2021 (page 1 of 5)

Structuralist Anthropology and Biblical Interpretation, by Alfred Adler

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French about three anthropologists (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Edmund Leach, Mary Douglas) and the anthropology of the Bible.

Adler, Alfred, 2021. “L’anthropologie structurale et l’interprétation de textes bibliques” [Transl. “Structural Anthropology and the Interpretation of Biblical Texts”], in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The structural analysis of myths as theorized and practiced by Lévi-Strauss has proved its worth, as is shown by the imposing sum constituted by his Mythologiques. It was the philosopher Paul Ricoeur who pointed out the limits of this method by asking why it should only be applied to the myths of non-literate societies and why it is inappropriate for texts such as the Bible. Two eminent British anthropologists, Edmund Leach and Mary Douglas, and indeed Lévi-Strauss himself, overrode this ‘taboo’ as if to challenge not the limits of structural analysis itself, but the status of the Bible as ‘holy scripture,’ which is nonetheless amenable to a strictly scientific approach.

Leach in his essay “The Legitimacy of Solomon” sought to shed light on what he called the ideology of kingship in ancient Israel by analyzing the contradictions between settlement in a promised land populated by idolatrous tribes and the religious ideal of purity involving endogamy. As a result, his object is not myth per se but a hybrid material, “myth-history,” which cannot be the subject of a structural analysis. Mary Douglas, in Purity and Danger, dealt with the theme of the “abominations of Leviticus,” which were part of the priestly code. In this erudite article, Adler considers that this is undoubtedly a well-conducted structural analysis, but that it stumbles over the notion of holiness, a divine attribute that does not fit into the framework of oppositions between pure and impure or sacred and profane, familiar in religious anthropology. Finally, Lévi-Strauss, in the brief article “Exodus on Exodus,” a challenge and also a playful exercise, made a piquant but hazardous comparison between circumcision, the initiation ritual among the ancient Hebrews, and the removal of the penile sheath in initiation among the Bororo of Brazil. Lévi-Strauss shed little light on the three very mysterious biblical verses that recount the circumcision of Moses, who was first threatened with death by a demon god who descended upon him in the desert, only to let him accomplish his mission with the Pharaoh: to bring the people of Israel out of slavery. Why are these three essays disappointing, why do they add little to the discipline of Biblical criticism? This is what French Africanist anthropologist Alfred Adler attempts to answer in a thorough and sophisticated analysis.

Gregory Bateson from Anthropology to Epistemology, by Peter Harries-Jones

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an in-depth analysis of Gregory Bateson’s theoretical body of work by Peter Harries-Jones.

Harries-Jones, Peter, 2021. “‘From Anthropology to Epistemology’: Extensions to an Autobiography of Gregory Bateson,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Born in Great Britain and trained at Cambridge (in particular by A. C. Haddon), Gregory Bateson (1904–1980) was an anthropologist who crossed disciplinary boundaries and profoundly altered the epistemology of the human sciences. Peter Harries-Jones gives an in-depth analysis of his theoretical body of work. His first fieldwork took place between 1927 and 1930 in New Guinea among the Baining, the Sulka, and then the Iatmul. His analysis of one of their rituals inspired him to coin the concept of schismogenesis, which he used in his famous book Naven: A Survey of the Problems Suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe Drawn from Three Points of View (1936). He spent two years in Bali (1936-1938) with Margaret Mead, whom he married in 1936, focusing on the education of children. They made a documentary film, Dance and Trance in Bali (1942), which marked a milestone in the history of ethnographic films. During WWII, he worked for the OSS in Southeast Asia. As one of the first participants in the Macy Lectures in the 1940s, along with Margaret Mead, he understood the importance of cybernetic theory and the centrality of information in cultural and biological processes. When working as an ethnologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, he founded the Palo Alto School, which developed an innovative approach to schizophrenia by forging the double-bind theory in 1956, making him one of the pioneers of family therapy. He developed an ambitious anthropology of communication linked to a theory of learning and social interactions and to a systems theory that embraced his holistic vision of the relationship between culture, evolution, and the environment. In his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972), he expressed his deep and aesthetic commitment to an ecological anthropology that rejects the dualism of nature/culture and body/spirit. He is one of the founders of biosemiotics.

After reading this piece, the reader grasps how much Bateson’s anthropology is still deeply relevant to our changing world, a world challenged by environmental upheavals and new scientific discoveries in cultural, biological and cognitive processes.

History of Anthropology Working Group, “HoA at HSS and AAA,” December 1, 2021

The next meeting of the 2021 History of Anthropology Working Group hosted by the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine will be held on Wednesday, December 1st at 12:00pm ET via Zoom. There are no advance readings: instead, we will be hearing and discussing the work of some of the editors of the History of Anthropology Review who presented papers at the 2021 American Anthropological Association (AAA) and History of Science Society (HSS) conferences this November.

They’ll summarize their work, discuss the conference reactions, and reflect on the state of History of Anthropology as shown in these two conferences:

Patricia Martins Marcos: Racialized Knowledges: Manipulating Nature, Blackness, and Epistemic Disciplining in the Portuguese Inquisition.
Tracie Canada: Vindication, Imagination, and Decolonization: African Americans and the Experience of Anthropology (George W. Stocking, Jr. Symposium).
Nick Barron: Cultural Islands: The Pluralistic Politics of Anthropology.
Cameron Brinitzer : Social Learning Mechanisms: The Evolution of Culture and Its Sciences.
Matthew Hoffarth: Interactions with the Rorschach: Anthony F.C. Wallace and Mel Spiro’s Criticisms of the Culture Concept.

Additional details about the group and information on how to attend may be found on the Consortium website. Questions may be directed to John Tresch at john.tresch@sas.ac.uk.

Image and Text in Frobenius’s The Voice of Africa (1912-1913), by Richard Fardon and Richard Kuba

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in English about the intertwined works of the artist Carl Arriens and Africanist anthropologist Leo Frobenius in the latter’s famous book, Und Afrika Sprach (The Voice of Africa).

Fardon, Richard & Richard Kuba, 2021. “Adding Colour to Und Afrika Sprach: Carl Arriens’ Image and Leo Frobenius’ Text” (Colourization by Agnès Boulmer), in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The prolific artist Carl Arriens, one of three European members of Leo Frobenius’s fourth Africa expedition to Nigeria and Kamerun in 1910–12, provided many of the striking images that accompany the text of Frobenius’s monumental account of their research, quickly published in the three volumes of Und Afrika Sprach (The Voice of Africa) in 1912–13. In this illustrated essay Fardon and Kuba draw upon a range of evidence, including archives and ethnography as well as the published narrative, to question the relationship between what the members of the expedition did and saw, and how their experience went on to be represented to a readership in words and images. Their analysis was provoked by Arriens’s vivid depiction of a scene that, at once, could never have occurred and yet is congruent both with the text and with other images. Using this as an exemplary instance, their analysis radiates out to examine a range of images in different mediums that reflect concerns and presumptions shared by the narrative. Arriens’s exemplary image, they conclude, was produced by a technique of totalizing combinatorial collage, which is also, the two authors argue, the method behind Frobenius’s evocations of The Voice of Africa.

Heymann Steinthal’s Psychology of Peoples (Völkerpsychologie), by Davide Bondi

HAR is please to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French about the German anthropologist, philologist and philosopher Heymann Steinthal.

Bondi, Davide, 2021. “La Psychologie des peuples, entre histoire, langue et culture : la pensée et l’œuvre de Heymann Steinthal” [Transl.: “Völkerpsychologie, between History, Language and Culture: The Thought and Work of Heymann Steinthal”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Heymann Steinthal, together with his brother-in-law and friend Moritz Lazarus, was the founder of the journal Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, one of the most influential forums of European philosophical discussion in the second half of the nineteenth century. The theoretical project of the journal was linked to the legacy of Hegel and Herbart, taking from the former the idea that the mind is a “subject” and from the latter the proposal of “psychology” as a fundamental science of the mind. The “psychology of peoples” could then become a field of elaboration and coordination of the concepts inherent in the multiple sciences that study cultural phenomena. This is because these phenomena are the result and symbolic expression of the psychic processes of historical or living societies. In his writings, Steinthal turned in particular to the problems of language from the description of the grammatical structures of different African, Asian and European languages. From the descriptive to the reflexive level, he developed a theory of the evolution of speech communities which emphasised the plurality of spiritual centres that could be systematically reconstructed by means of a ‘morphological classification’ which is attentive to differences. In this ambitious article unfolding Steinthal’s thinking, Bondi points out that the episteme thus developed served as a stimulus for the development of sociology and ethnology in the twentieth century.

Call for Papers: Seventh Annual Conference on the History of Recent Social Science (HISRESS), Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, June 17-18, 2022

After a two-year pandemic delay, this two-day conference of the Society for the History of Recent Social Science (HISRESS) will bring together researchers working on the history of post-World War II social science. It will provide a forum for the latest research on the cross-disciplinary history of the post-war social sciences, including but not limited to anthropology, economics, psychology, political science, and sociology as well as related fields like area studies, communication studies, history, international relations, law, and linguistics. The conference aims to build upon the recent emergence of work and conversation on cross-disciplinary themes in the postwar history of the social sciences.

Submissions are welcome in such areas including, but not restricted to:

  • The interchange of social science concepts and figures among the academy and wider intellectual and popular spheres
  • Comparative institutional histories of departments and programs
  • Border disputes and boundary work between disciplines as well as academic cultures
  • Themes and concepts developed in the history and sociology of natural and physical science, reconceptualized for the social science context
  • Professional and applied training programs and schools, and the quasi-disciplinary fields (like business administration) that typically housed them
  • The role of social science in post-colonial state-building governance
  • Social science adaptations to the changing media landscape
  • The role and prominence of disciplinary memory in a comparative context
  • Engagements with matters of gender, sexuality, race, religion, nationality, disability and other markers of identity and difference

The two-day conference will be organized as a series of one-hour, single-paper sessions attended by all participants. Ample time will be set aside for intellectual exchange between presenters and attendees, as all participants are expected to read pre-circulated papers in advance.

Proposals should contain no more than 1000 words, indicating the originality of the paper. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is February 4, 2022. Final notification will be given in early March 2022 after proposals have been reviewed. Completed papers will be expected by May 13, 2022.

The organizing committee consists of Jamie Cohen-Cole (George Washington University), Philippe Fontaine (École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay), Jeff Pooley (Muhlenberg College), Mark Solovey (University of Toronto), and Marga Vicedo (University of Toronto).

All proposals and requests for information should be sent to submissions@hisress.org.

Job Opportunity: Supervisory Research Anthropologist, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

The Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History invites applications for an anthropologist to serve as Supervisory Research Anthropologist/Manager of the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), which includes the Human Studies Film Archives.

The NAA holds the largest known collection of historical and contemporary materials documenting the world’s cultures and the history of anthropology via a wide array of media types. Indigenous communities, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, film scholars and national and international researchers and filmmakers are the primary users of the collections. 

