“Histories of Anthropology: Transforming Knowledge and Power” was a two-day conference held at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, on 18–19 September 2017. Papers ranged widely in geographical scope, in their methodological approach, and in their focus on different anthropological subfields. This report analyses submitted abstracts to give a suggestion about the state of the field and summarizes the contributions of each of the speakers made in their presentations. Continue reading
At the American Anthropological Association Meeting in 2017, Sydel Silverman humbly asked Janet Steins, a HAN bibliography editor, if her 2002 book The Beast on the Table: Conferencing with Anthropologists could be included in our publication’s ever-evolving online bibliography. Because our cutoff date for publications is 2013 or later, we were forced to decline. Fortunately, Silverman’s inquiry kicked off lengthy discussions among the HAN editorial collective concerning how we might bring the attention of our readers to important, provocative, and influential texts published at any time in the past which have generated discussions and new lines of thought for researchers and others interested in the history of anthropology. The recent and unfortunate passing of Silverman in March 2019 spurred these discussions and our desire to devise ways of better accounting for important works that have fallen through our cataloguing sieve. After many months of deliberation and collaboration, we are pleased to introduce a new subsection to the Bibliography page: Generative Texts.
Silverman, Sydel. The Beast on the Table: Conferencing with Anthropologists. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2002.
In this “ethnography of anthropologists and their conference behavior” (x), Sydel Silverman describes the interworking of the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s International Symposia, writing from the perspective of a participant observer. As president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research from 1986 to 1999, Silverman was the principal organizer of these invitation-only meetings. She begins by detailing the general process by which a conference was conceived and implemented, including attention to the idiosyncrasies of the Wenner-Gren conferencing model. The five- to six-day conferences were structured around discussions of pre-circulated papers, collective meals and cocktail hours. The strict rules of participation prohibited outsiders, including spouses, which regularly engendered “dissension and conflict” (13). The book proceeds to explore the interworking of 25 conferences that nearly span the entire course of Silverman’s 13-year presidency. While some gatherings proved more successful in terms of bringing the “beast” to life (a metaphor for the events originally coined by participant Gregory Bateson), Silverman identifies consistent patterns such as a persistent “epistemological division” between essentialist and constructionist views of science (261). Thus, The Beast on the Table offers a rare insider perspective on the collective (and often contested) formation of anthropological knowledge within institutional settings.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough.” In Philosophical Occasions, 1912–1951, edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, 118–55. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.
Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough is a set of aphoristic notes and marginalia scribbled in reaction to Sir James George Frazer’s armchair account of magical rites, ritual, and ceremony. Frazer’s The Golden Bough, first published in 1890, grew to thirteen volumes by 1936, four years prior to Frazer’s death at Cambridge; a 1922 abridgment compiled by Frazer’s spouse has circulated widely ever since. The bulk of Wittgenstein’s Remarks were composed during his initial encounter with Frazer’s text in 1931, the rest “not earlier than 1936 and probably after 1948,” according to one biographer. They were first published after his death, also at Cambridge, in 1951.
Stocking, George W., editor. Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture. History of Anthropology, Volume 3. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
Objects and Others, the third installment of the History of Anthropology series published by University of Wisconsin Press, is an edited volume featuring essays on the role of material culture and museums in the history of anthropology. While originally conceived as a series of essays on the “museum period” of anthropology, George Stocking explains in his introduction how the process of assembling and editing the essays opened up larger questions about “objects and others”—in other words, how material culture mediates the relationship between science and its subjects. The case studies, primarily drawn from British and North American contexts, illustrate the role of material culture and museums in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Several case studies focus on key institutional spaces: the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford (William R. Chapman), the Peabody Museum at Harvard (Curtis Hinsley), the Trocadero Museum in Paris (Elizabeth A. Williams), and the American Museum of Natural History, where Ira Jacknis memorably narrates how Franz Boas attempted, and ultimately rejected, the role of exhibition designer. The remaining essays focus on the negotiations that happen around the collection, preservation, and display of objects, including how the Rockefeller Foundation’s philanthropy shaped scientific priorities (Stocking), how market forces guided the creation and valuation of American Indian art in the Southwest (Edwin L. Wade), how Quebec selected a particular aesthetic version of its French past to preserve and perpetuate (Richard Handler), and how the shifting institutional place of archaeology within the academy shaped collecting trends (Bruce G. Trigger).
