it was just my psychology. And in many times in my classes I would be learning this kinship stuff and it's, "My god, what am I doing this for?" I mean I was living with people who are starving. That's life, not this. It was all of these artificial--And then not only that, then you began to have the civil rights agitation and you had the anti-war in 1964. And I can remember students from Cornell who were, they came from pretty privileged backgrounds, very, very wealthy kids. They were anti-war, very anti-war. And the kids from Ithaca College, which is a working class school, they were very pro-war. And they would literally have fights in downtown Ithaca. And I can remember I wouldn't participate in anything because I guess I come from the working class and yet--
WILSON: Side two of oral history project interview with Paul Winther.Paul, you were talking about Cornell and-- 00:46:00
WINTHER: Surreal experience.
WILSON: That was, that would have been '64 or '65?
WINTHER: '64 to '67.
WILSON: '64 to '67.
WINTHER: And that's when the civil rights agitation at Cornell and alsotoo the anti-war stuff. And it was all very surreal if you were trying to study. And again I couldn't, I was just so--I don't think I had a date. Like I did have a date but that was the worst experience of my life. Even though I had a wonderful fellowship; my gosh I was so lucky. I was learning from very, very well known teachers who were lousy teachers, well known scholars but lousy teachers. And also one of the things that saved me Jack was that I didn't have to teach. I volunteered to become a teaching assistant and was able to talk to the young people. And like that was about the nicest thing about Cornell. I was able to do that; I didn't have to but I wanted to do that. 00:47:00And so it's just the--It was confusing. Again it was the legacy of being in India and seeing my mind was there; my mind was someplace else. And yet I was very much anti-war. And the friends with whom I grew up were very pro-war, and yet I couldn't dislike anybody because then I realized that all of us, you and I and everybody were molded by politicians and patriotism essentially being utilized by bad people to do bad things. And that was--I was studying anthropology but I was really thinking about political ideology. And I was thinking about how susceptible human beings are to fear and being manipulated by the mass media but I was studying anthropology and we weren't studying that. And that was interesting and then I educated myself after I got out of college with politics and things such as that. 00:48:00
WILSON: So you--?
WINTHER: Got my PhD.
WILSON: Got your PhD at Cornell?
WINTHER: I had my--I got a job but first I went back to India. I wentback to India for my dissertation.
WILSON: Yeah talk about that.
WINTHER: Oh that was fascinating stuff. I wanted to, I had the NationalScience Foundation grant and another, two other fellowships. And the, my advisor made a mistake. He was very naive, very well known man but he was very naive. And I had worked in the Himalayas. The one summer I was building mountaineering camps way up in the Himalayas.
WINTHER: Summers in India. They'd give us a break and so we would do--
WILSON: Oh from Peace Corps? Yeah.
WINTHER: Building mountaineering camps to get us away from the heat ofIndia, excuse me. And the first time I went there it was 1962. There were thousands of Tibetan refugees from Tibet who were encamped in a place called Manali, it's a valley, a very remote valley. And that 00:49:00was wonderful. Oh just wonderful and we were in beautiful terrain, way out, way, way, way up in the mountains. And so remote we built these mountaineering camps and I said, "Gee, I would like to come back when I get back to India, when I get back from the United States." My dissertation topic, I told my advisor, my main advisor, that I would like to go back to the Himalayas and if possible study the Tibetan refugees who had been settled in this valley and do a study of reciprocal enculturation how Indian life has affected their culture and how their culture has affected local Indian life. He said fine and so I applied for a research grant; I got it, very nice. And I was supposed to go back for at least two years and then they sent me down. I would have to learn Tibetan and Tibetan is a very difficult language to learn, very difficult. And there's no Tibetan classes in the United States. At that time an anthropology professor at University 00:50:00of Arizona in Tucson wanted to do some work in the Himalayas. And what he had done was to get some Tibetan students; he had brought them over from India in Hill Station. And they had a prototype for a Tibetan language course, and so I was a guinea pig for that. And I went down to that one summer and I began to learn the constant clusters of Tibetan beginning rudiments of that language because I had to be able to speak it when I went back. And so I did that, made some nice friends. And then I went to California to a friend's wedding and I had already applied for a visa to go back. And then oh I found out that my visa had been denied.