The Manager manages the NAA, and develops collections goals and plans, including preparation of annual budget in alignment with the Department and NMNH’s goals and plans. The position also oversees the processing of archival collections and preparation for digitization, including organization, arrangement, description (finding aids and inventories) and preservation, and the tracking of these activities. The Manager will also oversee the collections information systems used by the NAA, as well as the preservation, security and safekeeping of the archival and film collections.  The Manager will supervise staff and contract archivists as well as interns and volunteers. Additional duties include representing the NAA within NMNH and the Smithsonian, as well as being an active part of the collections management team at NMNH.

This position will be offered as a permanent Federal position and the position will be filled at the GS-13 level, which starts at $103,690 per year. U.S. citizenship is required.  College transcripts and proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study must be submitted online by the closing date of announcement or your application will be disqualified.  For complete requirements and application procedures go to www.sihr.si.edu  or www.usajobs.gov and refer to Announcement #: 22A-JW-306791-DEU-NMNH (open to public candidates); or 22A-JW-306791A-MPA-NMNH (open to current/former federal candidates). 

All supporting documentation must be received online by 11/30/2021. Applicants will be notified by email when their applications are received.

To learn more about the Department of Anthropology, please view our website.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex with over 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. The Department of Anthropology is one of seven research departments at the National Museum of Natural History. The NAA Manager will join a large and diverse department with 52 full-time staff, including 12 curators in three research divisions: archaeology, ethnology and biological anthropology, along with the Collections Program  and the Repatriation Office.  The Anthropology collections hold over 3.6 million archaeological objects, over 200,000 ethnology objects, over 9,000 linear feet of archival documents, and 8 million running feet of ethnographic film and video. 

History of Anthropology Events at AAA

The annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association will be held online and in-person in Baltimore, MD, on November 17-21, 2021. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Truth and Responsibility”; a full schedule and additional details may be found on the Association’s website.

The News Editors at HAR are pleased to highlight several panels of interest to our readers. Event times are listed in Eastern Time (U.S.) and registration is required to attend in-person and online. Our thanks to Grant Arndt, co-director of the History of Anthropology Interest Group, for sharing news of these and other events related to the history of anthropology.

Thursday, November 18 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM ET

Session (2-1620) Anthropology at St. Louis and

Location: In-Person, Baltimore, Convention Center 341

Sean O’Neill, “An Unfair Hearing for Global Cultural
Diversity: The Saint Louis World’s Fair as a Sounding Board for Primitivism, Racism, and Colonialism”

Christopher Lowman, “Imagining Asia Beyond the Exhibition”

Richard Warms, “Picture this: Boas, Photography and the Popular Presentation of Science”

Robert Launay, “Genealogies of the Secular and Sovereign State”

Discussant: Jon McGee

Thursday, November 18 2:00 – 3:45 PM ET

(2-1460) Entangled Histories and Bundles of Relations: Contemporary Ethnographic Work In and Around Collections

Location: In-Person, Baltimore, Convention Center 330


Catherine Nichols, Diana Marsh, Kristin Otto, Christopher Berk, Howard Morphy

Thursday, November 18 6:30 – 8:15 PM ET

Session (2-1621) Anthropology and Activism

Location: In-Person, Baltimore


Martin Schoenhals, Carol Mukhopadhyay, Yolanda Moses, Kathleen Fine-Dare, Linda Seligmann, Raymond Schwartz, Jeanne Simonelli

Session (2-0740) The World-Builders

Location: Live virtual session


Andrew Foster, Mariel Gruszko, Llerena Searle, Keith Murphy, Lee Cabatingan, Britt Van Paepeghem, Matthew C. Watson

Session (2-1190) Making Historical Truth: Material Engagements with the Past and the Politics of Responsibility after Mass Violence

Location: Live virtual session


Hilary Leathem, Chris Green, Dominic Bryan, Damani Partridge, Jonathan Evershed, Sultan Doughan, Michal Ran-Rubin, Jonah Rubin

Friday, November 19 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM ET

Session (3-2520) Alfred L. Kroeber: The Man, His Work and His Legacy

Location: In-Person, Baltimore, Convention Center 331

Herbert S. Lewis, “Alfred L. Kroeber: The Man, His Times, and His Work”

Stanley Brandes, “Alfred Kroeber and the Forging of a Discipline”

Paul Shankman, “Kroeber, Mead, and the Perils of Public Anthropology”

James Stanlaw, “Alfred Kroeber and the Development of Linguistic Anthropology”

Jack Glazier, “The Kroeber-Ishi Story: Cinematic Versions”

Nicholas Barron, “Anthros, Agents, and Federal (Un)Acknowledgment in Native California”

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Goodbye Kroeber, Kroeber Hall, and the Man Called Ishi”

Session (3-2330) Enduring Legacies of Ethnographic Field Schools, Part 1

Location: In-Person, Baltimore


Natalie Bourdon, Linda Easley, A Katherine Lambert-Pennington, Suzanne Kent, Keri Brondo, Tim Wallace, Quetzil Castaneda, Douglas Hume

(3-2122) Native Americans and Museums: International Perspectives and Collaborative Prospects.

Location: Live virtual session


Robert Collins, Justin Richland, Alaka Wali, Markus Lindner

Friday, November 19 2:00 PM – 3:45 PM ET

Session (3-2320) Enduring Legacies of Ethnographic Field Schools, Part 2

Location: In-Person, Baltimore


Tim Wallace, Keri Brondo, Bill Roberts, Walter Adams, James McDonald, Sharon Gmelch

Friday, November 19 4:15 PM – 6:00 PM ET

Session (3-1750) Vindication, Imagination, and Decolonization: African Americans and the Experience of Anthropology (The George W. Stocking, Jr. Symposium)

Location: Livestreamed and In-Person, Baltimore, Holiday Ballroom

Abstract: As we commemorate 50 years of the Association of Black Anthropologists, it is incumbent to recognize that African Americans have been bearing witness, taking action, and holding scholars accountable to the truth since the very beginning of anthropology in North America. Frederick Douglass, for example, wrote a critical response to Josiah Nott’s Types of Mankind in 1854. During every twist and turn in the history of anthropology, African American scholars have taken on the responsibility to insist that anthropology be a holistic social science that combats racism and oppression and leads to a more responsive and inclusive understanding of what it means to be human. At the same time, anthropologists throughout the African Diaspora have described and analyzed how violence, power, and oppression lead to atrocities and the worst forms of inhumanity. In this panel, we take a look at a sample of African American intellectuals who were leaders in the vindication struggle, were creative and imaginative describing culture, and worked hard towards achieving a decolonized anthropology.


Deborah Johnson-Simon, Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Lee D. Baker, Riché Barnes, Irma McClaurin, Rachel Watkins, Tracie Canada, Michael Blakey

Saturday, November 20 4:15 PM – 6:00PM ET

(4-3290) Clinical Encounters Across Difference: (Ac)countability and the Politics of Representation

Location: Live virtual session

Molly Fitzpatrick, Allison Odger, Adrienne Strong, Margaret MacDonald, Hatice Nilay Erten, Thandeka Cochrane, Cal Biruk

Sunday, November 21 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM ET

(5-0010) Historical Consciousness and Historicist Reckonings with the Anthropological Present

Location: Live virtual session

David Dinwoodie, Jim Weil, Kathryn Kozaitis, Nicholas Barron, Grant Arndt, Olga Glinskii, Paul Mitchell

Theodor Waitz (1821-1864), an Anthropology without Races, by Michel Espagne

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in French) on the German anthropologist and philosopher Theodor Waitz.

Espagne, Michel, 2021. “Une anthropologie sans races” : vie et œuvre de Theodor Waitz” [Transl.: “An Anthropology Without Races: Life and Work of Theodor Waitz”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

This article gives a theoretical overview of Theodor Waitz (1821-1864), a German philosopher who became a key figure in the anthropological and ethnological sciences in the nineteenth century. Initially interested in individual psychology as an integral part of the natural sciences, he eventually placed the social context in its ethnic diversity at the centre of his attention. His major work, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, consisting of six volumes published between 1859 and 1864, systematised a vast ethnographic and philological literature and proposed a psychology of peoples that was more empirical than speculative. In this challenging article, Espagne reveals that Waitz was attentive to the symbolic perception of reality in different human societies; that he did not ignore physiological data, but radically questioned the notion of race. At the crossroads of several disciplines, his anthropology had international repercussions and remains an essential reference point in the history of the discipline. His body of work is one of the sources of the notion of Geisteswissenschaften as coined by Dilthey.

Second HOAN Meeting featuring a keynote lecture from Thomas Hylland Eriksen, November 19, 2021

The second meeting of the History of Anthropology Network (HOAN-M) will take place on Friday, November 19, 2021, at 17:00 CET. The meeting will take place via Zoom.

HOAN Correspondents from Brazil (Peter Schröder), Canada (Joshua Smith), Portugal (Patrícia Ferraz de Matos), Romania (Alina Branda), and Turkey (Hande Birkalan-Gedik) will present the historiography of anthropological sciences in their respective countries, thus enriching our knowledge and perspectives.

The meeting will also feature a keynote lecture from Thomas Hylland Eriksen titled “Forgotten Anthropologies from the Periphery.” An abstract may be found below.

Those wishing to attend are encouraged to contact HOAN co-conveners Fabiana Dimpflmeier & Frederico Delgado Rosa to receive the link to join the Zoom call: hoan.easa@gmail.com

“Forgotten Anthropologies from the Periphery”

There are many unknown pioneers in the history of anthropology, often publishing in smaller languages and based far from the centres of academic capital. I will present and compare two of them in this lecture. Eilert Sundt (1817–75) carried out systematic research on various aspects of everyday life in rural Norway in the mid 19th century, and is recognised as the first Norwegian social scientist. Mixing quantitative and qualitative methods, he wrote about controversial subjects such as extramarital sex and hygiene. Sundt, a contemporary of Comte and Marx, saw sociology and ethnology as tools for enlightened social policy. A century later, Gutorm Gjessing (1906–79), who held the Chair at the Ethnographic Museum, had comparable aims. Trained as an archaeologist, Gjessing published extensively on colonialism, inequality and environmental challenges, arguing that anthropology needed to take on urgent global challenges to remain relevant. Today, Sundt is revered but little read, while Gjessing virtually disappeared from the genealogy of anthropology in Norway. What they had in common was social engagement. This merits a reconsideration of their significance from the vantage-point of the Anthropocene.

History of Anthropology Events at HSS

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the History of Science Society (HSS) and the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) will not hold their planned in-person joint meeting this November in New Orleans, but will hold the joint meeting online, with a full schedule of talks, roundtables, social activities, prize ceremonies, a book exhibition, and more. It will take place from November 18 through November 21, 2021.

The HAR News editors would like to highlight several events on the program related to the history of anthropology. Please note that the event times given are in Central Time (U.S.). Registration for the meeting is required unless otherwise noted; a discounted rate is available for graduate students. Please note that events are subject to change and it is best to check the program regularly for the events you are interested in.

Thursday, November 18 12:00 – 1:00 PM CT

Redistribution and Reparation in the History of Science: an Open Listening Session

Where’s the money (and value and recognition)? We invite you to join an open listening session on redistributing scholarly resources to support early-career and underrepresented scholars and scholarship. We invite scholars who hold forms of academic capital, early career and underrepresented scholars, to talk about how we, as a Society and as a field, allocate value and resources. Where is value situated at different stages of the career, and where should it shift? What are scholars’ needs at different stages, places and positions? How can we think about redistribution and reparation in the history of science? This session is co-sponsored by Isis, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Forum for the History of the Human Sciences, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and Graduate and Early Career Council.