Kuklick, Henrika. The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Henrika Kuklick’s The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945 charts the professionalization and academic institutionalization of British anthropology across three “stages,” “generations,” or “schools”—evolutionist, diffusionist, and functionalist—by reading anthropological texts as cultural products which illuminate changes in British political mores and social life. Kuklick claims that “whatever their views on technical problems, anthropologists [of each generation] were, above all, creatures of their historical moments” (250). Taking anthropologists’ “analyses of remote societies” as “vehicles for projective fantasy” (244), and “interpretive differences” among each school as “products of observers’ social circumstances” (3), Kuklick evaluates the “significance of anthropological ideas on the basis of their social consequences” (242) in order to “contextualize anthropology within the national culture” of Britain (278). Thus, she explains evolutionist theories of linear historical progression in terms of their ability to justify educational reforms at home and colonial rule abroad, as well as the growing popularity of meritocratic ideals among the British middle-class. She explains diffusionist contentions that cultural variation was a product of differences in social organization, as opposed to unequal natural endowments of humans, by reference to World War I and a concomitant sense among the British that “individuals’ fortunes could be altered by the circumstances in which they were placed” (181). Further, she explains functionalists’ “triumph” during the interwar years as a result of their successful appeals for patronage, hinging on claims about the superiority of professional fieldwork and anthropological expertise relative to the practices of rural colonial administrators.
Baker, Lee D. From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of the Race, 1896-1954. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Lee Baker’s From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 highlights the consequential role of anthropology in the development, dissemination, and critique of hegemonic conceptions of race.
Using the diametrically opposed Supreme Court rulings Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) as his landmarks for reckoning the changing nature of race relations in US politics, Baker documents the ways in which anthropology has been appropriated by politicians, popular media, and the courts to affirm, and later to challenge a racialized worldview steeped in Social Darwinism and eugenics. Importantly, Baker identifies a notable shift in this history. During the 1890s, amateur and professional anthropological thought, encapsulated in the works of Josiah Nott, Daniel G. Brinton, John Wesley Powell, and Frederic Putnam, affirmed the presumed racial inferiority of African Americans codified in Plessy. With care and precision, Baker shows how by the mid-20th century, African American intellectuals and leaders selectively appropriated anthropology—specifically, the work of Franz Boas—in their efforts to affirm notions of racial equality. Thus, From Savage to Negro documents the paradoxically liberating and normalizing potentiality of anthropological thought.
On June 21-22, 2019 the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and Bibliothèque Nationale de France François Mitterand is hosting a two-day colloquium in commemoration of Jean Cuisenier, the former director of the Centre d’ethnologie française (1968-1986), conservateur en chef of the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires (1968-1988), and editor of the journal Ethnologie française.
On June 19, 2019 the University of Lisbon’s Institute of Social Sciences is hosting a film screening and panel discussion of the 2006 documentary JUNOD which portrays the life of Henri-Alexandre Junod (1863-1934), a Swiss Protestant missionary, anthropologist, linguist, photographer, entomologist and fiction writer. Filmed in Mozambique and South Africa, countries where Junod lived, this work examines his work and thought by situating the diversity and specificities of his work. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director/producer Camilo de Sousa, Matheus Serva Pereira, a historian specializing in Social History of Africa, and Paulo Granjo, an anthropologist whose research focuses on industrial contexts in Portugal and Mozambique. The screening will take place at 5:00pm in the Sedas Nunes Auditorium (ICS -ULisboa).
