Herbert S. Lewis
Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
One day in 1997 a department secretary came into my office with a carton filled with five large, old-fashioned ledger boxes and asked me what to do with them. When he told me they contained the correspondence of Haviland Scudder Mekeel, I told him to leave them with me. Mekeel had been a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Wisconsin (UW) from 1940 until he suddenly died in 1947 and the contents of his office had been left with the department after his death. As I made a preliminary sortie through these letters from 1940-1946, I came across one from Floyd Lounsbury. As I finished it my colleague, Jim Stoltman, an archeologist, walked by my office. “Jim, did you know that Floyd Lounsbury worked on Oneida in Wisconsin?” “No, but there is a carton in the storeroom that has ‘Oneida’ written on it,” he answered. (The department’s archeologists had done an inventory of the contents of the vast basement storeroom not long before.) I thought I would go look for it—and I then forgot about it.
In summer 1996 I had the good fortune to spend four weeks at the American Philosophical Society (APS) soaking myself in the Franz Boas archives there. The APS contains the bulk of Boas’s enormous correspondence, though hardly everything. Aside from the fact that there is something special about holding the original documents in one’s hands (very carefully), there is much more Boas material in the APS besides these letters. There are, for example, translations from the German of early family correspondence as well as notes for several lecture series he delivered, and a story Boas wrote and illustrated for his children recounting his adventures in Baffinland. Continue reading
In 1909 Columbia University celebrated both the fifty-year anniversary of The Origin of Species and the centenary of the birth of its author with a series of lectures titled “Charles Darwin and His Influence on Science.” The first talk in the series, “Darwin’s Life and Work,” was delivered by Henry Fairfield Osborn on February 12, one hundred years to the day after Darwin’s birth. Another lecturer was John Dewey, whose talk, “Darwinism and Modern Philosophy,” became the title piece in his well-known volume The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought.[i] Despite the publication and wide circulation of these other lectures in the series, the one given by Franz Boas, “The Relation of Darwin to Anthropology,” was never published. Strangely, it was also never archived with his other unpublished lectures in the American Philosophical Society (APS), nor, apparently, was it ever noted anywhere except in the announcement of the lecture series in Science.[ii]
In late June 1996, while waiting for delivery of files from the Boas archive at the APS, I passed the time flipping through the library card catalogue under “Boas, Franz” and came across a plain, typed card, with the words: “Boas, Franz– The Relation of Darwin to Anthropology.” Surprised and intrigued, I asked librarian Roy Goodman if he could locate it. He returned a few minutes later with a 33-page typed manuscript, with Boas’s additions and corrections in pen. It had been hiding– not quite in plain sight– for many years.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen. Fredrik Barth: An Intellectual Biography. xi+249 pp., illus., notes, bibl., index. London: Pluto Press, 2015. $99 (cloth), $35 (paper)
Fredrik Barth was a creative and outspoken theorist, an indefatigable fieldworker and world traveler, and he was fortunate in his biographer. Thomas Hylland Eriksen is not only obviously devoted to Barth, but he is also thorough, comprehensive, fair—pointing out problems and occasional failings of his subject—and not too much over the top in his admiration. Above all he does an excellent job presenting and explaining Fredrik Barth’s many works and his innovative methodological and theoretical positions as well as contextualizing his work in the anthropology of his time.