All museums use pesticides and preservatives, though their health impacts are not always known; ethnographic collections can thus pose a health risk. Here we open one cold case file, in which we believe a prominent American anthropologist may have directly suffered from such effects. Our own experience and inquiries confirm this hunch.
Clark Wissler fell ill in 1905, soon after he began working in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. At some point during the period of Wissler’s illness, Museum Director Henry Fairfield Osborn recommended that his own physician examine Wissler. But despite this additional medical consultation, the illness persisted and was never successfully diagnosed—making him appear frail until 1928 when it mysteriously cleared up. The symptoms were severe enough to cause Wissler to give up his fieldwork on the Blackfeet Reservation. Continue reading
This year, the American Historical Association is offering a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History‘s Department of Anthropology collections and National Anthropological Archives (NAA) at the museum’s off-site storage site, the Museum Support Center, in Suitland, Maryland. This tour will be held on Friday, Jan. 5th, from 2:30-4:30 pm, and is open to 20 participants. Interested historians should RSVP to Caitlin Haynes, NAA Reference Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org by Dec. 29, 2017 with your name and contact information to reserve your spot.
The short documentary Historia de un ballet (History of a Ballet, 1962) dramatizes an ethnographic encounter central to a creative process. Director José Massip followed Cuban choreographer Ramiro Guerra and his company of modern dancers as they researched, created, and premiered a new work, Suite Yoruba (1960), about Afro-Cuban ritual music and dance. The film depicts dancers actively engaging with anthropological methods as they conduct fieldwork and share their findings with a wider public through performance. Though not formally trained as anthropologists, dancers traversed disciplinary and social boundaries to create work that animated political visions of revolutionary collectivity. Continue reading
The Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) is pleased to announce that it will be holding a one day meeting to explore the history of biological anthropology and the RAI on 20 April 2018.
Dr. David Shankland, Director of the RAI & Dr. Simon Underdown, Oxford Brookes University, invite paper submissions that examine the history of biological anthropology or the changing relationship between bio- and social anthropology, focusing particularly on how these histories intersect with the RAI. They also welcome papers about the Institute’s publications, its Presidents, Fellows, or its projects from its foundation to the present. The full symposium abstract and details for submission are provided below:
In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University has curated All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology. The exhibition boasts an impressive array of ethnographic artifacts, which range from a Feejee mermaid to Hopi baskets to a bracelet from the Iron Age. Photographs, correspondence, and newspaper clippings set the historical contexts during which the artifacts were created, collected, and circulated. Together, these materials document the late-nineteenth-century ambitions behind the founding of the museum, while granting particular attention to the work of Frederic Ward Putnam, who served as the Peabody’s second director (1875-1909) and trained the first generation of ethnographers in the country, including Franz Boas. The exhibit argues that the Peabody Museum, as a hub for the aggregation of artifacts and intellectual engagement, provided an initial scaffolding for anthropology as an academic discipline in the United States.
This project provides researchers with many resources related to Malinowski and Masson, such as a bibliography, and a set of links to the main archives and collections that contain manuscripts, papers, photos, letters and the objects that Malinowski brought with him from the Trobriand Islands .
Does archaeology matter? Scholars at various levels of the academic ladder have grappled with the need to explain the significance of their research to non-academics. Among one another, scholars can certainly explain the intellectual merit of their work. However, in the US, archaeologists have increasingly come under public scrutiny for an apparent lack of relevance in contemporary society. Parents ask, why pay thousands of dollars for their kids to shovel dirt? Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) targets archaeological projects as scapegoats for apparent bad spending by the National Science Foundation. The random stranger asks “what is left to find?” Through forty-two succinct case studies, Schiffer examines how archaeological research has impacted a broader world. By mustering examples that span the history of archaeological inquiry, he argues that archaeologists have reshaped various aspects of contemporary societies and how people think about the past. Schiffer demonstrates that “[a]rchaeology’s impact on modern societies reaches far beyond the media and college courses” (xv). He provides a “panorama” of archaeology’s unique footprints in the modern world (xv). In his words, “[f]rom the many case studies, I hope you will acquire a deeper understanding of what [archaeologists] do and why we do it and will come to appreciate that archaeology is as significant as it is cool” (xxiv).
