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A Living Room

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.

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Canguilhem’s Vital Social Medicine

The thought of the living must take from the living the idea of the living.

Georges Canguilhem

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.

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Le Vivant & Partial Pressure Milieus

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. 

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On the Odor of Rancid Butter, a Twenty-First Century Update

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. 

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Event: Ethnology as Ethnography: Interdisciplinarity, Transnationality and Disciplinary Networks in the German Democratic Republic, University of Bonn, 1-2 February 2019


On February 1-2, 2019 scholars from the University of Bonn will present their findings of their Volkswagen Foundation research project:  “Akteurinnen, Praxen, Theorien: Zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Ethnologie in der DDR” [Actors, Practices, Theories: Towards a History of Ethnology in the GDR] at a two day symposium titled: Ethnology as Ethnography: Interdisciplinarity, Transnationality and  Disciplinary Networks in the GDR – German Democratic Republic.

In this conference, researchers will discuss the possibilities of access to the history of German-speaking ethnic anthropology in transnational (European and international) spaces.

More information about this event can be found here.

 


					
		

Event: Staged Otherness, c. 1850-1939: East-Central European Responses and Context, Budapest, 16-18 January 2019


From January 16-18 2019 the Central European University, Institute of Ethnology, RCH, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, and the Polish Academy of Sciences is holding a conference on “Staged Otherness: East-Central European Responses and Context” at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Art.

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 full conference program can be found here.

Special Focus: História dos Índios no Brasil Dossiê


This dossier features seven of the forty papers presented at the colloquium 25 anos de História dos Índios no Brasil: balanços e perspectivas da história indígena. The event was held between December 11 and 13, 2017 in the Guita and José Mindlin Brasiliana Library at Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and organized by the Centro de Estudos Ameríndios (USP) and the Centro de Pesquisa em Etnologia Indígena of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landmark edited volume, Historia dos Índios no Brasil, assembled by anthropologist Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, researchers and Indigenous people came together to reflect on the state of the field of Indigenous history in Brazil.

Click here to read the full focus section

Editor’s Introduction: Indigenous History and Anthropology in Brazil


The 1992 publication of the volume História dos Índios no Brasil edited by Manuela Carneiro da Cunha marked a turning point in scholarship on Indigenous peoples in Brazilian history and anthropology. Featuring works by twenty-seven leading scholars across the fields of social and cultural anthropology, linguistics, archeology, and genetics, it established a new baseline in the rapidly expanding field of Indigenous history.[1] Continue reading

Introduction: 25 years of História dos Índios no Brasil: Balances and Perspectives on Indigenous History


This dossier features seven of the forty papers presented at the colloquium 25 anos de História dos Índios no Brasil: balanços e perspectivas da história indígena. The event was held between December 11 and 13, 2017 in the Guita and José Mindlin Brasiliana Library at Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and organized by the Centro de Estudos Ameríndios (USP) and the Centro de Pesquisa em Etnologia Indígena of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landmark edited volume, Historia dos Índios no Brasil, assembled by anthropologist Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, researchers and Indigenous people came together to reflect on the state of the field of Indigenous history in Brazil. Continue reading

Why Did We Publish a Book about Indigenous Peoples’ History in Brazil in 1992?


There are many ways to answer that question. A simple if not simplistic one is to recall that Indigenous history had been largely ignored in Brazil, based on a mishmash of half-cooked ideas. The Brazilian historian, Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, dismissed its very possibility in 1854 on the grounds that Indigenous peoples were stuck in an inescapable infancy: hence they had no history and were to be left to the care of ethnography. A century later, it was argued that, having no writing systems, they had produced no historical documents. Then, widespread and gross misinterpretations of the notion of “cold societies” led many to position Indigenous peoples against history. Continue reading

Indigenous History and Land Rights in the Rio Branco Valley, Northern Brazil: An Assessment


The volume História dos Índios no Brasil (da Cunha 1992) is the hallmark of a theoretical and methodological renewal in the historiography of Indigenous peoples in Brazil, a momentum which we are glad to be part of as authors and contributors. It is also iconic of Brazilian scholars’ commitment to the official acknowledgment of the political and land rights of Indigenous peoples. In circumstances very similar to the birth of ethnohistory in the United States during the 1940s (see Trigger 1982), the academic field of Indigenous history in Brazil consolidated in the 1980s as an answer to the political challenge of proving the historical basis for Indigenous land rights.[1] In those years, the military dictatorship took steps towards a restricted and controversial land demarcation process, which aimed to liberate lands for economic exploration, notably in opening areas of Amazonia. This meant a potential blow to Indigenous land rights claims. In reaction, Indigenous peoples established political organizations and activist movements in the 1980s. Many land demarcation cases were then taken to court, and historical evidence was crucial to guarantee constitutional Indigenous land rights (for a detailed account, see da Cunha and Barbosa 2018). Continue reading