Please note: Unlike other sessions on the program, this session is open to all, even those who have not registered for the annual meeting. Please register separately for this session at this link.

Thursday, November 18 3:00 – 4:30 PM CT

FHHS Distinguished Lecture and Business Meeting

Please join us for the Forum for the History of Human Science (FHHS) business meeting.  We welcome any scholar with interests in the history of the human sciences, broadly defined, and we look forward to seeing familiar faces and new members. The meeting will include the presentation of awards and the FHHS Annual Distinguished Lecture, delivered by Alexandra Hui, Associate Professor of History, Mississippi State University, on “Functional music and affective spaces: 100 years of the human science of background music.”

Thursday, November 18 3:30 – 4:30 PM CT

Darwin, Evolution, and Beyond

Bartlomiej Swiatczak, University of Science and Technology of China: Darwin within the body: Early theories of somatic evolution and their eclipse (1881-1910)

Jan Baedke, Ruhr University Bochum: Endosymbiosis and the Nazis: Adolf Meyer-Abich’s work at the German-Dominican Tropical Research Institute

Arya Mohan, The English and Foreign Languages University: “To Be Esteemed by My Fellow Scientists”: Examining the “Professional Man’s” Rhetoric in the Origin of Species

Liv Grjebine, Harvard University: A Darwinian Murder: The Role of the Barré-Lebiez Affair in the Diffusion of Darwinism in 19th Century France

Theology, Eugenics, and Constructions of Science & Medicine

Branden McEuen, Wayne State University: Eugenics as Preventive Public Medicine in Michigan

Vincent Auffrey, IHPST, University of Toronto: “Pour l’amélioration de la race humaine”: The Reception of Eugenics in the French-Canadian Press, 1912-1921

Nathan Bossoh, UCL: Christian “universalism” and the non-Western “other”: science, religion and racial boundaries

Thursday, November 18 5:45 – 8:00 PM CT

Joint Opening Plenary and Land Acknowledgment: Environment, Infrastructure, and Social Justice: Public Engagement in Historical and Multidisciplinary Research

Organizer and Chair: Gabrielle Hecht (Stanford University); Panelists: Alesia Montgomery (Stanford University Libraries), Jason Ludwig (Cornell University, Department of Science and Technology Studies), Gregg Mitman (University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Lisa Onaga (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

Friday, November 19 9:00 – 10:00 AM CT

Constructing/Deconstructing Race

Monica Libell, Lund University: Time and Culture in Carl Linnaeus’ Ethno-racial Classifications

Erica Torrens, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico: The natural system and its relation to the process of racialisation in nineteenth-century Mexico through visual representation

Kelsey Henry, Yale University: “This milestone in their development as property”: Racially Stratified Child Development, 1820 – 1865 U.S.

Aparna Nair, University of Oklahoma-Norman: “Swadeshi” Spectacles, Eye Preservers and Dark Glasses: Race, Disability and Vision Aids in British India

Natural History Collections and Empire (1)

Lauren Williams, McGill University: The American Black Parrot: Exploring an 18th-century Paper Museum

Whitney Barlow Robles, Dartmouth College: The Kitchen in the Cabinet: Histories of Food and Natural Science

Dr Charmantier, The Linnean Society of London: Empire and the Linnean Society Botany collections

Luciana Martins, Birkbeck, University of London: Resources of hope: reactivating Indigenous biocultural knowledge

Working Theories: The Human Sciences and Motivation to Labor in the Twentieth Century

Nima Bassiri, Duke University: Simulation, Industrial Labor, and Economic Pathologies circa 1900

Danielle Judith Carr, Columbia University: It made human life seem like the worst kind of wage labor”: Imagining the Motivation to Produce From Behaviorism’s Stimulus-Wage to Cognitivism’s Innate Creativity

Simon Torracinta, Yale University: Time, Labor, and Motivation in Midcentury Economics

Charles Petersen, Cornell University: The 100xr Road to Neoliberalism: Engineers, Meritocracy, and Economic Inequality, 1950-2000

Friday, November 19 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CT

Natural History Collections and Empire (2)

Sofia Boanova Viegas, CIUHCT- FCUL, University of Lisbon; Museum of Natural History and Science, University of Porto: African Herbarium Collections: A Trigger to Uncover ‘Colonial Botany’ at University of Porto.

melanie boehi, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research: Revisiting empire in a Southern African plant collections

Chanelle Adams, University of Lausanne: Empirical Aims, Empire Gains: Knowledge regimes in the Madagascar herbarium collection at Marseille’s Colonial Institute

Martha Fleming, Natural History Museum of Denmark: Colonialities of the storeroom: provenance matters in natural history collections

Histories of Evolutionary Thinking about Social Things

Michael Pettit, York University: How Faces Became Special (When Maybe They are Not)

Tara Suri, Princeton: Security, Territory, Primate: Rhesus Monkeys and the Politics of Development in Postcolonial India

Cameron Brinitzer, University of Pennsylvania: Social Learning Mechanisms: The Evolution of Culture and Its Sciences

Joint Session: Building Race into the Machine: The Ongoing Challenges of “Big Data”

Erik Peterson, The University of Alabama: Afraid of the Dark: Making the First ‘Index of Nigrescence’ (1850s-1900)

Iris Clever, University of Chicago: Tracing race in forensic anthropological data practices: the case of Fordisc

Abigail Nieves Delgado, Utrecht University, Freudenthal Institute: Making race (ir)relevant: historical biases in facial recognition technologies

Catherine Stinson, Queen’s University, Kingston: The artifice of AI mindreading

Friday, November 19 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM CT

Racialized Knowledges: Epistemology, Difference, and Sciences Beyond the Western Teleologies

Sarah Qidwai, University of Toronto: De-centering the History of evolutionary thought and theories of origin in the nineteenth century

Patrícia Marcos, University of California San Diego: Racialized Knowledges: Manipulating Nature, Blackness, and Epistemic Disciplining in the Portuguese Inquisition.

Taylor Moore, University of California, Santa Barbara: Of Seashells and Sand: Racing and Erasing Superstition in Khedival Egypt

Friday, November 19 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM CT

Indigenous Peoples, Settler Science, and Social Justice

Kelly McDonough, University of Texas at Austin: Indigenous Scientific Knowledges and the Archive: Health, Illness, and Healing in the 1577 Relaciones geográficas

Charlotte Williams, University of Pennsylvania: The Many Roads to El Dorado: transportation infrastructures in archaeological extraction

Alexi Baker, Yale Peabody Museum: Instruments of Science and Social Justice: Uses for Historical Scientific Artifacts in Higher Education

Adam Johnson, SMU: Structure, Constraint, and Revelation in the Paper Tools of 19th Century American Ethnology

Saturday, November 20 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM CT

Research Methods in the Social Sciences

Tom Kayzel, Universiteit van Amsterdam: Early Economic Planning and the Double Experience of Modernity

Ohad Reiss Sorokin, Princeton University: The Production of Knowledge: A Path Not Taken

Christopher Rudeen, Harvard University: “Anthropology at Home”: The Domestic Methods of Mass-Observation

Matthew Hoffarth, Consortium for History of Science, Technology & Medicine: Interactions with the Rorschach: Anthony F.C. Wallace and Mel Spiro’s Criticisms of the Culture Concept

Science in East Asia between Global, Regional, and Local Perspectives: Power, Colonialism and Knowledge Production, 19th – 21st Century

Noa Nahmias, York University: The universe of science at your doorstep: popular science between national and global in China, 1933-1937

Rachel Wallner, Northwestern University: Making Hydrography Modern: Late-Qing Empire and Reforming Knowledge of the Southern Chinese Coast, 1886-1902

Haesoo Park, Singapore Management University: Postcolonial Science in Korea: Gendered Stem Cells and Technoscientific Sovereignty

Midori Kawaue, Princeton University: Japanese Anthropology and its Colonial Enterprise: A Case Study of the 1903 Human Pavilion

Spanish Anthropology Seen through the Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares (1944-), by Carmen Ortiz García

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in Spanish) on the transformations of a journal of paramount importance in the history of Spanish anthropology. 

Ortiz García, Carmen, 2021. “Metamorfosis antropológica (y política) de un proyecto editorial español: Una historia de la Revista de Dialectologia y Tradiciones Populares” [Transl.: “Anthropological (and Political) Metamorphosis of a Spanish Journal: A History of the Revista de Dialectologia y Tradiciones Populares“], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares (1944-) was created during the early years of the Franco regime, within the central body that controlled scientific research in Spain. The journal was intended as an organ for the dissemination of studies on traditional culture and folklore. Its publication has continued without interruption, going through different historical periods – from the dictatorship to the democratic transition. In 2018 the journal underwent its most radical change, with a re-foundation and the change of its former title to Disparidades. Revista de Antropología. In this ambitious article, Ortiz highlights the fact that the journal can be considered as a representative product of the successive periods through which anthropological research has passed in Spain. There have been discontinuities, but also tenuous lines of continuity within the institutional maintenance of a discipline which cannot be seen as separate from the ideological and political circumstances which have marked the history of Spain from the Republican era, the Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, and democracy.

Constructing the Discipline of Americanists (1875-1947), Two Articles by Christine Laurière

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: two articles (in French) on two major Americanist institutions in anthropology.

Laurière, Christine, 2021. “La construction d’une discipline. Histoire des congrès internationaux des américanistes (1875-1947)” [Transl.: “The construction of a discipline. History of the international congresses of Americanists (1875-1947)”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Laurière, Christine, 2021. “La Société des Américanistes de Paris (1895-) : ombres et lumières de l’américanisme français” [Transl.: “The Paris Society of Americanists (1895-): Shadows and Lights of French Americanism”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Organized for the first time in 1876 in Nancy, France, the International Congresses of Americanists have been a highlight for researchers studying the American continent. The congress crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1895 for a session in Mexico. Since then, it has been held alternately in Europe and America – first organized on a biennial basis and then, from 1976, every three years. For many decades, the congresses were dominated by the anthropological sciences, and dedicated exclusively to the continent’s first inhabitants, the Amerindians. The historical and scholarly specificities of the host nation were salient on each occasion, combined with international scientific considerations that made the congresses an unparalleled record of research trends. The faith in scientific internationalism and neutralism was jeopardized after WWI, when a group of scholars wanted to prevent German-speaking Americanists from participating. But Franz Boas, Paul Rivet, and Erland Nordenskiöld worked hand-in-hand to thwart such an attempt. Against all odds, the 1924 congress in Gothenburg reunited the Americanist community and restored the cardinal value of internationalism, reinforcing the importance and legitimacy of the congress.

