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 The grant enabled us to explore this neglected historical resource—half-archived but entirely unstudied and unpublished since the materials were donated twenty-five years earlier.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.
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.
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
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 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 email@example.com.
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:
The Warburg Institute has issued a call for papers for “Freud’s Archaeology,” a conference that examines archaeology’s role within psychoanalysis and how these two fields have oscillated between theoretical and practical work. This event will take place in London from June 4-5, 2019. More detailed information and submission instructions can be found below:
The 18thInternational Union of Anthropological und Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) World Congress was held at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Florianópolis, Brazil, July 16-20, 2018. Approximately 2,000 participants discussed the Congress theme “World (of) Encounters: The Past, Present and Future of Anthropological Knowledge” across 236 panels. Four panels dealt with the history of anthropology, among them one convened by History of Anthropology Network (HOAN) members.
My path as a historian forever changed during my first year in the archives. When I began working at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) in an ominous, cloudy box of a building near the end of the Washington DC metro train line, I thought I might write a dissertation on exhibiting material culture. Secretly, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or looking for. What I did know by this point in my research life and education as a historian was how to ask questions and search for answers from different perspectives. I also knew how to benefit from the expertise of archivists. The brilliance of archivists, in fact, is where this story really took a fundamental turn for me.
The Story Box: Franz Boas, George Hunt and the Making of Anthropology on view at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery from February 14 through July 7, 2019, explores the hidden histories and complex legacies of one of the most influential books in the field of anthropology, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians (1897). Organized by Bard Graduate Center Gallery in partnership with U’mista Cultural Centre, a Kwakwaka’wakw museum in Alert Bay, British Columbia, the exhibition is curated by Aaron Glass, associate professor at Bard Graduate Center, and features designs by artist Corrine Hunt, a great-granddaughter of George Hunt.
The exhibit’s launch is accompanied by a series of events that explore contemporary indigenous creative practice and raise questions around representation, colonialism and cultural history. A full list of these activities can be found below.
Canguilhem’s historical epistemology continues to inspire historians and anthropologists to attend to how current and former human practices of science shape our conceptualizations and engagement with natural and experimental environments, non-human beings, and human life. Now, with the publication of a translation of La connaissance de la vie ( 2008), which contains many of Canguilhem’s key works, “The Living and Milieu” speaks with new urgency.[ In the spirit of the History of Anthropology Newsletter’s call for multidisciplinary exploration of novel topographies for the history of anthropology, this Special Focus Section gathers five insightful considerations of reversals and collapses in relations between organism and environment for the history of human and life sciences since their seminal characterization in “The Living and Its Milieu.”
Amidst ongoing shifts to our environments and biologies, the traditional anthropological and biological objects—human being and life, anthropos and bios—are today twined together in unprecedented ways. Witness the bourgeoning interest from bioscientists in cultural and human affairs, and the even longer standing interest from anthropologists in things biological, as former disciplinary norms are upended and new relations, forms, and understandings of life emerge.
What if we think of a milieu as a medium for living in a strong sense, as in the way that paint or color is a medium for art—both the means of art’s expression and conceptualization and its point of pragmatic-material-noumenal interest, or even obsession? The artist thinks with, in, and about color or sound or lighting or the way musical notes or words relate to each other or build something. Art-thought is a percept (Deleuze and Guattari 1994) fundamentally linked to the things in its milieu because they have qualities like rhythm or intensity, because they react to a prod or a brush stroke or they ring. Conceptualizing a milieu by acting with it and in it is an experiment with a stake, a conceptualizing channeled through form and matter that thereby ventures out, becoming both exploratory and generative. Bruno Latour (2010) tells us this is compositional thought and being, and it extends into all domains of life in which, for whatever reason, there is a sharp, even immersive, attunement to a surround that has become animated or activated enough to create something with what presents. Georges Canguilhem’s “The Living and Its Milieu” moves in this same terrain, deftly mapping out the groundwork.
A house constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
Sitting in her living room. What occurs here, in this space filled up with her? And despite its force, how is it that this space so easily recedes to the background once words are spoken, once words are put to bodily experience and social relations, effaced by the retelling of the things of life that tend to unravel here? These questions are by way of an introduction to moments of coming apart in the household of a woman, Beverly, who I first met in 2002.
The thought of the living must take from the living the idea of the living.
To what extent might one consider Georges Canguilhem a scholar of social medicine? Defined as a field of study that examines health and disease from a social science perspective, social medicine has a long and complex history. It has changed over time and has taken different forms in different parts of the world. Social medicine has relevance and significance today as an interdisciplinary endeavor that includes anthropological, sociological, historical, and philosophical modes of inquiry. This piece is not an attempt to reconstruct the transnational history of social medicine and compare and contrast its various manifestations. Rather, its aim is to explore how Georges Canguilhem’s essay “The Living and Its Milieu” might be useful conceptually for contemporary work in social medicine. Given his concern with the social and the vital, we can easily see Canguilhem’s importance for the question of what social medicine might be as a field of study concerned with questions of health and disease.
The breath you just took contains about 400 parts of carbon dioxide (CO2) per million molecules (ppm) of air. 350 ppm is generally considered safe. People living at the start of the Industrial Revolution would have inhaled about 278 ppm. Since then, levels of CO2—the leading greenhouse gas driving changes in the climate—have doubled from the relentless burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is born of cellular respiration in animals and plants. Its accumulation from anthropogenic emissions in the atmosphere and oceans over the past two centuries now poses a direct threat to living beings on Earth. In a worst-case scenario that is increasingly likely, CO2 concentrations will reach 1,450 parts per million by 2150.
In “The Living and Its Milieu,” Georges Canguilhem tells the story of Jakob von Uexküll’s tick. The tick when mature climbs to a high point, such as a branch on a bush. It falls only in response to a single stimulus, the odor of rancid butter, helpfully explained as a component of the sweat of mammals. If there is no corresponding 37-degree centigrade body to latch on to, the tick climbs back up. Apparently von Uexküll kept a tick in his laboratory for eighteen years before providing this stimulus to it, and it was still able to fall on cue, suck blood, and lay eggs when the opportunity was provided. One has to wonder about the number of ticks, and the frequency of testing. Why eighteen years? There is no detail provided about what happened to the other ticks kept “in a state of inanition” beyond 18 years, if there were any.
This event explores the history of ethnographic shows (ethnic shows, Völkerschau), human zoos, cirques, variété, freak shows, and different forms of local shows in Central and Eastern European contexts, where living people were presented in front of an audience.
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.
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