The annual meeting of the History of Science Society (HSS) will take place November 9-12 at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto, ON. Here is a list of sessions and events relevant to the history of anthropology:
On the morning of November 23rd, 1981, Rosamond (Roz) Spicer joined her fellow participants for the third day of the 89th Wenner–Gren Foundation International Symposium. As the morning discussion took shape, Roz, a noted Native Americanist anthropologist, drifted from her note-taking as she started to sketch the people around her (see figures 1–5).[i] Etched with light pencil, these elegant and unassuming illustrations capture a transitional moment in the larger history of the Foundation. Continue reading
In celebration of the second anniversary of the online relaunch of the Newsletter, HAN will be hosting a public lecture by Professor Alice Conklin (Ohio State University). Her lecture, “‘Nothing is Less Universal than the Idea of Race’: Anti-Racism and Social Science at UNESCO, 1950-1962,” will be held on Monday, October 30 from 3:30-5:00pm as part of the Department of History and Sociology of Science workshop series and will take place in Room 337, Claudia Cohen Hall, University of Pennsylvania. See poster for abstract and additional details.
In 1973, the first issue of the History of Anthropology Newsletter opened with a statement of purpose from the editorial committee, called “Prospects and Problems,” by George Stocking. The editors were self-consciously defining and claiming a field. They let loose with territorial metaphors: occupation, soil, furrows, forays. Now, as we continue our relaunch of HAN, we return to this 40-year-old manifesto as a starting point for thinking about the past, present, and future of the field.
The 1973 essay noted a sense of disciplinary crisis as a spur to growth; it asked whether this history should be done by anthropologists, intellectual historians on “one-book forays,” by “anthropologists manqué,” or by a new generation of interdisciplinarians; it announced the need for “landmarks” including lists of archival holdings, bibliographic aids, research in progress, recent publications—which HAN would provide. It ended with a call for participation from readers.
Seeking to continue HAN’s role as a site for debating the field’s present state and shaping its future, in late 2016 we invited a series of scholars from various fields to respond to this manifesto. In February 2017, eight distinguished authors responded with generosity, insight, experience, good humor—and impressive speed. Continuing our reappraisal of Stocking’s inaugural editorial statement, in August 2017 we added nine additional surveys of the field’s potential terrain. These contributions covered new ground, unearthed skepticisms, and sowed a set of new questions. Now, in October 2017, we close the series with a third set of reflections from an impressive group of early career scholars. They imply a rich future for the study of anthropology’s past.
We encourage HAN readers and subscribers to make use of the comments section to respond to individual pieces, or to the section as a whole. Dig in and leave a mark.
This editorial was originally published on February 1, 2017. It was updated on August 15, 2017 and on October 21, 2017.
Ruth: Now we are officially starting [with the recording]. So I will officially say thank you both for collaborating with me on this. It is definitely an experiment. My thought was that we would talk through questions that we want to tackle and then, maybe, that fits really well with thinking about doing research in different modalities. So that we have a spoken component that is part of the written text too? How does that sound? Continue reading
“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
Zora Neale Hurston
I asked two colleague-friends to collaborate in this exercise of envisioning the future of the field: visual anthropologist and filmmaker Patricia Alvarez and medical anthropologist and playwright Ugo Edu. We first circulated written ideas and then Edu suggested a conversational format à la Hartman and Wilderson (2003). With the limits of time and space, we reproduce only parts of that conversation here. To render this collaborative work visible, see our transcript. Continue reading
As a new graduate student in the history of science, technology, and medicine, I was interested in circulations of medical practices and medicinal plants between Ojibwe communities in northern Minnesota and non-native, non-professional medical practitioners in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Casting about for archival materials, I found many historical documents that directly discuss medicinal plants had been produced by anthropologists, ethnologists, and their forbears. Medicine writ large—medicinal plants, songs, and recipes, ideas and stories about medical practice, and general concerns about sickness and health—figured frequently in the field notes, professional correspondence, and publications of such varied figures as Aleš Hrdlička (1869-1943), Frances Densmore (1867-1957), and Sister Mary Inez Hilger (1891-1977). In these documents, medicine and anthropology were deeply enmeshed. Continue reading
The history of archaeology, as a field, has always seemed (to me) to be playing catch up with work in the history of anthropology. Yet, reading the contributions to HAN’s “Fields, Furrows, and Landmarks” Special Focus Section suggests to me that the histories of archaeology and anthropology now operate on the same plane in terms of the tensions that drive their production. Anyone working on archaeology’s history should be willing to grapple with the many tensions inherent in acknowledging the field’s geopolitical entanglements in the same way as historians of anthropology. Indeed, these shared but distinct histories of knowledge production can be put to good analytical use. As their investigations are driven by similar—and often entangled—tensions, are bounded categories like ‘the history of archaeology’ or ‘the history of anthropology’ still useful?