WILSON: Oh from India?
WINTHER: And I found out later that the regulations had changed. Allthe VISAs went to the Minister of Education. And he had to pass, he 00:51:00passed judgment as to whether or not you got in or not. Before that everything had been pretty, pretty easy for an American to get into India. And the reason why, that because there was a heavy Marxist leaning administration in India even though Nehru was Prime Minster- -And the Minster of Education in Delhi was a member of the Communist Party. And so when he looked at my application that said I want to go to the Himalayas and study Tibetans and at that time there's always been a border dispute between India and China as to who owns that part of the Kashmir in places such as this. And they were fighting a small scale war up there. And so here I am an American guy wants to study supposedly anthropology in the boondocks of the Himalayas very close to the border where they're fighting the war, and I'm American. No way, no way they would allow that. And then I found out later too that the CIA had been dropping supplies to Tibetan rebels on the other side of 00:52:00India without the Indian government knowing about it. So my advisor and myself made a real bad mistake in any case. So I waited a year, I waited a year! And I got so discouraged. I put my application in to go to study overseas, Indians who lived in South America or what's British Guyana? Totally innocuous, I had no idea what I was going to do. But I said, "I'm going to do enough to study in India." So I made an application also and then this is going to be a study of changing village life due to urban contact, totally innocuous. And I thought I'd go back in January. Finally and I still, I worked in bridge construction too for six months. I lived on the beach in Florida; I was waiting for that lousy visa to come in. And I sold sweaters in department stores, and I was just biding my time. I had no--
WILSON: When was that?
WINTHER: This was 1960--After I got my qualifying, this was in 1967.00:53:00No, 1966. I waited a year to go back. And then I realized, "My gosh, I might not be able to get my degree because I can't go back." And it was very discouraging but I helped build a bridge. If you go to Florida you're driving over the bridges I helped build. I was living on the beach; it was wonderful. I could have gotten a job at a maritime construction company, be wealthy now. But I still wanted to go back and finally I got the visa and so I went back to India and I said, "I don't want to go to Punjab; I want to go someplace where not too many people have been before." So then I went down to Central India or North Central India a place called Madhya Pradesh. And a town called, a city called Gwialor and this is the site, this is the place where it used to be a Maharaja's domain. So I just picked out a village place was called ----------(??) something whatever, and I went into the village and I was going to do a study of what has changed in this village regarding kinship and social structure because of the intrusion 00:54:00or because of urban contact. And there's some hypothesis I was going to study, so I started doing that. And then and I was getting pretty acclimatized; people were a little bit suspicious of me especially since I was a single male. But no I made all the right overtures. You go see the, I was living with the starta punch--the head man of the village. And I had done all the things that anthropology had to do to make contact with people to begin to establish some rapport. And they would help me learn their village dialect and so forth and so forth. And I thought things were going along very well. But then there were some things that were taking place in the village I couldn't account for. Why is this faction splitting up? Or why is this land being sold? As far as the politics concerned, the local politics the composition was changing and I couldn't account for that. And so then I began to realize that the changes, serious changes taking place in the village were due to kidnappings. And then I found out that I was living in an 00:55:00area that's very dangerous. That area has been since the 12th century has been people who are called the dacoits. And these the dacoits are Rajputs and other castes who think it's honorable to kill people, to kidnap people, and to do all these other kinds of things because they are Rjputs. They're born to rule and they're born to be warriors. And so I realize that then that I was in an area that was very, very traditional, very old fashioned and supposedly very, very dangerous. And then I realized that I knew why the people there, because I had a motorcycle and I was going back and forth between Gwialor, which is about 15 miles away and the village. And they were saying, "Don't travel at night Mr. Paul, don't travel at night Mr. Paul. Whatever you do, don't do that." And I said, "What are you talking about? Da da da--" But anyways they were concerned about my safety because they were responsible for me because I was a village son. And lots 00:56:00of gangs and so three people in my village were kidnapped. And one person was killed; the other people were returned because the ransom was a pig. But