More information about this event can be found here.
On June 14, 2019 the Study Center In Social Studies Du Religieux is hosting a workshop that examines the roles of missionaries as producers of proto-ethnological-knowledge and the patterns of the relations between the activities of Catholic or Protestant missionaries and those of ethnologists and anthropologists in the field. Entitled Les missionnaires, premiers anthropologues ? Retours sur une idée reçue (Missionaries as the First Anthropologists?), the event is taking place on salle Alphonse Dupront, 10 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris from 13.00 h – 19.30 h. More information about the event can be found here.
On June 12, 2019 the Sorbonne will be hosting a workshop entitled “Repatriation Strikes Back,” or Le retour de la restitution. Géopolitiques du patrimoine, éthiques du transfert, économies du retour. This workshop will address the question of restitution of stolen or stolen objects from the point of view of the actors, the public and the countries concerned with their return and reception. Location information and the event’s program can be found below.
Stedelijk Studies has issued a CFP for a special issue on Imagining the Future of Digital Archives and Collections. More information about this opportunity can be found below:
“Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum.” A temporary exhibit at the Bode Museum, Berlin, Germany, on view from October 27, 2017 to June 2, 2019.
In introducing their Beyond Compare exhibit at the
Bode Museum, curators Julien
Chapuis, Jonathan Fine, and Paola Ivanov have been very clear and
consistent about the unique opportunity that allowed them to juxtapose African
and European art: objects from the ethnographic collections became available while
they waited for their new home in the controversial Humboldt Forum. The
ephemeral nature of this experiment thus hovers over this temporary exhibition
more than over most—a window is only briefly open to challenge our current
museological practice, and will close again soon. That said, we are keenly
aware of this because the curators, to their credit, have used this opportunity
to raise fundamental questions about how we display the arts of different
places and periods, and to investigate the meaning of continuing disciplinary
and institutional divisions between them. In the catalogue, in the introductory
wall panels, and in the “About this Exhibition” section of the exhibit’s companion
app, they almost immediately segue from explaining this unique opportunity to
challenging their visitors’ ideas and expectations. “What causes us to view
objects as similar or different? What insights can we gain from the joint
display of works of art with different histories? Why were some objects
classified in the past as ‘ethnological’ and others as ‘art’?” In the end,
however, the temporary nature of this exhibit and the questions raised by this
remarkable and ambitious show are poignant and haunting because they underscore
the disciplinary and institutional divides that will re-emerge when it closes
Lynn Meskell. A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace. 400 pp., illus., notes, bibl., index. Oxford University Press, 2018. $29.95 (hardcover)
Histories of heritage seem to be having their moment in the sun. Within the past year, Christina Luke’s A Pearl in Peril: Heritage and Diplomacy in Turkey (OUP, 2019) has been published, as has Lucia Allais’s Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the Twentieth Century (Chicago, 2018). Lynn Meskell’s A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace is the third part of this (unintentional) trilogy. Part history and part anthropology, the volume puts the operation of UNESCO’s heritage concept in historical perspective, detailing the development of that notion and its institutional governance from the interwar period to the present day. As Meskell admits (xxi), her own disciplinary background in archaeology means that she concentrates on the “cultural” side of a concept that also deals with “natural” sites, most famously through the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. That limitation aside, however, throughout the volume Meskell charts the intertwined histories of heritage and UNESCO in a way that is, to my knowledge, unparalleled in its depth.
The University of Otago and the Tōtaranui 250 Trust has issued a call for papers for Encounters and Exchanges: Exploring the History of Science, Technology and Mātauranga (Indigenous Knowledge). Taking place from December 1-3, 2019 in Blenheim, New Zealand, this conference is part of a sequence of national events in New Zealand titled Tuia – Encounters 250 Commemoration. These mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first Pacific voyage and the first onshore meetings between Europeans and the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Māori. The conference is interested in analysing the implications of this event on the global history of science, technology, medicine, and indigenous knowledge. More information about this event and the submission process can be found below.
