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‘The Pursuit of Ruins’ by Christina Bueno

Christina Bueno. The Pursuit of Ruins: Archaeology, History, and the Making of Modern Mexico. 280pp., 23 illus., 3 maps, notes, bibl., index. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2016. $95 (cloth), $29.95 (paper), $29.95 (eBook)

Christina Bueno’s The Pursuit of Ruins provides an engaging and comprehensive account of the development of archaeology as a national, modernizing project in Porfirian (late nineteenth and early twentieth century) Mexico. The volume is well-researched, extremely readable, and resonates well with much of the scholarship on the history of archaeology that has emerged in recent years. I recommend it as an introduction not only to the history of archaeology and “the past” in Mexico, but also as a useful comparative work for scholarship on the history of archaeology elsewhere in the world, which often seems to ignore the discipline’s development outside of Euro-America, the Mediterranean, and South Asia.[1] As Bueno notes, debate about whether Latin American countries “are postcolonial nations” is ongoing (8). The Pursuit of Ruins reveals the merits of a postcolonial perspective in the Mexican case.

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Searching for Boas in the Archives

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.[1] 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

Amelia Louise Susman Schultz, Sam Blowsnake, and the Ho-Chunk Syllabary

The History of Anthropology Newsletter is partnering with the American Philosophical Society’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) to publish here here for the first time a 1940 syllabary for the Ho-Chunk language—a transcription of sound combinations and words for writing the Ho-Chunk language[1] This valuable document, held in manuscript at the APS, was created through the collaboration of Sam Blowsnake and linguistic anthropologist Amelia Susman. Blowsnake wrote the story of his life using this syllabary for his autobiography, Crashing Thunder, published in 1920 with the assistance of Winnebago anthropologist and dissenting Boasian Paul Radin.[2]

The life and works of Amelia Susman, Franz Boas’s last Ph.D. student— currently 103 years old— will be less familiar to most. Continue reading

Can Humanity be Mapped? Adolf Bastian, Friedrich Ratzel and the Cartography of Culture

Introduction: Image and Science in Early Ethnology

During the second half of the nineteenth century, in German circles linked to anthropology, a movement of scientific systematization arose from the need to cope, scientifically and institutionally, with the great masses of data that had been collected over nearly a century of colonial enterprises and geographical discoveries. The most important German cities—Berlin, Bonn and Leipzig—laid a foundation of museums, learned societies, academies and scientific journals to set the agenda and limits for a new discipline: ethnology. Ethnology was supposed to develop a new knowledge of man as a being capable of culture. Mediating between ethnographic practices and anthropological science, ethnology at this time was difficult to distinguish from physiology and the study of man as a physical being , which were part of the natural sciences. In the struggle to attain the status of “science,” anthropology had credentials as good as any nineteenth century discipline, because of its early commitment to physiology and adoption of statistical tools. But it was also the first human science to question substantially the adequateness of the scientific method and the pretension of objectivity as it involved very unstable research materials focused on human culture and behavior.[1]

This essay will analyze the case of two founders of German anthropology, Adolf Bastian (1826-1905) and Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904), and examine the challenges they faced in creating images to use as scientific tools in their ethnological approaches. The absence of descriptive, paradigmatic and documentary image tools in the major ethnology handbooks of the time stands in contrast to the clear awareness of anthropologists of the urgent need to codify a coherent and comprehensive system of representations, and to give a symbolic account of the complex results of their discipline.

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History of Anthropology Panels at EASA 2018: Conference Report

From 14-17 August 2018, Stockholm University in Sweden hosted the 15th biennial conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA). This year’s conference included four panels on the history of anthropology, as well as one session on a fifth panel, for a total of 38 papers on different aspects of the field’s history. This large number of papers suggests an upsurge of interest in the subject in Europe and worldwide. Since its reactivation in 2016, EASA’s History of Anthropology Network (HOAN) has aimed at facilitating this process, and its membership has nearly doubled since early 2017. All panels on the history of anthropology during this EASA conference were convened by members of HOAN; two of the panels were organized under the auspices of this network. Continue reading

Event: History of Anthropology at the AAA, San Jose, CA, November 14-18 2018

The annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association will take place November 14-18 2018 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Here is a list of sessions and events relevant to the history of anthropology:

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HSS History of Anthropology Happy Hour, 2 November 2018

In the spirit of the History of Science Society’s Annual Meeting, the History of Anthropology Newsletter will be hosting an informal gathering on Friday, Nov. 2 from 7:15-8:00 at Fado’s Irish Pub (801 1st Ave, Seattle).