On Erland Nordenskiöld’s initiative, a strong symbolic gesture was created with a photograph of the French Paul Rivet shaking hands with the German Karl von den Steinen – a close friend of Franz Boas – on the front page of a Gothenburg daily newspaper. In her unexpected article, Laurière concludes that neither WWI nor WWII broke the Americanist momentum. Since the 1980s, the definition of Americanism has broadened considerably to include sociology, history, educational sciences, political science, and applied anthropology. There has been a profound transformation of Americanist practice, with an unprecedented expansion of universities and research in South America, enhancing the dialogue between scholars from the center and the periphery who cooperate in international projects. The second article by Laurière further explores the European (particularly French) side of the coin, by unravelling the history of the Société des Américanistes de Paris, founded in 1895 by Ernest-Théodore Hamy. This learned society has published the Journal de la Société des Américanistes since 1896, bringing together researchers in various anthropological sciences: ethnologists and anthropologists, linguists and philologists, archaeologists and prehistorians. After Hamy’s death in 1908, Paul Rivet played an essential role in the development and international influence of the Société and its journal for half a century. It was the first learned society in the world to claim to be Americanist, but Laurière reveals its worldwide connections.

CFP: Workshop on the History and Practice of Archaeology in China

Dates: August 22-24, 2022

Location: University of Oxford (hybrid: online and in person)

Language: Chinese and English

Organizers: Anke Hein (University of Oxford) & Julia Lovell (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Steering Committee and Discussants: Chen Xingcan, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Rowan Flad, Ye Wa

As proclaimed recently in the Washington Post, this is a golden age for Chinese archaeology. Major recent discoveries such as the new object pits at Sanxingdui receive extensive press coverage in China and to a lesser extent abroad, and articles reporting archaeological research in China are becoming increasingly common in scholarly journals around the world. Yet, these English-language articles represent only a tiny proportion of the archaeological work that is done in China and much of the archaeological process behind it is unknown to foreigners. Few outside specialist circles are aware that China is currently celebrating 100 years of Chinese archaeology, and with an investment of time, money, and media coverage that archaeologists in other countries can only dream of. It is thus clear that archaeology is of great importance in China, promoted by the government and followed eagerly by the public; this phenomenon needs to be better understood outside China.

This call for papers invites contributions for a workshop to prepare an edited volume on the topic “The History and Practice of Archaeology in China,” which aims to promote better understanding of the way archaeology is practiced in China, and of the history of the discipline. The organizers welcome papers including but not limited to the following areas: the precursors to and history of modern Chinese archaeology; the development of influential theories and methods; studies of key institutions and influential excavations; analysis of the sociology and technologies of archaeology in China, including gendered experiences of fieldwork; the interactions between specialist academic and public archaeology, including treatment of archaeological discoveries in museums and media.

If you are interested in participating in this endeavor, please submit an abstract (250-300 words) and a biographical note (50-100 words) to Anke Hein (anke.hein@arch.ox.ac.uk) and Julia Lovell (ubra235@mail.bbk.ac.uk). The deadline for submission of abstracts is December 3, 2021 and submissions will be reviewed by mid-January 2022.

Historicizing Evolutionism: A Dialectical Review of Robert L. Carneiro (2003) and Efram Sera-Shriar (2018)

Robert L. Carneiro. Evolutionism in Cultural Anthropology: A Critical History. 339 pp., 10 b/w illus., bibl., index. Boulder: Westview Press, 2003. (Reprinted by Routledge in 2018)

Efram Sera-Shriar (Editor). Historicizing Humans: Deep Time, Evolution, and Race in Nineteenth-Century British Sciences (with an Afterword by Theodore Koditschek). 320 pp., 13 b/w illus., notes, bibl., index. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018.

At first sight, these two books do not have much in common. Evolutionism in Cultural Anthropology is a single-author monograph by one of the “last” great neo-evolutionist anthropologists of the twentieth century, Robert L. Carneiro, who died in June 2020, aged 93; Historicizing Humans is a collective volume by a new generation of historians of science. One is profoundly presentist; the other is profoundly historicist. One is mainly dedicated to anthropology and archaeology in the twentieth century, with shorter chapters on the “classical” evolutionists; the other (as indicated in the title) is focused on the nineteenth century only, and across various disciplines. Carneiro dialogs with dead scholars as inspirational intellectual interlocutors while Sera-Shriar and the contributors to his edited volume do not. One book aims at covering transversal themes, concepts, and methods in North America and Britain (with but a few references to German scholars) while the other deploys eight selected case studies in Britain and the Empire. Other disparities between the two volumes could certainly be enumerated.

Continue reading

The Native American Church, Peyote, and Anthropology, by Thomas Grillot

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in French) on the intersections between the history of the Native American Church and the history of anthropology from the late nineteenth century to the present.

Grillot, Thomas, 2021.  “La Native American Church, l’anthropologie états-unienne et le peyote” [Transl. “The Native American Church, Anthropology in the United States and Peyote”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The Native American Church (NAC) is an example of a co-creation involving anthropologists and the peoples they study. Incorporating in its rituals the consumption of a hallucinogen of Mexican origin, peyote, the NAC offers a privileged point of view on a little-known aspect of anthropological work: the contribution of some of the representatives of the discipline to the crossing or reinforcement of borders. This issue is addressed through an analysis of expert testimony, defending peyote consumption as a religious right of Native American tribal communities. James Mooney (1861-1921) played a founding role in the development of this professional tradition of testimony that contributes as much to legitimizing a practice as to setting its standards. A second generation took over in the 1930s. After the Second World War, it played the role of gatekeeper, when consumption extended beyond the members of the NAC and a small circle of American and European elites.

The great popularity of Carlos Castaneda (1925-1998)’s writings marks a turning point in this respect. While they shed light on the existence of other practices of peyote consumption across the U.S.-Mexico border, the controversy that soon surrounded them also tainted this openness with a suspicion of fraud. The consumption of peyote was largely enshrined in the various laws protecting the freedom of worship of Native American populations in the United States between the 1970s and 1990s, but strictly reserved for the NAC. It is then as a distinct and essentially American tradition that the rituals of this church come to irrigate a trans-American Amerindian spirituality in selected sites in Mexico. This surprising article by Grillot traces the history of the NAC and its crossings with the history of anthropology.

Reflections from the 2020-2021 History of Anthropology Reading Group on Race, Racism, and White Supremacy

On October 7, 2020, nearly fifty participants convened via Zoom for the first in a yearlong series of discussions organized by members of the editorial collective of the History of Anthropology Review (HAR). Hosted in collaboration with the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, the History of Anthropology Review Reading Group (HARRG) was created as an outgrowth of the content published by HAR, intended as a space to discuss anthropology both as a topic of historical inquiry and as a contemporary discipline and practice. For its inaugural year, the group’s conveners—John Tresch, Tracie Canada, Allegra Giovine, and Patrícia Martins Marcos—identified a series of topics and readings focused on anthropology’s relationships with race, racism, anti-racism, authoritarianism, as well as on the anthropology of policing. These topics and readings focused the group’s attention on the different ways that anthropology, as both an object of inquiry and a disciplinary practice, has contributed to legacies of colonialism and white supremacy.

Continue reading

Call for Nominations: Forum for the History of Human Science

The Forum for History of Human Science (FHHS), an Interest Group within the History of Science Society (HSS), promotes interest in the history of such disciplines as anthropology, economics, geography, history, linguistics, political science, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and statistics, as well as of related issues in medicine, education, politics, and the law.

FHHS is governed by a steering committee of seven officers elected during a business meeting held in conjunction with the annual meeting of HSS. Nominations for each position are open, and neither nominees nor office-holders need be members of HSS. FHHS positions are for two years. This year (2021), our open positions are Vice-Elect, Treasurer, Representative and Graduate Representative.

FHHS is now accepting nominations for open positions for the next two-year term. Please submit nominations or self-nominations here by November 1, 2021. The current open positions are:

FHHS Chairs lead the Steering Committee and, as a result, the Forum. They are responsible for running the annual business meeting, setting the agenda and priorities, and coordinating all the Forum’s other activities over the course of the year. The Vice-Elect assists the Chair(s) in the first year of service, and becomes Chair (or Co-Chair) the following year. Chairs may serve two terms.

FHHS Treasurer sees to the (modest) budget, including by recruiting and retaining members, coordinating with other officers around issues like prize money and honoraria, and providing an overall picture of the health of the organization at the annual business meeting.

Representative and Graduate Student Representative
FHHS Representatives (#1, #2 and #3) are responsible for specific issues within the Forum. One representative is a “Graduate Representative” and takes the lead on recruiting new members; another takes the lead on organizing and staffing committees for our two prizes (Article and Early-Career); a third aids the co-chairs in organizing the Distinguished Lecture and Sponsored Session at HSS.

Ira Jacknis, 1952-2021

Editor’s Note: With sadness, the History of Anthropology Review notes the death of Ira Jacknis, research anthropologist at the Hearst Museum at Berkeley. He was a valued contributor to this publication and a supportive member of our Advisory Board. Ira reflected on his own career and current projects as part of changing interests in the history of anthropology for HAR’s online relaunch in 2016; his essay, “Doing the History of Anthropology as the History of Visual Representation” is available here.

We are grateful to Ira’s longtime collaborator, Professor Regna Darnell, for the following reminiscence.

I have known Ira Jacknis since he was a graduate student. Our work intersected in multiple contexts and locations. Ira and I shared interdisciplinary interests in Native Americans, collaborative research, objects, museums as sites of interpretation and contemporary engagement, public education, audiences among multiple publics, and the history of anthropology. Ira’s integration of these topics appeared seamless because it grew out of personal experience rather than grand theoretical models in a vacuum. 

Continue reading

Fellowship Opportunity: William Y. and Nettie K. Adams Fund, School for Advanced Research

The School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, New Mexico is currently seeking applications for the William Y. and Nettie K. Adams Fund. This fellowship offers funding for short campus seminars or summer research projects focused on the history of anthropology and the theoretical implications of the culture concept. The Adams Fund selection process is guided by the School’s longstanding commitment to support research that advances knowledge about human culture, evolution, history, and creative expression. This year, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Indian Arts Fund collection which we hold on our campus, SAR would be particularly interested in proposals which critically reexamine the “salvage” anthropology era of the early 20th century.

Individual Projects:

Scholars with summer research projects that meet the requirements of the Adams Fund are eligible for $500 in travel support and up to $2000 in stipend support, depending on the length of their visit. On a space-available basis, campus housing may be provided for a nominal cost.

Short Seminars:

Seminar proposals meeting the requirements of the Adams Fund will receive three days of lodging and meals for up to ten participants at SAR’s Schwartz Seminar House. Travel costs to/from Santa Fe are not covered for short seminars.

How to Apply:

Applicants whose projects meet the terms of the Adams Fund should send a letter of inquiry and a brief project proposal to Paul Ryer (ryer@sarsf.org), Director of Scholar Programs, School for Advanced Research. Any questions about the application process or the Fund should also be directed to Paul Ryer. There is no application deadline; applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

CFA: History of the Human Sciences Early Career Prize 2022

History of the Human Sciences– the international journal of peer-reviewed research, which provides the leading forum for work in the social sciences, humanities, human psychology and biology that reflexively examines its own historical origins and interdisciplinary influences – is delighted to announce details of its prize for early career scholars. The intention of the annual award is to recognise a researcher whose work best represents the journal’s aim to critically examine traditional assumptions and preoccupations about human beings, their societies and their histories in light of developments that cut across disciplinary boundaries. In the pursuit of these goals, History of the Human Sciences publishes traditional humanistic studies as well work in the social sciences, including the fields of sociology, psychology, political science, the history and philosophy of science, anthropology, classical studies, and literary theory. Scholars working in any of these fields are encouraged to apply.