The Warburg Institute is pleased to announce a day-long workshop with renowned anthropologist Carlo Severi (Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, LAS/Collège de France). Professor Severi will give a public lecture at the Warburg at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 7th. The next day, Saturday, June 8th from 11:00 to 17:00, he will lead a closed-session workshop. We invite PhD students, post-docs, and early career scholars to participate.
Entitled “Geographies of Cultural Memory,” the workshop will address methodological and historical problems in the study of global visual and aesthetic traditions. Drawing upon Severi’s foundational work on cultural memory and indigenous arts, discussions will place particular emphasis on the role of images and visual arts within anthropology and ethnography. How has anthropology dealt with the formal variety and geographical diffusion of aesthetic objects in the past, and what new modes of investigation offer themselves to us today? In this connection, we will also have occasion to revisit long-dormant anthropological aspects of Aby Warburg’s cultural science, and to consider its ramifications for a global study of culture in both the past and the present.
Under Severi’s direction, the workshop will consist of group discussions of key texts and a limited number of research presentations by participants. Please note that space for the workshop is very limited. To apply, please send a brief description of your research in relevant areas (150-200 wds) and a brief CV (2 page max) to John.Tresch@sas.ac.uk and email@example.com
Applications from London-area postgraduate students and early-career scholars working at the crossroads of art history, anthropology, geography, and/or the history of the human sciences are especially welcome.
On May 22, 2019 Dr. Paul Basu will be delivering a talk entitled: “Museum Affordances: Activating West African Ethnographic Archives and Collections through Experimental Museology,” at the University of Oslo. Part of the Department of Social Anthropology’s annual seminar series, this event will take place from 2:15pm-4:00pm, at Blindern, Eilert Sundt’s house, in the Sixth floor meeting room. In this presentation, Dr. Basu will discuss his recent work in Nigeria, where he has been retracing the itineraries of the colonial anthropologist N. W. Thomas.
The seminar will be followed by an informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. More information about this event can be found here.
In large measure, archives have made our careers. From Nash’s first book on the history of tree-ring dating in the American Southwest to Colwell’s intellectual history of the first Native American archaeologist, Arthur C. Parker,we have depended on archives to illuminate anthropology’s fantastic and twisted story. In 2009, we applied for a Save America’s Treasure’s grant, which provided funding to hire an archivist, Aly Jabrocki, to garner intellectual and physical control over several of the key collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS), including materials donated by the famed pioneering anthropologist Ruth M. Underhill (1883-1983). The grant enabled us to explore this neglected historical resource—half-archived but entirely unstudied and unpublished since the materials were donated twenty-five years earlier. We were astounded by the result of Aly’s efforts. Rumors we had long heard of the archive’s historical wealth proved to be true. The Underhill Collection runs eighty-five linear-feet and includes such finds as original ethnographic notes from her work with Native Americans, syllabi and class notes from 1930s Columbia University, hand-corrected manuscript drafts, nearly three thousand photographs, and original sound recordings—all created during a life spanning more than ten decades.
Anatomy as a science and as an educational discipline in the medical curriculum is forever in transition. One of the greatest areas of change in recent decades has been the systematic evaluation of ethical questions in anatomy. At the center of these deliberations is the status of the dead human body, which is no longer only seen as a mere “object” or “material” of research or as an educational “tool.” Rather, it is described as a body that still has connections with the person who once inhabited it, thus becoming part of a social network of knowledge gain and requiring respectful treatment.
This change of perspective will be explored in the symposium, “Human Tissue Ethics in Anatomy, Past and Present: From Bodies to Tissues to Data,” which will take place in Gordon Hall, Harvard Medical School Campus on April 4, 2019 from 9:00am to 3:00pm. At this event, an international group of scholars will discuss the ethical aspects of existing questions, explore the relevance of non-profit and for-profit body donation, and examine newly emerging technologies in anatomy that may need innovative ethical approaches. The aim of this symposium is to present evidence for the insight that transparent and ethical anatomical body and tissue procurement is indeed at the core of medical ethics in research and education.