All HSS attendees interested in issues related to the history of anthropology are invited to attend!

Event: History of Anthropology at HSS, Seattle, WA, November 1-4, 2018

The annual meeting of the History of Science Society (HSS) will take place November 1-4 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. Here is a list of sessions and events relevant to the history of anthropology:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Land Acknowledgement Ceremony & Plenary Roundtable: Knowledge/Violence/Futures: History of Science and its Genealogies
18:00-19:29, Room: Willow
Co-Organized by Gregg Mitman (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Michelle Murphy (University of Toronto)

  • Joseph Masco (University of Chicago)
  • Kim TallBear (University of Alberta)
  • Michelle Murphy (University of Toronto)
  • Dr. Pablo Gómez (University of Wisconsin Madison)

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‘The School of Oriental and African Studies’ by Ian Brown: A “Director’s Office View” of History

Ian Brown. The School of Oriental and African Studies: Imperial Training and the Expansion of Learning. 346 pp., 27 b/w illus., bibl., index. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Ian Brown’s The School of Oriental and African Studies: Imperial Training and the Expansion of Learning is a welcome addition to the literature on higher education in Britain, and particularly to the small but important body of work on SOAS (as it is now officially known). While SOAS has produced festschrifts for particular professors, and a few “corridor histories,” such as SOAS Since the Sixties and SOAS: A Celebration in Many Voices,[1] the school lacks the kind of intensive memorialization that one finds in say, Oxford and Cambridge. This is particularly true in anthropology where journals such as Cambridge Anthropology and the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford feature extensive obituaries and testimonies of staff. Brown’s new volume is, therefore, a valuable contribution to the history of SOAS, especially because the other SOAS histories are out of print.

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Event: Workshop on Ethics, Settler Colonialism, and Indigeneity in the History of the Human Sciences, University of Washington, 4 November 2018

On November 4, 2018 the University of Washington’s Walter Chapin Simpson Centre for the Humanities will be hosting a special workshop on Ethics, Settler Colonialism, and Indigeneity in the History of the Human Sciences.

Taking place from 9:30-4:30pm in Communications Building 202, this workshop will explore how historians of science and others might assess the ethical breaches and conundrums that took place in the past as researchers in the human sciences carried out investigations of and on “the other.”

A full description of the workshop can be found below.

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New Opportunity: Graduate Programs in HPS and Biology and Society at ASU

Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences has announced a series of graduate programs in Biology and Society (MS; PhD) and the History and Philosophy of Science (PhD).

As part of the Biology and Society or History and Philosophy of Science programs, students have the opportunity to work closely with researchers in many disciplines, such as biology, medicine, economics, ethics, philosophy, history and public policy, to develop a strong foundation of knowledge and scholarship.

More information on these programs can be found here.

Event: MBL-ASU History of Biology Seminar, Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 16-21 May 2019,

From May 16-21, 2019 the Marine Biological Laboratory and Arizona State University are holding their Annual History of Biology Seminar at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. Titled,  “Uncovering the Logic of Regeneration across Complex Living Systems,” this seminar will bring togeather historians, philosophers, social scientists and biologists for a lively and intense week of presentations and discussions on how microbial communities, organisms and ecosystems maintain some capacity to repair and to maintain themselves in the face of events that cause disturbances or damage.

Applications for this seminar are due on February 1, 2019.

More information about the seminar’s theme and application process can be found here.


Event: Anthropology and Folklore in Conversation: Revisiting Frazer, Lang, and Tylor, Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 25 October 2018.

On October 25th the the Folklore Society and the Royal Anthropology Institute will be holding a joint seminar entitled “Anthropology and Folklore in Conversation: Revisiting Frazer, Lang, and Tylor.” This seminar is devoted to examining the complementarities between anthropology and folklore, through exploring the lives and work of James George Frazer, Andrew Lang and Edward B. Tylor.

This event will take place at the Royal Anthropological Institute at 50 Fitzroy St, London and will run from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

For additional information about this event, please contact:


Event: The life and works of Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard, 1902-1973, Royal Anthropological Institute, London, October 18-19 2018,

Edward Evans-Pritchard was one of the most famous anthropologists of the twentieth century. Known for the great range and perspicacity of his writings and lectures, the books which he published were often seminal, creating discussion and setting anthropology off onto new paths. In order to explore his life, fieldwork, and legacy, on October 18-19, 2018 the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) is holding a seminar on “The life and works of Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973),” There will be no conference fee, and refreshments will be provided on the day. Program information can be found here.