Continue reading

Job Opportunity: Native American Scholars Initiative Engagement Coordinator, American Philosophical Society

The Library & Museum of the American Philosophical Society seeks to hire an Engagement Coordinator for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI) and Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR). This position will assist in implementing the Native American Scholars Initiative by developing and executing innovative programs at the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research as well as providing mentorship for fellows and interns; work with Native American communities and community-based scholars to provide access to the Library & Museum’s Indigenous-related collections from reference request onward; as well as cultivate new and steward existing partnerships.

Continue reading

Call for Applications: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Maps of Malignancy

Applications are now open for a Postdoctoral Fellowship on a Wellcome Trust-funded research project on Maps of Malignancy in Sub-Saharan Africa at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Research Associate) in Maps of Malignancy

Closing date: 25 October 2021

​​​​​​The Department of Global Health & Social Medicine is seeking a Research Associate to work as part of a research team on a research project entitled “Maps of Malignancy: Epidemiologists and Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa”. Funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, the project aims to shed light on epidemiological efforts to map cancer in Africa over the last 70 years. Specifically, drawing on insights from postcolonial science studies, the project examines the socio-technical infrastructures and political rationales that underpin these mapping efforts as well as the understandings of cancer and Africa that they bring into being. To address these issues, the project uses a combination of ethnographic and archival research methods to examine two cartographic efforts: (1) the research on cancer aetiology carried out by British and French doctors in Africa in the late colonial and early postcolonial periods to improve treatment strategies at home; and (2) the contemporary global surveillance initiatives seeking to measure the cancer burden in Africa in order to rationalise health policy and planning on the continent. The research project builds on and expands an earlier British Academy-funded pilot project on Cartographies of Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Continue reading

“Orientalism alla Turca”: Evolutionary Desires, Imperial Nostalgias, and Western Anxieties in Ahmed Midhat’s Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân


On November 15, 1889,[1] Ahmed Midhat (1844–1912), a prolific Ottoman journalist and novelist, announced in his newspaper Tercümân–i Hakîkât (Interpreter of Truth): 

The pleasant travelogue of the compassionate Ahmet Midhat Efendi, his grace, where all his observations, thoughts, and expertise on events from his previous journey to Europe are presented, will be published as of tomorrow! (Tuğluk 2018, 145).[2]

The account of his impressions and ideas on the European cities he visited between August 15 and October 25, 1889, first appeared in a daily series as Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân (A Tour in Europe, hereafter Cevelân).[3] It was published as a book in 1890, read widely in Istanbul and beyond.[4] The Ottoman Sultan, Abdulhamid II (1842–1918), even ordered its distribution to the European and American diplomatic missions (Asiltürk 1995, 576). These two different audiences—one at home and one abroad— invite closer analysis of the textual and ideological features of this remarkable text.

As the official appointee of Abdulhamid II, Ahmed Midhat joined the eighth Congrès international des orientalistes as an Ottoman delegate. He began his trip on a steamer in Istanbul and, disembarking in Marseille, traveled throughout Europe by train. After the Congress in Stockholm-Cristiana (Oslo), Ahmed Midhat spent twelve days at the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) in Paris before extending his trip to Geneva, Montreux, Luzern, Konstanz, Vienna, and onto Trieste, where he took a ship back to Istanbul. 

In Cevelân, Ahmed Midhat revealed an “Other” of the Ottomans: Europe. He wrote in particularly vivid terms of his admiration for European machinery. During his travels and at the Exposition Universelle he encountered European material developments he could only have imagined when writing his earlier novels. Interestingly, Ahmed Midhat found another “Other” at the fair—the Muslim Arab, who also became a subject of his gaze.

Ahmed Midhat’s interests in evolutionist and materialist writings framed his own work. Moving beyond the dichotomies of “East and West,” “Self and Other,” and “colonizer and colonized,” he conceived all developments as medeniyet-i umumiyye, the global civilization that belongs to all peoples. He brought to light different sides of development and progress, with particularly revealing viewpoints on technological, social-cultural, and moral issues, managed with unusual savoir-faire. However, at times, his stance—despite his wish to be “objective”— was a partial one, his attention wavering between the material and the spiritual qualities of European development. Like European ethnographers, he was not immune toward ethnocentrism or homogenizing discourses towards complex societies and cultures. 

In what follows, I focus on Ahmed Midhat’s impressions of the Exposition Universelle 1889 in Paris in Cevelân. First, I make sense of Ahmed Midhat’s “evolutionary desires,” the term I use to describe his commitment to the idea, informed by Social Darwinism, that Ottomans should aspire to match Europe’s level of material development. Ahmed Midhat’s evolutionary desires encapsulate—but cannot be reduced to—his keen interest in (and envy of) the material, infrastructural, and industrial developments in Europe as he experienced them firsthand on his journey. He aspired for the Ottomans, too, to build grand avenues and boulevards, majestic bridges, impressive squares, and well-kept public gardens. He also wanted the Ottomans to produce and utilize the latest infrastructural technologies, such as rapid transport tools like locomotives and tramlines as well as electricity and lighthouses. These desires can only be understood in the context of his “imperial nostalgias” and “western anxieties,” imbued with longing for the glorious Ottoman past. Ahmed Midhat deployed this necessarily ethnocentric “imperial nostalgia” as a critical strategy to cope with, if not to overcome, his western anxieties, which he mainly expressed through discontent with European modernity and what he perceived as its weak morals.

Passenger train in front of the Pavilion of Algeria on L’Esplanade des Invalides (Library of Congress)

Cevelân is notable not only for its literary merits but also for its distinctively positioned ethnographic insights into “Europe.” Ahmed Midhat himself defined travel literature as a cornerstone for the advancement of knowledge (Herzog and Motika 2000, 140). Cevelân offers evidence of a cross-cultural production of knowledge and conveys issues of transculturation, border crossing, and self-location, long before they emerged in twentieth and twenty-first century anthropology. Furthermore, Ahmed Midhat’s writing should be evaluated as an important and understudied contribution to the history of Ottoman anthropology and ethnology.

In the 1850s, scholars in Turkey created a complex and dynamic non-Western anthropological tradition, which flourished by way of “traveling theory” (Birkalan-Gedik 2018, 2019). It incorporated theories of evolution, materialism, and development, which carried considerable social and political weight in Ottoman society at the turn of the 19th century (Kerim 1941; Hanioğlu 2005; Göçek 1996). Edward Said understood “traveling theory” as a process through which theory changes as it is transported into new geographical or historical contexts, reframed according to the intentions of its new adopters (Said 1983, 226; 2001). In this sense, travel is not a unidirectional movement but can ramify into polyvalent roots and routes. Delving into multiple ways of traveling—literary and metaphorical—and their implications for the history of anthropology (Rubiés 2000; Clifford 1989), Cevelân sheds light on an underexamined era of Ottoman anthropology, in which the eloquent gaze of an “Orientalist” (Dumont 2010; Findley 1998; Sagaster 1997) traveler illuminates both his own culture and those he observed. 

Ahmed Midhat: Cosmopolitan and Cultural Broker

Ahmed Midhat wore many hats. An impressive intellectual, he authored novels, short stories, and opinion pieces in the Tanzimat Era (1839–1876), when the Ottoman Empire was widely seen to be in decline (İnalcık 1976). He was a cosmopolitan, entrepreneur, and cultural broker who navigated the complexities of the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire. 

Multiple ideological mainstreams defined this period; at different points of his life Ahmed Midhat seemed to fit each of them. The Young Ottomans insisted on modernization and keeping the millet system, which was based on the idea of non-territorial autonomy, whereby various religious groups were categorized as culturally autonomous, despite their geographic dispersion (Barkey and Gavrillis 2016); Islamists leaned on the idea of restoring and strengthening the Caliphate; Turkish nationalists relied on Turkish-ness as the dominant identity base (Berkes 1959). Political societies, like the Young Ottomans, believed that new “scientific” developments could coincide with and enrich religious knowledge. They aimed to show Islam as a contemporaneous religion in accord with science and development. While this idea stood in contrast with the view of certain elites who thought of Islam as one of the main causes of the country’s declining fortunes, debates on science and religion continued in following years. Again, introducing science was not a simple shift from “religion” to “science” (Yalçınkaya 2015; Poyraz 2010). Attitudes towards science and scientific development that were sympathetic to religion further smoothed developments in philosophy, anthropology, and medicine, enabling disparate disciplinary spheres to knit together in distinct ways (Shefer-Mossensohn 2015, 3). 

Born in Istanbul to a family of merchants, Ahmed Midhat grew up in dire conditions. A “Jack-of-all-trades” (Findley 1998), as a young man he received the patronage of Midhat Paşa (1822–1884), a western-oriented political leader under whom his transcultural perspectives bloomed. Later, as an entrepreneur, Ahmed Midhat set up his own printing house in Istanbul and maintained strong relations with the Ottoman government, working as the deputy manager of the sanitary commission (Okay 1989).

Scholars name Ahmed Midhat as the “first social Darwinist” among the Ottoman literati (Doğan 2012 [2006], 133–176). Ottoman social scientists also widely debated materialism, a framework which allowed the elite to discuss the origins and diffusion of humans, outside the confines of religious thought (Öktem 2012, Poyraz 2010). None of these developments were free of turbulence, as the secular elite had to navigate these ideas under the Muslim Sultan. 

Some scholars have argued that Ahmed Midhat was exiled for his close relationship with materialist and positivist thinkers (Mardin 2000 [1962]). But though his journals and newspapers circulated the German materialism of Ludwig Büchner (Hanioğlu 2005; Kalaycıoğulları 2016, Mardin 2000 [1962], 66), he publicly defended Islam, a point that complicates his intellectual position. His stated stances in Cevelân reveal “the conformity of Ahmed Midhat’s ideas with the cultural politics of the Hamidian regime” (Çekiç 2009, 4). In this travelogue, the author locates himself as a border-crosser, relying on his social and political relations such as with the Sultan Abdulhamid II, the benefactor who appointed him to attend the congress in Sweden and provided the funds for his European travel in Europe.

Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân between Literature, Travel, and Anthropology

While Ahmed Midhat’s writings have been studied by scholars of Turkish literature and history, anthropologists have neglected them.[5] Cevelân offers critical perspectives for the study of the history of anthropology in Turkey, and for the global history of anthropology. Notably, his route from the Ottoman Empire to Europe and back subverts the conventionally recognized directions of “colonial travel” (Clifford 1989), challenges the immobility of the “Other,” and brings an important twist to the study of travel literature, especially within the frameworks of alterity and hybridity. 

Before anthropology became an academic discipline, travelers, missionaries, merchants, and bureaucrats supplied ethnographic knowledge to diverse audiences. As James Clifford argues, such documents helped constitute cultural anthropology (1997, 64). Other scholars discuss the factual errors of earlier European travelogues saturated with Christian piety and cultural prejudices. Eriksen and Nielsen situate what they call “proto-anthropology” between “travel writing” and “social philosophy”; it is when these two discursive modes are fused, “when data and theory are brought together, that anthropology appears” (Eriksen and Nielsen 2013, 6–10).

