Terry A. Barnhart. American Antiquities: Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology. 594pp., illus., bibl., index. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. $75 (hardcover)
The ancient inhabitants of the United States left artifacts and structures across the continent, from Florida to the Great Lakes and Chaco Canyon to Puget Sound. Today’s archaeologists study how these populations moved, changed, and interacted, using material traces to understand the lives of their makers. The current professional consensus as to how archaeology is done and what it tells us about America’s past did not emerge in a linear fashion. Terry Barnhart’s American Antiquities chronicles the “organic and altogether untidy process” (1) by which antiquarian interest in Indian mounds, and speculation about their non-Indian origins, transmuted into the work of scientific societies, state-sponsored surveys, museums, and ultimately an academic discipline at pains to escape the burden of its own history.
The History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association, and Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts are meeting together in Atlanta this November. Their programs feature several sessions of interest to historians of anthropology, including these from the History of Science Society program: Continue reading
One summer afternoon in 1958, two young girls stood on the hot tarmac at Idlewild (later JFK) airport, awaiting the arrival of the famous German choreographer Albrecht Knust. Knust was in America to promote Labanotation, a technique for capturing dance on paper developed in the 1920s by his mentor, Rudolf Laban. In Knust’s honor, the girls had emblazoned the edges of their wide, white skirts with Labanotation’s characteristic symbols, and as he disembarked, they eagerly extended their arms to display their creations. Continue reading
Poster for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA)
How do we care for objects and how do objects care for us? Dr. Bill Wood, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a 2016 SIMA Faculty Fellow, asked this question during the discussion portion of the 2016 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) Symposium. The Symposium, which took place Thursday and Friday, July 21-22, was the culmination of four weeks of work by Master’s students and PhD candidates from across the United States and Canada. Since 2009, the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology has brought 12 to 14 anthropology graduate students into the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to engage collections. In 2015, the program has expanded to include two visiting faculty fellows. Funded by the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation, the program is run and hosted by NMNH’s Anthropology Department. SIMA participants are taught by staff from NMNH and across the Smithsonian, as well as by three visiting professors. Through hands-on work with objects in intensive seminars, SIMA trains students in the core methodological aspects of museum anthropology and helps them understand the types of data in museums, and the issues involved in working with collections. In the process, students learn how to apply their diverse theoretical interests through object-based research. Continue reading
Tracy Teslow. Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology. xiii + 399pp., bibl., index. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. $129 (hardback), $29.99 (paperback), $24 (e-book)
Historians have argued that racial science and theories of biological determinism disappeared from academia after 1945. Under pressure from forces within academia and without, biological anthropologists turned their attention to population studies while cultural anthropologists produced nuanced studies of non-western cultures. More recently, however, historians of racial science such as Veronika Lipphardt and Alice Conklin have criticized and complicated this teleological narrative and have suggested that it is the result of post-war anthropologists distancing themselves from a disreputable past. Tracy Teslow’s Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology is a crucial contribution to this revisionist historiography. Teslow details the history of American anthropology between 1900 and 1960, which, according to her, has been understudied and misinterpreted. Rather than presenting a smooth success story of the triumph of cultural relativism in anthropology, Constructing Race shows the messiness and complexity of this history.
Edvard Hviding and Cato Berg (Editors). The Ethnographic Experiment: A.M. Hocart and W.H.R. Rivers in Island Melanesia, 1908. 320 pp., illus., bibl., index, apps. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014. $120 (hardback), $34.95 (paperback)
British anthropology’s founding myth is that Malinowski was the first to pioneer intensive fieldwork methods. The eight chapters in this absorbing edited volume present the view that it was within the important—but largely forgotten—Percy Sladen Trust expedition to the Solomon Islands in 1908 that professional anthropologists first undertook such an “ethnographic experiment.” The authors focus on expedition members W.H.R. Rivers and A.M. Hocart, who carried out ethnographic research on Simbo and Vella Lavella, New Georgia province. It is perhaps Rivers who is the more famous of the pair, due to his pioneering work on ‘shellshock’ during World War I. However Rivers’s legacy within anthropology has been more ambivalent than that of Hocart who has lately been lauded for his theoretical contributions, which had particular influence on Louis Dumont and Marshall Sahlins. In an introduction to Sahlins’s recent lecture in his honour, Hocart was heralded as “the Foucault before Foucault, the Latour before Latour.” Hocart’s later work may be deemed as pre-empting postmodern critique by suggesting that a cosmic-political imagination is prior to historically-particular categories, divisions, and techniques of organisation whilst rejecting a radical break between pre-modern and modern, magic and rationality. The third member of the expedition, G.C. Wheeler, left Hocart and Rivers after two months to carry out independent fieldwork in the Shortland Islands. Although Wheeler’s fieldwork is acknowledged by the editors to be “by far the most extensive” of the trio, he did not achieve similar fame. In focusing on Rivers and Hocart, this volume does little to address Wheeler’s obscurity.
Royal Anthropological Institute
Third conference on the History of Anthropology and the RAI 1918-1945
FIRST CALL FOR PAPERS
13th-14th December 2016 at the Royal Anthropological Institute
The third of our ‘history days’ at the RAI covers the period 1918-1945. A tumultuous period for the discipline, it marked the emergence of functionalist ethnography, anthropology’s division into sub-disciplines, and the decisive establishment of anthropology within the universities. Nevertheless, the RAI was at the heart of these developments in many ways, through its journals, lectures, committees, and growing Fellowship. This period also marked the expansion of our library, the launch of the IUAES and various attempts to seek a role for anthropology as an applied discipline.
Accordingly, we would seek now papers that cover any aspect of anthropology’s history at that time, but particularly as it may be relevant to the RAI’s fellows, project, committees, or publications. Without in any way wishing to restrict possible proposals for papers, possible areas of interest might be:
David H. Price. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. 488 pp., illus., bibl., index. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. $104.95 (cloth), $29.95 (paperback)
Price’s careful and morally centered narrative concludes a trilogy of works describing various relationships between American anthropologists and intelligence agencies in the United States from World War II through the Vietnam War. His preceding volumes discussed anthropologists working for the state during WWII and the persecution of anthropologists under McCarthyism; this volume hones in on arguably the prickliest territory of the three, describing covert and overt relationships between military/intelligence agencies and anthropologists from the close of WWII through the Vietnam War.