Redfield wrote in 1955 about his own experience doing research in Latin America on peasants. As he did research, he realized he had been trained to treat the society as an isolated culture. However, he found people were involved with trade, and there were connections between villages and states. More than that, the village culture was not bounded. Beliefs and practices were not isolated. Redfield realized it did not make sense to study people as isolated units, but rather it would be better to understand a broader perspective. Traditionally, anthropologists studied folk ways in the "little tradition", taking into account broader civilization, the "great tradition".
Redfield and his wife Margaret are the parents of James M. Redfield, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago.
The papers of Robert Redfield and Margaret Redfield are located at the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.