To RSVP to this event please go to


New Resource: Robert Launay’s “Savages, Romans, and Despots: Thinking About Others from Montaigne to Herder”

The History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) is pleased to announce the upcoming publication of Dr. Robert Launay‘s new book Savages, Romans and Despots: Thinking About Others from Montaigne to Herder. Scheduled for release on October 1, 2018, Launay’s work traces how Europeans both admired and disdained unfamiliar societies in their attempts to work through the inner conflicts of their own social worlds.

A full description of the book can be found below:

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Resource: New Content in HAN’s Bibliography

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

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Event: Human Diversity in Context, Trieste, Italy, 25-26 September 2018

On September 25-26, 2018 the Department of Humanities of the University of Trieste & Academia Europaea is hosting an international conference called Human Diversity in Context.

This event will offer a multifaceted critical examination of the ways, tools and strategies through which European societies have historically envisioned and now confront, construct and conceptualize their perception, representation and evaluation of the difference-in-unity of mankind. The scope of the conference will range from the recognition and/or reconstruction of religious identities and the legal status of minorities, together with the formation of territorially bounded human collectives, to the analysis of wounded identities or competing regimes of memory, from the dialectical examination of processes of ‘othering’ to cultural and physical anthropological narratives and classifications of mankind, exploring which cognitive skills humans share and do not share with animals.

The full conference program can be found here.

Questions about the event can be directed to conference organizer Dr Cinzia Ferrini at

Invitation to Contribute: Land Acknowledgement at HSS

During the 2017 History of Science Society meeting in Toronto, a committee was formed  to expand the Society’s ongoing initiatives for inclusion, diversity and equality. The committee’s primary focus for the 2018 meeting in Seattle is to invite one of the six Seattle-area Nations (Duwamish, Tulalip, Muckleshoot, Snohomish, Suquamish, and Snoqualmie) to open the conference with a land acknowledgment ceremony. They are also drafting guidelines to make land acknowledgment a regular practice at conferences and institutions for research and education.

Many institutions of research and education have been erected on stolen land. Academic conferences and events are also routinely held in these spaces. Often these lands were taken under unjust and violent circumstances. However, these truths, including the devastating effects that forced relocation continues to have on native communities, are left out of dominant historical narratives.

Indigenous Land Acknowledgements, which refers to the practice of recognizing an Indigenous community’s ancestral ties to the land on which a meeting or event is taking place, are one small but tangible way institutions of culture and education in the United States can begin repairing the harm caused by mainstream historical accounts, which have excluded Indigenous voices and obscured the centrality of violence to colonialism in the United States. Acknowledging the communities that have an inseparable connection to the land on which these institutions reside challenges the mainstream narrative and calls attention to the strength of Indigenous communities which have survived the devastating effects of displacement and colonization. Further, this history informs the present experience of Native American peoples, so it is essential to the contextualization of current events.

Anyone interested in joining the committee is very welcome. They can be reached at

Publishing Opportunity: Invitation to contribute to Anthropological Theory

Anthropological Theory (AT) is looking for submissions regarding disciplinary history.  According to the editors, Stephen
Reyna, Julia Eckert and Nina Glick Schiller, they are “[P]leased to review individual articles or entire issues dealing with particular themes.  AT is a theory journal, so our preference is for articles that deal with theoretical or methodological matters that have been significant in the discipline’s history. We do not insist that AT authors hew to a particular intellectual standpoint.  However, successful manuscripts will construct arguments, notable for their clarity, that advance questions of theory in historical contexts.”

Information about the journal including submission requirements can be found

‘Early Inuit Studies: Themes and Transitions, 1850s-1980s’ edited by Igor Krupnik

Igor Krupnik (Editor). Early Inuit Studies: Themes and Transitions, 1850s-1980s. xviii + 452pp., illus., maps, bibl., index. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2016.

Inuit studies today is an interdisciplinary and institutionalized field of research. The present book, edited by Arctic ethnologist Igor Krupnik, proceeds from a session organized at the 18th Inuit Studies Conference, and provides insightful elements on the history of the field. This collection of fourteen essays (plus a contextualizing introduction by Krupnik and a closing “Coda” by Béatrice Collignon) is a beautiful object, printed on glazed-paper, reproducing many maps, tables, and unique photographs from the collections of prominent social scientists of the Arctic. In the front endpapers readers encounter a nearly circumpolar map of the whole Inuit Arctic. This cartographic representation of the polar North fits well with the book’s pan-Inuit framework, dealing with research produced about all Inuit groups in Northern America, Russia, and Europe (Greenland). The book’s broad geographic scope is united with an ambitious historiographical agenda. Krupnik aims to fill a void in the “collective memory” of scholars of Inuit studies by portraying in broad strokes the early history of their research field. Most of the book’s chapters are devoted to portraying one important figure in Inuit studies, or studying a precise research project, or depicting a school of thought or a research tradition.