those kidnappers Jack, they're the things that really changed the social composition, the economic alignments within their village. Kidnapping is a wonderful way by means you can redistribute resources. Then they realized castes, various castes had these gangs. And I said, "My gosh, this is a fascinating topic." We're talking about bandits who really are not bandits. They consider themselves to be Bagis; Bagis are rebels against injustice. Now their injustice is the fact that they are no longer Rajput Princes and Princesses. And so they're trying to recapture the old way of life and try to recapture it by acting out these kinds of things. And so it was a fascinating, fascinating topic. So I began to study that and I really got caught up in that, and I never had any problems traveling because I talked to some people and I knew that these people were suppliers of 00:57:00various kinds of gangs. So in a sense I had, I played all my options correctly. If they had kidnapped me then the police would have had to do something about it because the police are tied up in this as well. So this is a very, very complex, incredibly complex very Indian and very, very old tradition I was in. So I studied that. I didn't want to come home because I had just started that and then I got hepatitis. And I remember I had to come home because first of all my money had been cut off from Cornell because my instructor had left because of student riots and so forth, but I couldn't stand up any longer. And so I went to Delhi and I was so lucky I had a family whose husband worked for AID and I would go there and I would stay with them when I came to Delhi once and a while. The last time I came I was bright yellow, putrid yellow. And the people were very concerned about my 00:58:00health. And so I said well I'm going to take my stuff and just try to get well fairly soon. I didn't know I had hepatitis; I wasn't eating anything--nothing. And I went to Delhi and my guest whose name was Rahi, she said, "Paul, I think you should go see somebody." And so I went to a physiologist. She was an Indian lady and she took my blood and she called me and said, "Mr. Paul, look at this." I said, "What am I looking at?" "You should be dead." And then that night I thought she was joking but she wasn't. My bad blood count was very, very high and I was sick; I really was sick. That night oh Rahi we had a bottle of beer and I think we had hamburgers and French fries--fantastic! Oh fantastic, even though I couldn't eat I was able to get that down. That night within two hours I sat on the throne all night long just 00:59:00defecating water. The next morning I couldn't move and so she took me to the hospital and I was in the hospital for about three months, so I almost didn't make it.
WINTHER: I was under 117 pounds.
WILSON: In India?
WINTHER: This was in India; this was in Delhi. I didn't tell my motherand father about it, but I didn't want to come home. I wanted to go back and do that study because it's fascinating. No one's ever done it before. And so I came home and then I went back and I had to write my dissertation. At that time they had some very, very well known English professors there and so I asked if they could possibly give me some money so I could go back to India to continue this study because it's unique. And they would have nothing to do with it. And so I did my dissertation on this but it was only a preliminary study. In 1975 when I went back I tried to do that study again but then Indira Gandhi declared an emergency and so that area was totally closed off to me. 01:00:00But that's my village experience, but I met some really nice people in the village. A lot of them were crooks; they were thieves, they were murderers. I didn't realize that.
WILSON: So you got your PhD and--?
WINTHER: I got my--I wrote my dissertation while I was teaching at Duke.
WILSON: Oh so you got a job at?
WINTHER: A good university for two years, and their department is very,very small and they had two people who were India experts. And so I didn't know how long I would be able to stay at Duke.
WILSON: So that's '68?
WINTHER: That was '70-'72 I think.
WILSON: Oh okay.
WINTHER: I got back something like that. And I liked Duke because theyhave a wonderful, wonderful library; department not so good. Then I got, I married a girl and I wanted to stay in North Carolina. I was offered a job at Davidson College in the South Asia program. I was offered a job at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which was just building their program. They have a fantastic program 01:01:00now. And I was offered a job at McGill University in Canada. And I didn't want to come to Kentucky. Kentucky? They even have running water in Kentucky? But she got a--When I married this girl she was born in Louisville and she moved to Milwaukee and then she wanted to come back. So we were married. You might know her; I don't want to tell her name. She went and interviewed at University of Kentucky in the science department and she got the job. And so I said, "Well what am I going to do?" And so I applied to a university, I applied to a couple universities here and EKU interviewed me and they hired me. So I came to Kentucky very, very reluctantly.
