Field Notes is a forum for reflections on the state of the field of history of anthropology, broadly conceived. We welcome a variety of contributions including (but not limited to) short articles, theoretical musings, reports on cultural and academic events and displays, and discussions of intellectual resources of interest to our readers. If you’re interested in submitting such a piece, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revisiting Stocking’s 1973 essay, I found the metaphor of the field of anthropology as an agricultural field somewhat at odds with my own historical sensibility. The depiction of “unobstructed acreage” and “unplowed furrows” being gradually settled by a new discipline—or raided by historians on one-book forays—may resonate for some scholars, but not for me. If I may recast the metaphor, the way I have always approached researching the history of anthropology is through gleaning—the Old Testament-sanctioned practice of the poor combing through recently harvested fields to scavenge for leftovers. Continue reading
“A land without men for men without land!” ran the slogan for the colonization of Amazonia under the military regime in Brazil, in full swing in 1973. That same year, George W. Stocking urged intellectual historians to grab fertile fields sporadically occupied by a small band of anthropologists. The History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) was explicitly devised to provide these hardy pioneers with a set of tools to plow this promising land, driving away dilettante hunter-gatherers trying to “hang around indefinitely.” Continue reading
Anthropological futures are difficult to envision without reckoning with anthropological pasts. The present is filled with an increasing theoretical emphasis on the trans-cultural and trans-national, but on a material level, we are still haunted by the legacies of collecting the Indigenous (a practice that has long been central to the anthropological project). Continue reading
Working on German communities in Latin America, I constantly encounter scholars engaged in the history of anthropology. They don’t always know it. Few of them claim to be adherents. Almost none are interested in shaping a field or subfield in a manner evoked in HAN’s 1973 opening statement. They are, however, interested in understanding people who devoted themselves to studying humans and their cultures over the last two centuries. Their efforts also contribute, whether they realize it or not, to our understanding of the history of that vocation. Or, better said, their efforts will contribute to it so long as we are aware of their work. Thank goodness for HAN. Continue reading
The history of anthropology is coming of age as a worldwide pursuit. After its early stages in the 1960s and 1970s with the Conference on the History of Anthropology (1962), inspired by A. Irving Hallowell and sponsored by the Social Science Research Council in New York, and the History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN), published by an editorial committee of seven and edited by George W. Stocking, Jr. in Chicago from 1973 on, the field has clearly expanded both in the USA and elsewhere. The digital HAN, launched as a website in June 2016, counts 350 subscribers and the History of Anthropology Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) has 175 members. The World Anthropologies Network (WAN), founded in Brazil in 2002–03, focuses on non-hegemonic histories of anthropology. In France there was sufficient interest to publish the journal Gradhiva twice a year from 1986 on; an online encyclopedia on the history of anthropology and ethnography, named Bérose, is now being restructured by a founding team of 15 researchers and is expanding internationally to include new collaborators. In the United Kingdom the Royal Anthropological Institute is investigating its history by means of annual conferences and plans to publish four volumes. In the German-speaking countries a Working Group on the History of Anthropology has been meeting within the German Anthropological Association biannually from 1993 on. In Russia some 30 scholars regularly present papers on the subject during the biannual congresses of Russian ethnographers and anthropologists. In Europe as a whole the newly founded History of Anthropology Network (HOAN) was established within the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in November 2016; it now has 85 members and counting. Continue reading
Given just how many people participated in the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, it is understandable that historians have used the well-documented presence of a manageable few individuals to illuminate the experiences of the crowd. But sometimes the exemplary are so bright that they wash out the wider experience. In terms of the history of anthropology, for example, Franz Boas has become central to our accounts of the field at the World’s Fair, despite his own protests that he thought that his collection of biological and cultural materials from the Pacific Northwest were poorly represented (Cole, 1995 ). There is, therefore, much gained by expanding our frame, to consider less lasting lights at the anthropological Fair, whose contributions illuminate anthropology’s multiple pasts in a way that helps us move beyond genealogies of its future.
Fig. 1 The “Necropolis” of Ancón, reproduced at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 by F. W. Putnam based on the excavations of George Dorsey. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair (Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1893), 633.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, German universities inspired the reformation of higher learning institutions throughout Europe and the United States (Barth et. al. 2005). Early museums and museum pioneers in the United States were likewise influenced by the collecting practices and ideas of their German counterparts. High profile museum anthropologists in various national contexts—Franz Boas among them—relied on connections and correspondence with German colleagues. For a time anthropology in German museums appeared unproblematically forward thinking, growing out of a liberal-humanist tradition to connect Europe with the rest of the world, shaped by the desire to extend beyond curiosity cabinets toward the systematic, empirically driven study of mankind.
As a contribution to the “Field Notes” section of the relaunched History of Anthropology Newsletter, I offer the following as a brief report of my recent research in the history of anthropology and its connections to art history and the history of museums. Historians of anthropology tend to work in a range of institutional and disciplinary locations, and I have done much of my “fieldwork” in museum collections and libraries. I would like to dedicate this essay to both former editors-in-chief of HAN: my mentor George Stocking, and my friend and colleague Riki Kuklick, for both of whom the many different meanings and values attached to “fieldwork” was a lasting topic of reflection.
Since its inception in 1973, the History of Anthropology Newsletter has played a major role in establishing the history of anthropology as a legitimate sub-discipline of anthropology. Under the leadership of George W. Stocking, Jr., HAN attracted a subscription list of non-specialists, mostly anthropologists, who needed historical background for their major research; readers were often contributors, as well, adding occasional pieces notable for their careful attention to the minutiae of ethnographic context. Having been in on HAN from the beginning, the revitalization of the Newsletter seems a good opportunity to reminisce and speculate on the more interdisciplinary and theoretical future we might envision for the history of anthropology.
In 1973, George Stocking and a small group of like-minded scholars founded the History of Anthropology Newsletter, HAN. In that year, I began my graduate education in anthropology at the University of Chicago, where George taught. In the fall 1975 term, I took a seminar with him on the anthropology of the inter-war period, in which each student took responsibility for a major figure of the era.
The History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) has always been an unprepossessing publication. Its physical format and graphic design were homespun. Initially mimeographed, it appeared for nineteen years in typescript, before the font was changed to Times in volume 20, and even after four decades no hint of slickness had crept into the layout of even the cover and contents page. The very title of the publication, a “newsletter,” connotes an informal publication about goings-on, nothing too serious. In 1987, when I entered graduate school, the cost of a HAN subscription was $4 a year, discounted to $2.50 for students. Even then, this was cheap.
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.
HAN is based at the Department of History and Sociology of Science, 303 Claudia Cohen Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304. Fax: 215-573-2231.