Confronted with all the limitations of my stiff training as a historian of science, I have become enchanted by the narratives taking shape at the intersection of academic research and museum work with texts, things, space, and people. In March 2018, we are opening the exhibition FOLK: From Racial Types to DNA Sequences at The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology in Oslo. Every time I utter these words, my heart starts beating faster. For me, this is where the history of anthropology comes alive, where we can test its contemporary relevance, and where all could go wrong. Continue reading
George Stocking was the anthropologist’s historian of anthropology: a “professional stranger” who plowed furrows in department halls arm-in-arm with anthros tending fields and chickens. The horticultural trope–his for us–strikes me as more taboo than totemic today, but I’ll take it anyway. I suspect he would’ve liked the image of toil in common.
The Department of European Ethnology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich have released three postings for postdoctoral/doctoral positions allocated to the research project ‘Social Sketches and the Formation of Ethnographic and Sociological Knowledge (1830-1860)’, a research group funded by the German Research Foundation which investigates early sociographic journalism (“social sketches”) in relation to the formation of sociological, ethnological, and ethnographic knowledge. More information on each of these positions can be found below:
Julia Rodriguez (University of New Hampshire) and Carmen Martínez-Novo (University of Kentucky and FLACSO) invite submissions for a, panel on “Resurgent Racism: Perspectives from History and Anthropology” (01/51) which will be presented at the 56th International Congress of Americanists (ICA), an interdisciplinary conference that gathers together researchers who study the American continent from the analysis of politics, economy, culture, languages, history and prehistory. They seek papers that will recognize and document the continuities in racialized thought and practice, processes of cultural erasure, and the various forms of resistance and challenges to racial schema, segregation, marginalization, erasure, and violence across time and space. The full panel abstract and details for submission are provided below:
For the 12th time, a history of anthropology workshop will be convened in the framework of the German Anthropological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, DGV), to take place at the Free University of Berlin on October 5, 2017. The workshop is convened by the DGV- Working Group “History of Anthropology” around the central theme “From the History of Anthropology to its Future: Historical, Moral, and Political Affinities.”
The conference will include eight papers and a keynote address by Bernhard Streck, Professor Emeritus of the University of Leipzig.
Program titles and abstracts can be found here under “Workshop 17.”
This conference will examine the history of French contemporary anthropology, focusing particularly on the postwar period. These years were promising and polyphonic, as they marked the beginning of a dynamic field, and the introduction of a variety of theoretical and ethnographic points of view. This colloquium will map the forces in action that created this environment, identify certain important players, identify new objects of study, view this history in the context of the colonial wars and the decolonization process, and discuss how ideas circulated across borders.
A complete schedule of the conference can be found on the event website.
The History of Anthropology Newsletter has been a venue for publication and conversation on the many histories of the discipline of anthropology since 1973. We became an open access web publication in 2016; please subscribe to our emails below to receive updates as we publish new essays, reviews, and bibliographies.
The revival of the History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) as an online publication began with volume 40 in 2016. Content is updated continually, and subscribers receive weekly emails with links to new content.
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