WILSON: In the early '70s?
WINTHER: This is 1972. And then we only--The marriage lasted for oneyear after that, then I was divorced and I didn't know what I was going to do. I wanted to leave. And at that time too there was very, very 01:02:00few jobs for--maybe the market was flooded and also they were hiring minorities--men and women and also minorities. And so there were very, very few jobs for a specialty such as mine. And so I stuck it and then I went back to New York a couple of times, summers, and I said, "I think I'm going to drop out of academia. I don't want to--I'm just going to drop out. I don't want to be here anymore." Not in Kentucky and not in the United States; I just didn't know what to do Jack, I just didn't know what to do. Then I happened to meet a young woman, my present wife, and was going to marry her. I married her two months after I met her. As soon as I met her I said I was going to marry her.
WILSON: Here in Kentucky?
WINTHER: No, I met her in New York. She's French and so then she cameand she's been with me since 1974 in Kentucky. And she is really the only thing that means anything to me, really. She, if it wasn't for her I don't think I'd be here. I don't know where I'd be; I don't think 01:03:00I'd be here though. But my, so I've gone back to India several times, seen the parts of the world. But the Peace Corps was very frustrating, very hard, left you with all kinds of emotions but an experience that I'm absolutely grateful I had. And how much I contributed I don't know, but it sure changed my mind. I just hope in some small way that my students or people I know or maybe my involvement or lack of involvement in politics that can make some kind of contribution, but it all goes back to that. It all goes back to my mother saying, "Try to understand where other people are coming from." And I did it with Indians and I do it now. And I think that more people like you and me we should be in high ranking positions in government where you can tell what foreign policy should be like because I think a lot of people don't know this, and I think we're killing our nation because of that. 01:04:00But that's--But I'm not wealthy and I can't become a politician so--
WILSON: Are you still in contact with anybody from your Peace Corps dayseither volunteers or Indians?
WINTHER: Yes, yes. Not so much Indians. I, the fellow with whom Iworked in India doing the industry, he went back to Punjab and did his dissertation on it. But he's in contact. I didn't think I could go back and face them because I felt like I betrayed them. They had trusted us and I just felt as I had failed. And Steve, my colleague, doesn't feel that way. He says, "Well you don't have to feel that way." Now two of the guys have died since then of various diseases; only one's alive.
WILSON: The Indian entrepreneurs or carpenters?
WINTHER: Yeah, I thought I had a great feeling of--I felt as though weshould have stayed there for at least five years. Then we could have really made this thing go on. And what made me feel guilty, Jack is that I can come back to all this. You know that? What right do I have 01:05:00to come back to all this and allow those people? They trusted us! And I'm sure there are a lot of people in my village who didn't trust us. You're working with these CIA agents, working with these people; they took a chance to work with us and I feel as though we betrayed them. Now my colleague says no, don't feel that way; I just can't get over that though. So he stayed in contact with the people who were alive; I didn't. No and also it's just I'm ashamed to go back because we did not succeed in what we were doing. It's a strange feeling.
WILSON: Do you anticipate going back to India again?
WINTHER: I've been back to India several times for conferences andthings such as this. One thing I know now about India it's changed so much; you have a middle class now. But also too so many of the cities are much more polluted, much more congested than they were before 01:06:00and not because people have lost the ability to till their own land. Now they're all congregating in cities in such a big problem. No I don't--The challenge for me is not to go back to India; the challenge is here somehow. I don't know what it is. No, if I go back it will be because, it will be to do some more research. I would love to be able to go back and be the multi-disciplinary attempt with Indian scholars to really analyze this thing called ----------(??) this ----------(??) going on in this area since the 12th century. It's fascinating, but that would be very political. In fact when I was doing my work after I left somebody in Madhyra Pradesh state legislature, "Who's this guy studying this thing?" because I had a lot of data that can get a lot of people in trouble because the police are involved with this. It's funny, it's a very Indian institution yet you have veneer of western ideas, of notions of good or bad of crime; it was very Indian. It's 01:07:00very different, very, very different.