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Archival Developments: The Cora Du Bois Archives

This is the first entry in our “Archival Developments” series, in which we invite scholars to write and reflect on their experiences using specific archives. If you would like to suggest a contribution, please contact us at

Cora Alice Du Bois (1903–1991) is known for her studies in culture-and-personality and change in complex societies. Her personal and professional papers are divided among several institutions including Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. Du Bois was educated at Barnard College (BA) and UC Berkeley (PhD) and spent much of her academic career at Harvard, where she would hold the Zemurray-Stone Professorship and become the school’s first tenured woman. She did fieldwork among Native Americans in the western US and in Orissa, India, and her work in Indonesia led to her landmark study, The People of Alor: A Social-Psychological Study of an East Asian Island.[i]

Susan Seymour, the Jean M. Pitzer Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Pitzer College and a student of Du Bois at Harvard, used Du Bois’s archival collections extensively when writing her 2015 biography of Du Bois, Cora Du Bois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent.[ii] We asked her to write briefly about how her use of the Cora Du Bois Collection housed in Tozzer Library at Harvard, informed her work.  Continue reading

Visual Kinship

Even if we don’t see them very often in ethnographies these days, the charts connecting up circles and triangles into lines of descent and affiliation remain iconic artifacts of anthropological knowledge. They are also compelling visual representations in their own right. As part of a larger project on how sex or gender has been codified into visual symbols — such as  ♀ and ♂ — I have been looking at the history of anthropological kinship diagrams.

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“Laying the Cards on the Table”

Michel Leiris. Phantom Africa. Translated by Brent Hayes Edwards. Africa List Series. 720 pp., 37 halftones, 3 fascimiles, 1 map. Calcutta, London, and New York: Seagull Books, 2017. $60 (cloth)

Editor’s Note: This essay—an extended commentary on the recently published translation of Phantom Africa—is HAN’s first joint production of Field Notes and Reviews. The Editors welcome and encourage future submissions that combine reviews of recently published works with reflections on the history of anthropology.

Cover of the first edition of L’Afrique Fantôme, published by Gallimard in its series ‘Les Documents Bleus’ in 1934.

Phantom Africa is the diary that French writer and ethnologist, Michel Leiris, kept for almost two years, from May 1931 to February 1933. During this period, he was the secretary-archivist of the Dakar-Djibouti mission, an important ethnographic expedition financed by the French government, supported by several private donors, and organized by the University of Paris and the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro. The main goal of the mission was to collect a large number of ethnographic objects in order to renew the collection of the museum. The years between the world wars were a critical period for French anthropology because it was the moment of its emergence as an independent discipline. As a highly publicized event attached to the Trocadéro, the Dakar-Djibouti mission in particular played an important role in this process, paving the way for other ethnographic expeditions throughout the 1930s.[1] The original French edition of the diary was published by Gallimard soon after the mission, in 1934, and now it has been published in English, translated by Brent Hayes Edwards. Continue reading

Event: History of Anthropology Panels at the 5th EASA conference in Stockholm, Sweden, 14-17 August 2018

The 5th European Association for Social Anthropologists (EASA) conference will take place in Stockholm, Sweden at Stockholm University from August 14-17, 2018.  A  list of sessions and events relevant to the history of anthropology can be found below:

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CFP: Call for Papers for RAI Seminar “Anthropology and Folklore in Conversation: Revisiting Frazer, Lang, and Tylor,” in London, 25 October 2018

As part of a series of successful one-day events devoted to examining the complementarities between anthropology and folklore, the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) is holding a seminar on the writings of James George Frazer, Andrew Lang and Edward Burnett Tylor. They invite scholars to submit papers on these three famous figures, whose work continues to influence both of these fields.

Though papers on these three scholars and their impact are particularly welcome, the RAI is also open to papers that situate these figures within a larger network of scholarship in order to shed light on the different, overlapping currents of scholarship at the time, and the way that we react to them today.

Anyone wishing to submit a proposal should submit the title of their proposed paper (along with a 300 word abstract which includes the authors name and contact information) to by Friday 13 July, 2018 by 5 PM. Paper proposers will be notified by the end of July if their proposal has been accepted.

More information on this event and the submission process can be found here.


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