Furthermore, Clifford asserts that the “geography of distance and difference alters in postcolonial/neocolonial situations, as power relations of research are reconfigured, as innovative technologies of transport and communications are deployed, and as ‘natives’ are recognized for their specific worldly experiences and histories of dwelling and traveling” (Clifford 1996, 7). His words may guide our approach to the contexts of colonialism in the Ottoman Empire and particularly to an “Orientalism alla turca” a term that illustrates the changing roles of what was earlier thought to be the “immobile” Other. Orientalism alla turca defines the complexity of Ottoman attitudes toward their multiple others. Pointing to a recent historiographic turn, Özgür Türesay notes that since the end of the 1990s, several historians offered terms such as “Ottoman orientalism,” or “Ottoman civilizing mission” whereby Ottoman’s relations to Europe and to the Arab populations were discussed in new frameworks. In a broader sense, an “Ottoman colonialism” emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century in which the Ottoman elite conceived the boundaries of the empire as a part of colonial setting. Adopting a civilizing mission towards the Arab periphery, Ottomans displayed a metropolitan identity by which they sought to educate the Arab populations (Türesay 2013: 128-129). Ahmed Midhat’s positionality in Cevelân provides important insights in this context.

Travel was a well-known practice in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, both toward Europe and to the Arab provinces. The circulation of diplomatic envoys in the eighteenth-century was influential in introducing new scientific and technological knowledge and practices. The sefâretnâme, a sub-genre of travel writing, recounted journeys and experiences of ambassadors in a foreign land (Georgeon 1995); these private, political documents, addressed to the Sultans and their high administration, were not allowed to circulate beyond the Ottoman palace (Göçek 1990, 80). The fact that the Ottoman Empire was both an object and an origin for ethnographic narratives complicates standard notions of “imperial travel writing,” by presenting a non-Western but still imperial perspective.

In this light, Ahmed Midhat’s travel accounts stand as “partial truths” written by an observer who was partially an ethnographer (Birkalan 2000) engaged in something akin to fieldwork, and who also acted as a “go-between” (Borm 2000) mediating imaginaries of both Orient and Occident. If “travels and contacts are crucial sites for an unfinished modernity,” as Clifford (1997, 2) writes, we might make sense of Ahmed Midhat’s récit detailing his contacts with Europe as itself an unfinished project—an “in-between” text which yields new insights into perhaps another way of “imperial writing” and its boundaries.

Under the light of Orientalism alla turca, as way to challenge the existing narrative on colonialism and anthropology, I suggest that Ahmed Midhat’s writings were very much attuned to a cosmopolitan style. Locating himself in the text as participant and observer, he emphasized the sensual, the personal, and the autobiographical with a dynamic textual brilliance. He described his own movements vividly, speaking to the senses of the reader in a decidedly poetic way. As in later realist anthropologies, the primary subject of the Cevelân is the essence of “being there.”

Ahmed Midhat’s presence continually intruded into the frame, showing that not only had he been there, but (as classical ethnographies would also claim) that his text could take the reader “there” as well. Strikingly, however, for Ahmed Midhat time was urgent: he ran to keep his schedule, unlike ethnographers who may have had better control of their time. While realist ethnographies of the twentieth century tried to hide time and historicity in an “ethnographic present,” Ahmed Midhat continually and carefully noted dates, counting the number of weeks or months precisely since his departure from İzmir. 

Long before anthropologists spoke of “blurred genres,” Ahmed Midhat’s handsomely embellished travel accounts crossed lines of genre to report on how Europeans lived, ate, and shopped in the times of emergent modernity. But if the Western gaze looked for vanishing “primitives,” or exotic dancers as the “Other” (Young 2008), Ahmed Midhat sought vanishing “European morals” and Muslim women, which simultaneously constituted his complex subjects. He presented his impressions both of everyday life and of the extravagant displays of Paris’s World’s Fair to an audience in Istanbul— the cosmopolis, the world city and seat of the Sultanate. These identifications shed distinctive light on “travel as a cosmopolitan praxis” (Clifford 1997), positioning Ahmed Midhat as a cosmopolitan, modernist author whose observations of Europe serve as a cautionary tale. 

Ahmed Midhat had written about Europe even before his first trip in his 1876 novel Paris’te Bir Türk (A Turk in Paris). In Cevelân he noted, “I traveled the European cities mentally; I almost saw them” (147). He had a well-formulated view of which countries constituted “Europe.” For instance, he noted that Russia did not concern him, as he believed that they were behind European civilization (397). An exception of another sort was Sweden: the Swedes made a remarkable impression because, according to him, they supported material developments without giving up their moral values (155). 

Ahmed Midhat’s journey allowed him to claim a powerfully authoritative voice in Cevelân and to present a “totalizing discourse” on Europe. This authority was also visible, though pointing in a different direction, when, during an audience with the King of Sweden, he put himself in the role of defender of the political stance and situation of the Ottoman Empire (138). Ahmed Midhat deployed the category of “self”—a totalized view of the Ottoman empire— in order to manage relations with the “other”— a totalized view of Europe. Such self-conscious juxtapositions, in my view, represent a very post-modernist “sense-making” of anthropological categories. By selectively applying an objectifying gaze on both Europe and the Ottoman empire, he effectively challenged conventional oppositional categories of “East” and “West” or “Self” and “Other.”

In Imperial Eyes, Mary Louise Pratt introduced the notion of “transculturation” as a remedy to interpretations of travel accounts that assumed a unidirectional relationship between voyagers and the so-called colonial periphery and presented the latter as irredeemably passive. Transculturations are the processes through which travelers revise presupposed ideas about the cultures of “others” as well as one’s own. Pratt situates these processes in “the contact zone”—“social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths” (1996, 34; 2008 [1992], 6). But the travel account Ahmed Midhat wrote, as the emissary of an imperial power, raises interesting complications. Should we consider the Ottomans, as well as European powers, as colonizers? If so, what happens when two colonial powers meet in the “contact zone,” and within the borders of Europe? Or should we look for more embellished analytical perspectives to make sense of Cevelân?

Exposition Universelle 1889, Paris, and Cevelân

Ahmed Midhat’s writings were part of a longer trajectory of participation by Ottoman intelligentsia in World’s Fairs. For the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris, Sultan Abdülaziz, wishing to “partake in the cultural life of Europe” (Çelik 1992, 96; Gök 2003), had installed a mosque, a residence, a bath, and a fountain at the Ottoman Pavilion, at the invitation of Emperor Napoléon III. At the 1889 World’s Fair, the Ottoman presence was limited to one Tobacco Pavilion, placed among the “other” eastern cultures, as Ahmed Midhat notes (570–71). 

Turkish Tobacco Pavilion with Folies Parisiennes on left (Library of Congress)

World’s Fairs were systems of representation on a grand scale and effective mechanisms of cultural production. Çelik and Kinney note that “among their novel technologies was the creation of ersatz habitats; these scenarios of a reductive presentation of different cultures generated easily apprehended, symbolic imagery” (1990, 35). Exposition Universelle 1889 relied heavily on archaeological and anthropological displays (Greenhalgh 1988, 36) as well as cultural façades, entertainment concessions, and other vivid national and corporate displays to impress visitors. 

Above all, technological displays appealed to Ahmet Midhat. Mechanical industry, which was displayed at the Champ de Mars next to the Eiffel Tower, immediately caught his eye, and he visited the machinery multiple times; he was so impressed with technological developments that he once left the visiting hall as the last visitor (650–661). Within this arena, he traveled on a passenger train and used the elevator of the Eiffel Tower, exclaiming, “it is this kind of machinery that makes life so easy!”

Visiting the Gallery of Machines, inventions for small industries such as sewing and weaving fascinated him: “The Singer sewing machines produce superior quality of work very fast”; “The silk looms can contribute to the national economy.” He also made comparisons: “Ottomans, too, had set up silk looms in Bursa, Athens, and Thessaloniki,” but he found them inferior to what he saw at the fair (654–659). His entrepreneurial spirit appears in his remark that development is not only about quality but also about mass production. 

Interior of Gallery of Machines, showing machinery (Library of Congress)

Material developments, such as large avenues and boulevards, great bridges, impressive squares, and well-kept public gardens attracted Ahmed Midhat to modernity. Locomotives, train tracks, rapid transportation, and tramlines, along with electricity and lighthouses, formed a great part of his “evolutionary desires”—a yearning for progress, informed by his intellectual investments in social Darwinism. Yet, both curious and cautious, he refused to accept everything Europe offered. In Cevelân Ahmed Midhat illuminated, or textually created, a society in which technological developments conflicted with traditional morality. Thus, his accounts are a vehicle to explore important technological advancements but also to express his wistful yearning for the past glories of the Ottoman Empire through criticism of the morals and values of “nineteenth-century European society.”

Eiffel Tower, Electricity… and Other Imperial Nostalgias?

Cevelân reported on Paris’s unforgettable fin-de-siècle extravaganza. He raved about electric lighting, along with large and small machinery. He offered compelling accounts of steel construction for the Eiffel Tower, which he saw as an outstanding symbol of technological improvement, appearing even more beautiful at night as red electric bulbs adorned it (537). 

In fact, Ahmed Midhat was impressed by all kinds of light. This was already the case in Stockholm, a city that truly captivated him and which he called the most beautifully lit-up city in Europe. Thanks to its lighting systems, he said, “nights turn into days;” thousands of lanterns and candles in addition to electric bulbs illuminated the Drottningholm Palace (170–173). At a vacation palace, away from the center of the city, he saw electricity produced by a mobile steam machine. He perceived all of this within the framework of “medeniyet-i umumiyye”–global civilization, a pool of shared, advanced technologies, not necessarily limited to Europe, but the property of the world. At this thought, his text begins comparing his observations in Europe to what he had seen in the Ottoman Empire: he recalled seeing lights as great as those in Europe in Istanbul and Kordonboyu–İzmir, though without the same quality and extent. His desires quickly followed his comparisons: he next expressed the wish that “we should also have places that light up, like in Paris” (47). At this moment, his admiration for progress, his “evolutionary desire,” shifted to “imperial nostalgia,” the wish to restore his homeland to a lost greatness. 

Ahmed Midhat noted that using steel and lace construction, France had quickly erected the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of its empire, the highest building in the world at the time. When he saw it for the first time, he disliked it aesthetically. He called it “grotesque,” and compared its height with the height of minarets in Istanbul’s Yeni Cami, the New Mosque (95). However, the Eiffel Tower would function for him as a site of transculturation. On his second visit, he changed his mind and praised its architecture (560–562). 

To understand Ahmed Midhat’s fascination with the settings of the fair and particularly his “imperial nostalgias,” the work of On Barak (2013) on transportation and communication in twentieth-century Egypt offers important perspectives. Barak argues that people may perceive and experience “universal” technologies, such as electricity, steamers, railways, telegraphs, tramways, and telephones, differently in various social-cultural contexts. While in the West they symbolized standardization and punctuality, in Egypt they contributed to the production of unique “counter tempos” that pushed back against “dehumanizing European standards of efficiency, linearity, and punctuality” (Barak 2013, 5). Following Barak’s line of thought, it is clear the juncture of Ahmed Midhat’s evolutionary desires and imperial nostalgias was as a site of creative tension.