WILSON: Have you traveled other places?
WINTHER: Oh sure. Oh--
WINTHER: I mean I was in high school we went to North Africa, all aroundEurope.
WILSON: But I mean like Peace Corps and during your academic career?
WINTHER: Oh yeah back in India, yeah several times back in India andEurope and then--
WILSON: Oh your wife is French?
WINTHER: She was born in Africa; she was born in Algeria.
WILSON: Oh okay.
WINTHER: But a French citizen, and then when the Algerians gained theirindependence they lost all their wealth and they came to India or they came to France. Now her, she was the only one who broke away. She said she didn't really feel at home in France and so she came to New York in 1967. She left Algeria in 1961 and so she speaks with a French accent but she's an American citizen. But all her people back there, they're all French, very French, very, very French, very much so. I've talked your ear off.
WILSON: No that's alright. You may have responded to this in some other01:08:00ways but let me ask it anyway, what would you in summary, how has or what has the impact of Peace Corps service been on the way you think about the world?
WINTHER: Oh, we're all brothers and sisters. I mean it sounds likea cliche but it's true; we are all brothers and sisters. You cut anybody's finger they bleed red blood, they do. And to me, and here's the anthropological training kicking in, it's our culture, our traditions have molded our consciousness, molded it. And just by luck you and I, even though we have white skins, we don't behave and act like any Indian in some small village, poor, poor village. We're all the same. Culture molds it. Yeah there are some physical differences, but they're very, very superficial--skin color, maybe some genetic difference, that's it. But people are all the same, past and present. 01:09:00That has not changed. And this is why any place I go I don't think, gosh, the second year I was this--When I went my dissertation work I purposely got to know radicals, communists, Naxalites; they're all over the place. Now in India you have lots of political parties, and I remember I deliberately made an attempt to get to know some people who were very antagonistic to the United States because I say I am not going to be hated because I'm an American. I will be hated because of my personality characteristics, but I don't like this idea that ideology will divide people and they can kill each other. I don't like it; I hate it. And so I made an attempt and by gosh I was able to say that I'm an American, this is what Americans do, don't believe all the propaganda. You can believe what you want but don't realize that all people they're not, we're not all the same. And so that was a challenge for me, and I think I made an impression upon these people. It's so easy for people to categorize other people with these labels 01:10:00and you kill them. This is scaring my; it's so scary. We do it, everybody can do that; we're no different. Just because we have lots of technology doesn't mean we're more advanced. We think just like our ancestors think a long time ago. That's not changed. We're all subjected to fear and ignorance, all of us. And that's one thing that Peace Corps I think I leaned toward that, but the Peace Corps was one way which it became more crystallized in my consciousness. And that's why I'm indebted to the Peace Corps. So there again I had this feeling that I benefitted an awful lot intellectually and emotionally from the Peace Corps but I really feel good because I could not have done more for the people I was supposed to help.
WILSON: What do you think the role of the Peace Corps ought to be today?
WINTHER: To me?