The event’s program and registration information can be found here.
Nihad M. Farooq. Undisciplined: Science, Ethnography, and Personhood in the Americas, 1830–1940. 280 pp., 9 halftones, notes, index. New York: New York University Press, 2016. $30 (paper)
In four chapters, Farooq analyzes a multitude of scientific and artistic “border-crossers,” beginning with Charles Darwin in the 1830s and concluding with African American artist-ethnographers who traveled to Haiti in the mid-twentieth century. Chapter 1 considers Charles Darwin’s journey alongside Captain Robert FitzRoy aboard the HMS Beagle in 1834, and his interactions with three returned captives in Tierra del Fuego. These interactions led Darwin to question ideas about fixed biological difference among humans, thus influencing his subsequent theories of evolution. The most fascinating and novel intervention of this chapter is the link Farooq draws between Darwin’s fieldwork and ideas of cultural relativism embraced by later anthropologists like Franz Boas and Zora Neale Hurston. Farooq convincingly argues that while Darwin himself was not an anthropologist nor an ethnographer, his evolutionary theory shaped the field by showing that “social and biological taxonomies are […] contingent, always shifting, never stable” (48). Darwin’s theory of evolution implied that humanity was in a constant state of “becoming,” and this led to a conviction that differences among human races were “neither fundamental nor fixed” (55). What’s more, Darwinian theories of a shared human kinship and common ancestry were eventually appropriated by socially and politically marginalized intellectuals like Boas and Hurston. In these ways, Farooq shows how Darwin’s evolutionary theories—frequently associated with subsequent scientific racism and eugenicist theories—also opened up new avenues for thinking about racial fluidity and connections among humanity.
Olga Linkiewicz (Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences), Katrin Steffen (Hamburg) and Axel Jansen (Washington, DC) have organized an exploratory workshop on “Global Conversations: Cross-Fertilization of Knowledge in the Making of the Modern World.” This event will take place at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, from April 26-27 2019.
The workshop aims to explore the history of knowledge exchange in the twentieth century. In particular, it focuses on channels of communication between Eastern Europe, Germany, and East and South Asia and examines the ways in which scholars used the notion of human character, social betterment, and social change to analyze the complex relationship between epistemology and stereotypes.
Questions about this event can be directed to Olga Linkiewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org
David McCallum, emeritus professor at Victoria University’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems in Melbourne, Australia, and editor of the Handbook on the History of Human Sciences, is looking for a suitable person to edit the Handbook’s ethnography section. Interested persons can contact him ASAP at email@example.com
The Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) has issued a call for papers for its second biennial conference that will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico from Thursday, September 19th through Saturday, September 21st, 2019. Using the unique position of Santa Fe—the “City Different”—as a starting point for thinking broadly about both local and global approaches to museum anthropology, the conference theme is “Museums Different.”
The conference will be held at Santa Fe’s Museum Hill, home to both the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of International Folk Art. The event includes sessions and activities at the Institute of American Indian Arts as well as an evening reception at the School for Advanced Research. More information on this event and the submission process can be found below.
The History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) is pleased to announce the addition of new items to our Bibliography section. This section features citations of recently published works (stretching back to 2013) in all formats that are relevant to the history of anthropology. A full list of the new titles added can be found below. More information on our latest bibliography entries can be found here.
HAN welcomes bibliography suggestions from our readers. If you come across a title of interest during your own fieldwork in the library, whether that be physical or virtual, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Anderson and Joshua Smith invite submissions for a panel on Cold War anthropology at the upcoming AAA Annual Meeting, to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia from November 20-24, 2019. The panel abstract and details for submission are provided below: