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.
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.
Herbert S. Lewis. In Defense of Anthropology: An Investigation of the Critique of Anthropology. xvii + 244 pp., bibl., index. New Brunswick: Transaction, 2013. $69.95 (hardcover)
For years, Herbert Lewis has defended classical anthropology (meaning here American cultural anthropology produced in the first half of the twentieth century) from postmodern and postcolonial critique. This volume collects eight of Lewis’s essays on this subject, and also includes an original piece written especially for the volume. For those sympathetic with Lewis’s claims, this volume will be welcome. However, Lewis’s strident tone will probably not sway the unconvinced, much less those critical of classical anthropology.
Curtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox (Editors). Coming of Age in Chicago: The 1893 World’s Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology. 624 pp., illus., tbls., apps., bibl., index. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. $65 (cloth)
Coming of Age in Chicago is a volume of essays about the production and presentation of anthropological exhibitions at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. In its entirety, the volume argues that disjointed centers of anthropological interest in Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia institutions found common ground in Chicago, and the personal and professional ties established in Chicago set the course for the eventual professionalization of anthropology.
Orin Starn (Editor). Writing Culture and the Life of Anthropology. 280 pp., illus., bibl., index. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2015. $94.95 (cloth), $25.95 (paperback)
The essays in this volume reflect on the landmark 1986 Writing Culture and are short, sharp, and satisfying. Like many commemorative volumes, each essay provides a bit of reflection: where were you when you first read Writing Culture? While this has the unsurprising effect of turning the 1986 work into a metonym for the “reflexive turn” in anthropology, the essays are not overly nostalgic and instead focus on, as the title spotlights, the “Life of Anthropology.” As such, Writing Culture and the Life of Anthropology is useful to those who stayed up late to finish the book in 1986 as well as those of us who became scholars long afterward, for whom the lessons of the original Writing Culture have become inextricably embedded in anthropology, history, and other humanistic social sciences.
Peter Mandler. Return from the Natives: How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War. 384 pp., illus., bibl., index. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. $45 (cloth)
Ruben Flores. Backroads Pragmatists: Mexico’s Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States. 360 pp., illus., index. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. $45 (cloth), $45 (e-book)
These two ambitious recent books offer models for historians of social science to assess their subjects’ influence. Narrowing their scope to key individuals in order to trace their paths carefully, Mandler and Flores paint vivid pictures of social scientists pursuing agendas for cultural renewal through political channels. While their conclusions are ultimately ambivalent, both authors have given us carefully researched volumes on the influence, and lack of influence, of anthropologists and other social scientists from the interwar period to the early 1950s. Anyone interested in anthropology’s relationship to the state should read these books.