WINTHER: I think to me I'm just a part of the '60s. I think I admirethese people like you and your wife who probably know where you taught these people English, not so much taught them to become entrepreneurs 01:11:00or become locked into the global economy and things. I guess that's important. But to me the Peace Corps volunteer, male or female, black or white, that's a person who might be able to at a very, very local level be able to help people who have no water to have clean water. Not so much developing infrastructure and in other words to help these people become educated and divorced I think from some kind of larger political ideology, which I think in some ways that Peace Corps at times has become like an agent of American propaganda or whatever kind of propaganda. I would like to see the Peace Corps if possible be divorced from that. I don't think it can though. Again I've very little contact with the Peace Corps since then. I guess I'm very idealistic but I think that in the '60s maybe a part of the '70s that's where a lot of us I think I know a lot--That's what my people did. I'm 01:12:00sure the people in your group they were educating people how to use the basic tools, and now I find that Peace Corps is sending people over I don't know to help globalization become a reality. I want to help people become independent of globalization. I don't think it's--It doesn't please me to find a Peace Corps volunteer showing these people how to grow one crop and they make money from the crop, but the crop, the profits of the crop depends upon events that are taking place in some markets some place around the world. They are very dependent. And so I'd like to help people become independent of all these outside forces which can be very, very detrimental. So in other words to have people, help people become functioning individuals beyond I guess that thing called globalization. To me globalization may not be capitalism; 01:13:00that's all it is. And that goes back to the reading I did after I was in Peace Corps. And I find that for me when I meet Peace Corps volunteers they're very much into globalization, this kind of thing. Well all it is, is you're spreading that mentality around the world. And I can empathize; I can actually empathize with the people in Iraq who are called insurgents. I really can. I talked to some Muslims when I was in India, now they were nice people and they were very, very suspicious of Hindus because of what the Hindus had done for them, done to them in India. And so in a sense I can see where the other person is coming from, and I don't, and I feel as though if we could have--If we could be a little more wise in how we handle who voice discontent toward us maybe we wouldn't have these kinds of mistakes going on. Nobody is born hateful; we're taught to be hateful. And that's the 01:14:00thing, that's my thing. We're molded by our experiences and after a certain time we're pretty much locked into them. It's nice to have these wonderful black and white beliefs, black and white beliefs. I'm sure these radical Muslims have it. I know they have it. I'm sure some Americans have it, but that's, no the extremes on both sides I can't take.
WILSON: If I can, and that's all the sort of structured kind ofquestions that I got. What have I missed that you would like to talk about? You have a story or anything particular from your experience that you'd like to share?
WINTHER: I've got so many of them. And I would really have to think anawful lot. Oh sometimes I feel like saying, "Well I wish I could do it all over again," but I wouldn't want to do it over again. Now I don't 01:15:00know, there's only thing, no yes there is. It goes back to my mother and my father and when they said this I don't know. To put yourself in a position, I would encourage all my students to do the same thing. In some ways I want to do this is try to make them stand up for what they believe in and never be afraid to be different. And also from my mother's viewpoint is always try to understand the other person's perspective. Now she was talking about the people around me, but I say get to know your enemy because if you get to know you're enemy, you're going to find out that that person might not be your enemy. And the thing that really, really, really just boggled my mind all these lives lost and all the wars that we had fought, all nations had fought, now we're good friends with all these people. We were killing people, we killed each other in World War II and Japanese, now we're good friends. It's amazing why some people can't just say to hell with war, 01:16:00nonsense. Because in one generation or two generations we're going to be good trading buddies, and so it makes me really suspicious of the things that we do around the world. Not just Americans, everybody, all governments I think should be highly, highly suspect. Absolutely, power, corruption, absolutely power corrupts absolutely and we're no more, we're not any freer now. We're a lot more captured by the media. We're more, much more affected right now. And the best book ever written was a book by Etienne La Bouteille. He was a French aristocrat writing in the 1500s, small book; it's a classic and it's called The Politics of Obedience: Involuntary Servitude. He's talk--He's an aristocrat; he's a very rich French aristocrat and he's talking about how the peasants allowed him to sell them back by us. And the peasants ever realized that, they would get rid of everything. And this is true right now too. And that was written, he lost--He died at a very early 01:17:00age and was brilliant. That was one of the seminal books I read after graduate school plus all the books, all the Stephan Marx and Karl Marx. I got that after that, and so I got that education in anthropology but then I get education in life called politics. If I think our forefathers now would be really be appalled by the kind of things that has happened in the United States because America back when we became America was a nation of small entrepreneurs where little people have a chance. And I'm not too sure if the little people have chances anymore. Again this is, it gets tied into the I guess the political awareness that the Peace Corps experience gave me. But I guess the Peace Corps metaphorically like experience of pouring water on a plant that had not really blossomed yet; it had not really grown. And then after I came back thinking about my experiences and becoming educated, 01:18:00living in Kentucky, talking to students, talking to nice people, nice young people. That plant has kind of grown into a tree right now and I have some firm beliefs. And the firm belief I have is take everything a politician says to you with a great deal of salt. And full patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. That's true for the Soviets; that's true for Americans; that's true for everybody. And no become, think for yourself. That's it.