On the Trail of Merandolino


Contemporary distribution of Indigenous peoples in the Lower Tapajos and Arapiuns valleys (Leandro Mahalem de Lima, 2018)

This piece is a case study about river-based communities adjacent to the Amazon River, and an account of their claims for Indigenous recognition since the mid-1990s. I focus on the Lower Rio Tapajos and Rio Arapiuns region, in Santarem, Pará State, Brazil, where I conducted ethnographical studies between 2008 and 2015. I trace aspects of the process of Indigenous political mobilization and its connection to Indigenous history and anthropology, focusing on the legendary and historical shaman, Merandolino, whose rediscovered history is now connecting disparate places and times. Continue reading

Indigenous Labor in Native and Brazilian Colonial History: A Historiographic Assessment


Indigenous labor and Indigenous slavery have occupied a minor place in analyses of Brazilian colonial history. Despite the fact that labor is omnipresent in social relations and is the material basis of the reproduction of societies, historians of Brazilian colonialism abandoned it as an analytic category decades ago in favor of themes such as memory and identity. This phenomenon is neither restricted to Brazil, nor to Indigenous studies, although this essay will focus on examples of Brazilian colonial and Native history.[1] Recent developments in studies of Native history were made possible by the opening of a dialogue between history and anthropology. However, Native history became a field apart and closed in on itself, with practitioners abandoning the analysis of broader historical processes and limiting their aims to the affirmation of Indigenous peoples’ agency. This affirmation fulfilled an important function, but the field should now broaden the range of questions it addresses, seeking a larger dialogue with history to attend to a new political context. Continue reading

Transformations of Mura Territoriality in the Amazon


“The Mura are everywhere,” a Mura leader, or tuxáua, of Piranha village, said to me. This statement, made during my very first days of fieldwork in Terra Indígena Cunhã-Sapucaia, highlighted the paradox of the Mura territoriality in the Amazon. This essay examines questions of Mura territoriality and mobility, and the construction and implementation of the categories used to describe and delimit Mura space. I begin with an analysis of the anthropological literature and its role in documenting bureaucratic state attempts to administrate Mura affairs. Next, I turn to the work of Mura tuxáua, teachers, and activists, who are disrupting and reclaiming old categories in the service of new claims to sovereignty. Drawing on Gallois’ conception of territoriality (2004), which considers the cultural particularities of Indigenous peoples’ relations to space in the context of contact, I explore how Mura conceptions of space are intimately tied up with the memory and mobility of ancestors, kin whose presence is still felt and known through the land. Continue reading

Archives of the Future: Issues for the Custody of Recent Documentation Concerning Indigenous Peoples in Brazil


Twenty-five years ago, Brazilian scholars came together to publish História dos Índios no Brasil. The book consolidated the work of a generation trained in the post-graduate anthropology programs established in the late sixties. While facing the repression of the military regime (1964-1985) these scholars established anthropological and historical methods, valid to this day, that are at the same time theoretically robust and legally effective in securing the rights of Indigenous people to their land and their histories in Brazil. This paradigm was the product of an implicated anthropology (Albert 1995), where scholars and Indigenous peoples fight a common struggle against the deep-seated colonial dynamics of economic expansion.[1] Continue reading

Desconstruindo a história contada até pouco tempo atrás / To Deconstruct the History That Was Told Until Recently


Quem sou, qual minha metade, de onde eu venho?

Who am I, what is my moiety, and where do I come from?
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Funding Opportunity: 2019-2020 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI) Opportunities at the American Philosophical Society


The American Philosophical Society invites applications for predoctoral, postdoctoral, and short-term research fellowships and internships from scholars at all stages of their careers, especially Native American scholars in training, tribal college and university faculty members, and other scholars working closely with Native communities on projects in Native American and Indigenous Studies and related fields and disciplines. These funding opportunities are supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI). Fellows and interns will be associated with the APS’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR), which promotes greater collaboration among scholars, archives, and Indigenous communities. More information about these opportunities 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 bibliographies@histanthro.org.

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Funding Opportunity: Adrian Research Fellowship


Thanks to a generous original donation from Trinity College, Cambridge,
Darwin College intends to elect a stipendiary Adrian Research Fellow in the history or anthropology of science or medicine in societies and cultures other than the modern West, if a suitable candidate applies. More information about this opportunity can be found below.

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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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