Ahmed Midhat leveraged his opinions of the Eiffel Tower and other technologies to reflect upon and promote Ottoman values. He balanced his newfound admiration for the tower with pages-long praise for the great achievements of the “East,” thus evoking his imperial nostalgia. He culled historical examples ranging from Mehmed the Conqueror to Avicenna along with other political leaders and scientists who contributed to the ideals of “progress.” The Ottomans “performed” science at the great medreses and libraries. They maintained terakkiyât-ı maneviye (spiritual development), which he opposed to mere fazilet-i maddiye (material virtue). In this way, they were able to conquer the Mediterranean and sail to the Indian Ocean. Therefore, it would be a great mistake to represent the Ottomans (as many in the West had done) as a people primarily fond of pleasure. Yet, Ahmed Midhat wrote, there was a new trend among the West: now Westerners were researching the real traditions of the East, valuing reality over fantasy. He offered the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists in Stockholm as evidence (185–187). In this way, his imperial nostalgia served as the basis for corrections to the misrepresentations made by “ignorant” Europeans. 

Street of Cairo: Ahmed’s Western Anxieties

As a visible representative of a foreign land, Ahmed Midhat—who chose to wear a fez—was pronounced in his Ottoman attire. He was among those Muslim visitors who, according to Çelik (1992), “became a part of the display, often as the major attraction” (15, emphasis mine): Visitors from the Muslim world, such as Tunisia, Persia, and the Ottoman Empire, were part of the amusement for European fairgoers. However, these visitors were not only “populations on display.” As von Plato has demonstrated in her work on exhibition cultures and mass audiences in nineteenth-century France, the French’s perceptions of foreigners also influenced their self-perception (2001). Likewise, Ahmed Midhat’s remarks on “Muslim women dancing” show the ways the Fair influenced his notions of himself, within the broader contours of his embedded otherness and as a man talking about women. Or, put differently, Ahmed Midhat’s own “degrees of Otherness”—in Francesca Vanke’s words (2008, 198)—were illustrated in the ways he described other “others” on display: Muslims, namely Arabs from the Ottoman provinces—fell under the purview of the Ottoman “Other,” or under orientalism alla turca. This was because of the imperial power connections between the mainland Ottoman Empire and their exoticized Arab provinces like Egypt.

His account of the Exposition Universelle’s celebrated “Street of Cairo” regarding politics of gender, sexuality and public space was highly critical:

The Street of Egypt (Cairo) in the Exposition Universelle (Sergi-i Umumî) is a place that has provoked many objections to the morals of the French society. It has been considered the most beloved site by spectators—not because of its industrial products, donkeys, or donkey riders, or for the elegant architecture of the Egyptian-style buildings, but because of the spectacle of these singers and dancers and their belly dancing. Although by and large these performers had Muslim names, it is clear they are not Muslims. They are mostly Tunisian and Egyptian Jews; and some are Coptic Orthodox Christians from Egypt. The many arousing obscene postures and movements of their bodies cannot be taken as something everybody likes and approves [in Muslim nations]. Moreover, it is known that to watch such dances in Tunisia and Egypt requires going to obscure places, and such entertainment is considered debauchery (535). 

How can we make sense of this passage, especially if we consider that “in 1889 the number of spectators who came to watch the Egyptian belly dancers averaged two thousand per day” (Çelik and Kinsley 1992, 39)? In this passage, Ahmed Midhat spoke to two totalizing arguments. By denying a Muslim origin to the female dancers, he pushed back against Orientalist representations of Muslim lands as sensual and permissive. At the same time, alleging that the dancers were Jewish or Christian, he presented yet another essentialist view about Western women. According to him, Muslim women would never wear such costumes and dance in this way—while Christian and Jewish women evidently lack such scruples! For Ahmed Midhat, this staging encapsulated the violence of Western representations of the Orient. Yet, we do not know if he was aware of the Parisian dance practices in bars and clubs at the time, which might have contributed to his totalizing arguments about “European women.” 

Crowd on “a street in Cairo” in front of the Pavilions of Morocco (Library of Congress)

Fair organizers claimed their presentation of the Street of Cairo was rooted in archaeological exactitude and “authenticity.” However, in Ahmed Midhat’s view it was not the street’s shops and musicians, artisans, or donkey drivers that drew spectators to the pavilion, but the female dancers. For Ahmed Midhat, the Street of Cairo was, in Pratt’s terms, a contact zone, a transcultural site. But rather than helping him overcome his prejudices about Europe and the Orient, it reinforced them. In the end, he exchanged what he saw as a stereotype with a different stereotype, about the Orient and the West, about women, about morals, and, certainly, about himself.

Although Ahmed Midhat could not help but speak, directly and indirectly, about the Ottoman “self” in his text, he barely mentioned the Ottoman Tobacco Pavilion. Rather, he found alterity—his “others”—in the Street of Cairo exhibit. His criticism of the seemingly misrepresented Orient and Muslim women was in line with his conviction of the moral corruption of European modernity. “Admittedly,” he wrote, “in Europe, if a man falls down in the street and dies, not one of the thousands of men who run to watch feel obligated to give him a sip of water” (386). In other parts of his travelogue, he lectured on declining religious values: “Europeans, as they became enlightened and materially developed, mentally declined and ceased to talk about religion” (771). He had already undercut his claims to the moral high ground, however, by earlier sharing with his readers that he once became so drunk that he even got entirely lost himself (675)! 

Despite such humanizing admissions, his expressions of moral indignation are added to ethnocentric effusions of cultural exceptionalism and Ottoman pride: “My mind ventured around the morality and the mores of the Ottomans. Oh, Ottomans, My dear! Every aspect of the empire has been adorned with Highness. Can one imagine another nation with such grace as the Ottomans, in the entire world?” (111). 

By wearing his fez, he emphasized his Ottoman identity and outlook. When an engineer asked him “Monsieur, are you Jewish?” he reported to reply: “No, Effendi, I am not. I am an Ottoman, and among the best, as I am Turkish and Muslim. I write in the Ottoman script, which is written with the Arabic script, which is recognized as having derived from Hebrew.” Rather than making a concluding remark, he opened a new discussion, where, with these words, he presented his identity, his sense of belonging in essentialist terms, at a period when terms such as “Ottoman” versus “Turk” had become important in Ottoman elites’ discussions of westernization and modernization. 


Certainly, Ahmed Midhat was not the only Ottoman to report on Europe; many others in the same period admired Europe and so-called European developments. My aim has been to show that in Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân, Ahmed Midhat enjoys a liminal position, oscillating between admiration and rejection. Faced with European spectacle he feels at times desire and nostalgia, and, at times, jealousy and anxiety. I have illustrated these points by identifying his evolutionary desires, imperial nostalgias, and western anxieties, all of which are presented (for consumption by Istanbul’s intellectuals—and possibly for European and American diplomats) within materialist and social Darwinist frames. 

While Cevelân can serve as a source for considering the social implications of evolutionist thought, Ahmed Midhat brought a twist. Fashioning himself as a curious observer committed to development, he became an enthusiastic scientist when describing Europe, calling on Ottoman political and intellectual leaders to emulate European support of science. At the same time, he cautioned them not to leave behind their traditional values. His affinity for both Western development and critique of its moral decline clearly shows his caution regarding the existing Ottoman political order. Returning from exile, he became even closer to Abdulhamid II’s view of combining western development with a firm perpetuation of Islamic values, which he presented as “spirituality” or “religion” in more general terms.

As an authoritative writer aiming to instruct his readers on “Europe,” he participated in and observed European society and everyday practices. Rather than completely admiring or rejecting the “Europe” formulated by previous travelers, he brought a cosmopolitan experience, and, at the same time, never abandoned his essentialist attachment to “Eastern” spiritual qualities. Orhan Okay summarizes Ahmed Midhat’s vision thus: “Ottomans can reach the level of European material development, but Europe cannot reclaim the morality that it had lost”; his ideal society combines East and West, joining high technological development with high morality (Okay 1975, 772, 52–53). In other words, he both approached and distanced himself from Europe. According to Carter Findley, Ahmed Midhat shows how “an Ottoman thinker could creatively engage with Europe and yet resist its cultural power, a power that–if omnipresent—was not omnipotent” (1998, 49). 

Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân, then, was a text fulfilling three missions at once. First was an academic, internationalist mission: at the Orientalist Congresses he defended the Orient and criticized Westerners for their lack of knowledge about Eastern civilizations. His second, popular mission was to translate Europe for his readers and educate them on its technological and industrial developments; here, at times, he presented Europe as a cautionary tale, often falling into moralism. Put blandly, he argued that material progress and moral decay had gone hand in hand in contemporary Europe and warned his fellow Ottomans against making the same mistake. Lastly, with the intention to distribute his book to foreign diplomats in the United States and England, he also taught that the Ottomans did not belong to the “backward” Orient. He presented Ottomans to a wider international audience as competitors in global civilization, and as a uniquely glorious empire in its own right. 


This article is part of a project funded by DFG (Deutsche Forschung Gemeinschaft/German Research Foundation), Traveling Theories: Die Geschichte der Anthropologie in der Türkei (18501950) which critically examines the history of anthropology in Turkey over a century. The author thanks Taylor Moore, Rosanna Dent, and John Tresch for their valuable comments and edits on the text. 

Works Cited

Ahmed Midhat. 1890. Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân. Istanbul. Turkish National Grand Assembly Open Access Collection. (https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/kutuphane/). Accessed on 17 April 2019.

Ahmed Midhat. 2015. Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân. Edited by Arzu Pala. Istanbul: Dergâh. 

Asiltürk, Baki. 1995. “Ahmet Midhat Efendi Müsteşrikler Kongresinde” (Ahmed Midhat at the Orientalist Congress). Türk Dili (521): 571–576.

Barak, On. 2013. On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt. Berkeley: California University.

Barkey, Karen and Georg Gavrillis. 2016. “The Ottoman Millet System: Non-Territorial Autonomy and its Contemporary Legacy.” Ethnopolitics 15 (1): 24-42. 

Berkes, Niyazi. 1959. Turkish Nationalism and Western Civilization: Selected Essays of Ziya Gökalp. London: G. Allen and Unwin.

Birkalan, Hande. 2000. “Müşahedat’a Etnografik Bakış” (An Ethnographic Look at Müşahedat). Tarih ve Toplum Ahmed Midhat Efendi Special Issue 34 (203): 41– 49.

___. 2018. “The Curious Travels of German Ethnology to Ottoman Turkey: Some Preliminary Thoughts on Anthropology, Ethnology and Folklore (1850–ca. 1950).” In Fundstücke europäisch-ethnologischen Forschens: Eine Festschrift für Helmut Eberhart, edited by Burkhart Pöttler et al., 55 –68. Münster: Waxmann. 

___. 2019. “A Century of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (c. 1850s–1950s).” Bérose-Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l’anthropologie, Paris. 