WILSON: So you have taught at EKU?
WINTHER: I taught at Cornell, I taught at Cornell as an assistant then Itaught at Duke for two years. And then I've been here since 1974, yeah '72 or '74 at EKU. I taught part time for a while at UK. That was too much for me.
WILSON: And what do you teach at--?01:19:00
WINTHER: I teach anthropology.
WILSON: At EKU?
WINTHER: Yeah, and upper division courses, lower division courses,theory, kinship. And then beginning anthropology courses and once and a while if I have a chance I do a course in South Asia.
WILSON: Okay let me go back.
WINTHER: I did a lot of research too.
WILSON: Let me go way back to one other thing because you identifiedit as a sensitive subject at the time and so if you don't want to talk about this say so. But you made reference to the fact that you had interviewed with the CIA or something before you went.
WINTHER: Yes, yes.
WILSON: Tell me a little bit more about that if you're comfortable doingit.
WINTHER: Sure, this is I think it was 1960. It was just after I wasgetting my B.A. Again I was, oh wow cloak and dagger and this is romantic stuff. You know this is before the Vietnam War and wow I 01:20:00just was intrigued by that, and so I interviewed. I interviewed other organizations too, not government.
WILSON: But this is the same time you were talking about joining theNavy?
WINTHER: Yeah, and I guess I had attributes; I had been overseasbefore, I had some language facility in Russian and other kinds of things. And I guess and I did have some foreign contacts, so I guess I was--And I was a good student. I blossomed; I really blossomed. And I was a finalist for the Fellow Foundation for an idiot like me, my gosh, fantastic. And so they knew I had perhaps some potential and I was interested. And I didn't know what I would be doing. Again my impression was kind of with a trench coat and totally, totally stupid of me. It's not like that at all. You probably really, really wore on in work, but then yeah I was intrigued. I was really intrigued, but I was looking for everything. And I was, oh I wanted to become a naval 01:21:00pilot. I don't know if I would have met it, if I would have become one, so it was very--I was very naive Jack.
WILSON: Was there?
WINTHER: My cousin who I never really saw him that much, he was a navalpilot. He was a marine pilot in Korea and I admired him and so in some way I think he indirectly encouraged that. I'd love to fly overseas.
WILSON: But did the CIA contact you during your Peace Corps service orand what did they--?
WINTHER: They had, they sent me a letter, they called, and also theysent me a letter at home. And my mother wrote and said, "There's a letter waiting for you from the CIA," because she had actually I told her to open up my mail and it was from the CIA. And I don't know how they, and I said that's kind of strange but I think they're not supposed to contact me. But I don't think that I was unusual. I think the CIA during those years contacted a lot of people.
WILSON: But they did not contact you in India?
WINTHER: No, no. Maybe if I had responded to that letter before I hadleft they might have done it because they have CIA operatives in India 01:22:00with the Embassy. I'm sure of that.
WILSON: And what was the nature of that letter? Do you recall?
WINTHER: It was just if you are still interested, we are interested intalking to you. Will you come back?
WILSON: I see. Okay and--
WINTHER: And the same thing with the telephone call, but then when Icame back I couldn't. I didn't want to do it.
WILSON: You didn't contact them and they didn't contact you again?
WINTHER: No, and my mind was--My mentality changed and also too I hada chance to go to graduate school. And oh I think after I got out of graduate school I think I contacted them. Wow, I would have been a prime candidate. But I just couldn't Jack, my no--And also too the war, that changed a lot of people's ideas and I just couldn't. I know that all countries have to have someone like that but I didn't think I wanted to partake in that.
WILSON: Okay, well I just wanted to clarify that.
WINTHER: But I know that there was one other person in my group thatwas contacted by the CIA also. I won't tell you his name. And I think that some of my colleagues, a lot of them work for the AID, but I 01:23:00wouldn't be surprised if some of them, in fact yeah I'm almost positive at least one or two have worked at the CIA as well. But that's life.
WILSON: Anything else you want to share?
WINTHER: No, no.
WILSON: Well thank you for your time.
WINTHER: You didn't ask any embarrassing questions.
[End of interview.]