Boer, Ingeborg. 2002. “Ahmet Midhat.” In Türken in Berlin 1871–1945: eine Metropole in den Erinnerungen osmanischer und türkischer Zeitzeugen, edited by Ingeborg Boer et al., 37– 42. Berlin: Walter der Gruyter.

Borm, Jan. 2000. “In-Betweeners? On the Travel Book and Ethnographies.” Studies in Travel Writing 4 (1): 78–105. 

Çekic, Eyüp Can. 2009. “Savoir Vivre Cosmopolite: Ahmed Midhat’s Avrupa Adab-ı Muaşereti, Yahut Alafranga as a Source for Modernization of the Codes of Social Behavior in the Late Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire.” MA Thesis. Ankara: METU. 

Çelik, Zeynep. 1992. Displaying the Orient: Architecture of Islam at Nineteenth-Century World’s Fairs. Berkeley: University of California.

Çelik, Zeynep, and Leila Kinney. 1990. “Ethnography and Exhibitionism at the Expositions Universelles.” Assemblage (13): 34–59. 

Clifford, James. 1989. “Notes on Travel and Theory.” In Inscriptions (5): Traveling Theories, Traveling Theorists, edited by James Clifford and Vivek Dhareshwar. (Accessed on 29 April 2019). 

___. 1996. “Anthropology and/as Travel.” Etnofoor 9 (2): 5–15.

___. 1997. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Dumont, Paul. 2010. “Western Exoticism in the Accounts of Ottoman Travelers in Europe.” In Stereotypes in Literatures and Cultures/International Reception Studies, edited by Rahilya Geybullayeva and Peter Orte, 131–144. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. 

Doğan, Aydın. 2012 [2006]. Osmanlı Aydınları ve Sosyal Darwinizm. Istanbul: Küre.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland and Finn Sivert Nielsen. 2013. A History of Anthropology. Second edition. London: Pluto.

Esen, Nüket. 2014. Hikâye Anlatan Adam. Istanbul: İletişim.

Findley, Carter. 1998. “An Ottoman Occidentalist in Europe: Ahmed Midhat Meets Madame Gülnar, 1889.” American Historical Review 103 (1): 15–49. 

Greenhalgh, Paul. 1988. Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions, and World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Manchester: Manchester University. 

Georgeon, François. 1995. Voyageurs et diplomates ottomans (Études turques et ottomanes: documents de travail, 4). Paris: EHESS.

Göçek, Fatma. 1990. “Encountering the West. French embassy of Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmet Efendi: 1720–1721.” In IIIrd Congress on the Social and Economic History of Turkey, Princeton University, 24–26 August 1983, edited by H.W. Lowry and R.S. Hattox, 79–84. Istanbul: Isis. 

___. 1996. Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman Westernization and Social Change. New York: OUP. 

Gök, Nejdet, 2003. “Sultan Abdülaziz’s visit to Europe in the light of the notes of Halimi Efendi (21 June–7 August 1867).” Turkish Area Studies Review – Bulletin of the Turkish Area Study Group (1): 33–37.

Gonzales, Pablo. 2012. Orient et Orientalisme chez Ahmet Mithat Efendi. Istanbul: Isis.

Hanioğlu, Şükrü M. 2005. “Blueprints for a Future Society: Late Ottoman Materialists on Science, Religion, and Art.” In Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy, edited by Elisabeth Özdalga,  28–116. New York: Routledge.

Herzog, Christoph and Raoul Motika, 2000: “Orientalism alla Turca: Late 19th/Early 20th Century Ottoman Voyages into the Muslim ‘Outback’.” Die Welt des Islam 40 (2): 139–195.

Hulme, Peter, and Russell McDougall. 2007. Travel, Writing, and Empire: In the Margins of Anthropology. London: Tauris. 

İnalcık, Halil. 1976. Application of the Tanzimat and Its Social Effects. Lisse: Peter de Ridder.

Kalaycıoğulları, İnan. 2016. “The Birth of the New Perception of Humankind from Semseddin Sami to Ahmed Nebil.” FLSF (21): 181–195.

Kerim, Sadi. 1941. Osmanlı Imparatorluğu’nun Dağılma Devri ve Tarihî Maddecilik (The Decline of the Ottoman Empire and Historical Materialism). Istanbul: Celtut. 

Mardin, Şerif. 2000 [1962]. The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought. New Jersey: Princeton University. 

Okay, Orhan.1975. Batı Medeniyeti Karşısında Ahmed Midhat Efendi. Ankara: Baylan. 

___. 1989. “Ahmed Midhat.” TDV Islam Ansiklopedisi (2): 100–103. 

Öktem, Ülker, 2012. “Effects of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in Tanzimat,” Kaygı (19): 11–26.

Özdalga, Elisabeth. 2005. Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy. London: Routledge. 

Poyraz, Serdar. 2010. Science versus Religion: The Influence of European Materialism on Turkish Thought, 1860–1960. Ph.D Dissertation. Ohio State University.

Pratt, Mary Louise. 2008 [1992]. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and TransculturationNew York: Routledge.

Pratt, Mary Louise. 1996. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” Profession, 33–40. 

Rubiés, Joan-Pau. 2000. “Travel Writing and Ethnography.” In The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, edited by Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, 242–260. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Sagaster, Börta, 1997. “Beobachtungen eines “‘Okzitentalisten’: Ahmed Midhat Efendi’s Wahrnehmung oder Europäer anlässlich seiner Reise zum Orientalistenkongress in Stockholm 1889.” Asien Afrika Lateinamerika 25 (1): 29–40.

Said, Edward. 1983. “Travelling Theory.” In The World, the Text, and the Critic, 226–247. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

___. 2001. “Travelling Theory Reconsidered.” In Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, edited by Edward Said, 436–52. Cambridge: Harvard University. 

Shefer-Mossensohn, Miri. 2015. Science among Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge. Texas: University of Texas.

Tuğluk, Abdulhakim. 2018. “Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi ile Ahmet Midhat Efendi Arasında Bir Avrupa Mukayesesi.” In Avrupa Macerasının Erkem Dönem Bir Örneği: Avrupa’da Bir Cevelan, edited by Selim Somuncu, 135–163. Elazığ: Manas Yayıncılık. 

Türesay, Özgür. 2013. “L’Empire ottoman sous le prisme des études postcoloniales. À propos d’un tournant historiographique récent.” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 60 (2): 127–145.

Ursinus, Michael, 1987. “‘Der schlechteste Staat’: Ahmed Midhat Efendi (1844–1912) on Byzantine Institutions.” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (11): 237–43.

Vanke, Francesca. 2008. “Degrees of Otherness: The Ottoman Empire and China at the Great Exhibition of 1851.” In Britain, the Empire, and the World at Great Exhibition of 1851, edited by Jeffrey A. Auerbach and H. Hoffenberg, 191–205. Burlington: Ashgate.

von Plato, Alice. 2001. Präsentierte Geschichte: Ausstellungskultur und Massenpublikum im Frankreich des 19 Jahrhunderts. Frankfurt: Campus.

Yalçınkaya, Alper. 2015. Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Young, Patrick. 2008. “From the Eiffel Tower to the Javanese Dancer: Envisioning Cultural Globalization at the 1889 Paris Exhibition.” The History Teacher 41 (3): 339–362. 


[1] The Ottoman Empire with the Tanzimat Period, ca. 1839, and the Republic of Turkey, until 1926, used the Rumi (Roman) calendar, based on the Julian calendar. The date in Roman calendar in the original is 3 Teşrîn-i Sānî 1305. My title borrows the term from Herzog and Motika who aimed to locate Ottoman Empire within postcolonial studies and offered a new way of thinking about the Ottomans relationship with the Western world as well as with its Arab colonies. In short, Orientalism alla turca conveys the emergent imperialist attitude of the Ottomans along European lines. See: Herzog and Motika 2000. Additonally, Özgür Türesay notes (2013) that since the end of the 1990s, several historians, including Selim Deringil, Ussama Makdisi, and Thomas Kühn, have offered terms such as “Ottoman orientalism,” or “Ottoman civilizing mission” to discuss Ottoman’s relations to Europe and Arab populations. An “Ottoman colonialism” emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century, when the Ottoman elite adopted the ways of thinking of their enemies, the great imperialist nations, and began to conceive of their boundaries as part of a colonial settings.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, translations are my own. 

[3] “A Tour in Europe” is one possible translation for the title Avrupa’da Bir CevelânCevelân, often used as a compound verb as “cevelân et-” means strolling, or promenading. “Seyâhat” is more common for traveling and “seyahatnâme” is the name for travelogue. Ahmed Midhat’s “travel” implies passing joyful time but also investing mental and physical labor, especially when one considers that he was 45 years old when he took the journey.

[4] Ahmed Midhat published the travelogue in Ottoman script, the alphabet used in the written records of the Ottoman Empire from ca. 1300 and in Turkey from 1919 until the official adoption of the Roman alphabet in 1928. The present work on Avrupa’da Bir Cevelân uses the edition in Roman alphabet with translator’s notes (Pala 2015) and consults the original in Arabic script when needed.

[5] See for example: Ursinus 1987; Boer 2002; Esen 2014; Gonzales 2012. Okay’s treatment of Ahmed Midhat’s mentality towards Europe (1975) remains as a notable source.

Julius Lips (1895-1950), Forerunner of Reverse Anthropology, by Diego Villar

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French on Julius Lips, the German anthropologist exiled to the U.S. after fleeing Nazi Germany with his wife Eva.

Villar, Diego, 2021. “Julius Lips, précurseur de l’anthropologie inversée” [Transl. “Julius Lips, Forerunner of Reverse Anthropology”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Julius Lips (1895-1950) was a German ethnologist trained under the diffusionist school who studied material culture and non-Western art from a comparative perspective. Professor at the University of Cologne (1929-1933) and director of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (1928-1933), he organized controversial exhibitions together with his wife Eva Wiegandt (1906-1988), such as Masken der Menschen (The Masks of Men) in which African ritual masks rubbed shoulders with expressionist paintings, Melanesian skulls, and the death masks of Beethoven and Napoleon. Accused of subversive relativism, he left Germany one year after Hitler’s rise to power and went into exile in the United States. He was supported by Franz Boas at Columbia University (1934-1936) and was a visiting professor at Howard University (1937-1939).

In North America, Lips consolidated his professional career, carried out ethnographic fieldwork among Algonquian-speaking communities, and published – in 1937 – his most important anthropological contribution: The Savage Hits Back, or the White Man through Native Eyes, with a preface by none other than Bronislaw Malinowski. Villar’s article reviews the trajectory of Lips before and after WWII and pays special attention to the collection of ethnographic objects and pictures gathered by Lips in The Savage Hits Back to document the ways in which “savage art” represented the “White man.” While unveiling the ambiguities of his work, Villar considers that Lips anticipates “reverse anthropology,” namely the Indigenous capacity to objectify foreign observers. In 1948, Lips returned to Germany (GDR) where he wanted to promote an ethnology compatible with socialism. He directed the Institute of Ethnology, founded the Institute of Comparative Legal Sociology, and became rector of Leipzig University in 1949. He died in 1950, but Eva Lips continued his work and defended his/their anthropological legacy to the end.

Older posts