Often overlooked in the historiography of anthropology, Spanish colonialism in Africa is the subject of these two interconnected articles. The Instituto de Estudios Africanos, founded in 1945 after Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), promoted ethnological studies on the populations of Spanish Guinea. Despite their “scientific” pretensions and uneven quality, they are imbued with the national-Catholic ideology of the Franco regime and inherit the ethnic stereotypes of Guinean indigenous peoples elaborated in early colonial publications (1900-1936). These earlier sources are analyzed in the first article, by Aranzadi, including missionary writings on the island of Fernando Po, where the Claretian Fathers of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary arrived in 1883. The second article, by López and Sánchez, is dedicated to some forms of popular iconographic representation of Black African populations, especially the little-known case of Spanish Guinea, now Equatorial Guinea. This lavishly illustrated article results from the exhibition “Let’s Bring Blacks Home! Colonial Imagination and Graphic Representations of Africans (1880-1968),” which was held in 2020 at the Cultural Center La Nau of the University of Valencia (Spain), illustrating different aspects of anthropological investigation through objects, photographs, popular periodicals, books, documentaries, and fragments of fictional films.
Arthur Ramos (1903-1949) was one of the most prominent Brazilian anthropologists of the first half of the twentieth century, specializing in Afro-Brazilian populations. In his intellectual portrait of this paramount figure in the history of Brazilian anthropology, Oliveira retraces his path from racialized psychoanalysis to cultural anthropology. From 1935 on, Ramos had fruitful exchanges with Melville J. Herskovits and maintained his connections with U.S. anthropology in various ways – including his polemical critique of Ruth Landes’s “fantastic conclusions about a matriarchal cult and male ritual homosexuality among Black Brazilians.” Oliveira reveals that Ramos insisted on the importance of comparing Afro-American to African models to avoid “distorting” views. As Professor of anthropology and ethnography at the Universidade do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro beginning in 1939 and founder of the Brazilian Society of Anthropology and Ethnology in 1941, Ramos also had a relevant role in the institutionalization of anthropology in Brazil. He became the first head of the Department of Social Sciences at UNESCO in 1949, but he held this position for only a short time, as he died a few months after his arrival in Paris. Although his legacy for Brazilian anthropology and his influence over generations of Brazilian anthropologists are particularly significant, his place in disciplinary history is gaining wider international recognition within the world anthropologies paradigm.
No knowledge, and particularly anthropological knowledge, is contingent upon a single tradition but is instead composed of multiple practices and contexts. Next to “major” European anthropological traditions, “minor” or “marginal” traditions in and beyond Europe bloomed and supported intellectual interactions at different points in time, and dynamically produced and disseminated anthropological knowledge. Based on these premises, the conference organizers aim to challenge the narrative of major, self-standing European traditions. Presenters will investigate the complexities and the embeddedness of anthropological knowledge transfer in and beyond European(ist) research, especially emphasizing the work at/between the “margins” — both geographic and conceptual — in past and present times.
The discussion will be led by Abigail Nieves Delgado and Iris Clever, and will take a broad view of visualization from the 18th to 20th centuries across a range of traditions. It will focus on the following readings:
Keevak, Michael. 2011. “Taxonomies of Yellow: Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and the Making of a ‘Mongolian’ Race in the Eighteenth Century.” In Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton University Press.
Qureshi, Sadiah. 2012. “Peopling the landscape: Showmen, displayed peoples and travel illustration in nineteenth-century Britain.” Early Popular Visual Culture 10(1): 23-36.
Evans, Andrew. 2020. “‘Most Unusual’ Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935,” Isis 111(2): 289-309.
A session will take place at the Musée du Quai Branly (Paris) on the 25th of May, 2021 at 4:30 p.m., during which Laurent Le Gall (Université de Bretagne Occidentale) and Frédéric Fruteau de Laclos (Université Paris 1/Panthéon Sorbonne) will comment on texts resulting from a colloquium dedicated to anthropologist Jean Cuisenier and published by BEROSE in a topical dossier organized by Martine Segalen (Université Paris-Nanterre) and Nicolas Adell (Université Jean-Jaurès, Toulouse). Please note, this is an in-person event.
French anthropologist Jean Cuisenier (1927-2017) was head of the polemical Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires beginning in 1968. Considered both a continuator and innovator of Lévi-Strauss’s legacy, this less known but fundamental figure in the history of the French school of anthropology promoted an anthropology freed from its ties to backward-looking “folklore,” and open to the study of contemporary French and European societies. When institutional difficulties and a hot public debate led to the closure of his museum of folk arts and traditions in 2005, Jean Cuisenier continued to develop his reflections on issues of folk art and ritual.
This essay is the last of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.
I am writing as someone who sits in one of the oldest anthropology departments in the United States, which sits in one of the oldest ethnographic museums in the country, and the world. Our department played a key role in the elaboration of scientific racism in the 19th century, as scholars applied the insights of Darwinian evolutionary theory to develop racist ideas about human origins and culture. Daniel Brinton, for example, was the first professor of anthropology at Penn. Though he was trained as a medical doctor, Brinton was hired in 1886 as a Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics, having previously held the position of Professor of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He was also the president of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) during the last years of the 19th century before he died in 1899, and an avid segregationist. In 1896, while president of the AAAS, Brinton argued in Popular Science Monthly that “the black, the brown and the red races differ anatomically so much from the white…that even with equal cerebral capacity they never could rival its results by equal efforts.” Brinton publicly advocated theories of scientific racism across several scientific institutions in Philadelphia. He believed that acquired “traits” developed within particular environments were passed down from generation to generation, and this laid the basis for later proponents of the “culture of poverty” paradigm.
The Center for the Study of Man was established at the Smithsonian Institution in 1968 to develop international research programs focused on the interrelationship between humans and their physical, biological, and cultural environments. Major projects initiated under its auspices included a program in “urgent anthropology”; the 1978 revision of the Handbook of North American Indians; the development of the National Anthropological Film Center (now the Human Studies Film Archives); the establishment of a Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies (RIIES); and planning for a Museum of Man. Other partially-conceived initiatives included a bibliographic and computerization program; a conference and publication series on topics such as population growth, human fertility, and drug and alcohol use; and a community-based American Indian program. In this thorough study, Link explains that the Center remained an independent research unit at the Smithsonian until 1976, at which point its major programs were discontinued or reassigned elsewhere within the Institution.
This is a reminder and invitation for an organizational meeting for the American Anthropological Association’s History of Anthropology Interest Group co-convened by Grant Arndt and Mindy Morgan. The meeting is open to all those interested in discussing preparations for this year’s meeting as well as future HOAIG activities.
The meeting will be held virtually on Friday, May 14 from 1-2 PM Eastern Time.
This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.
Physical anthropology began as a science of skulls. As the Italian practitioner Giuseppi Sergi put it in 1893, “The skull chiefly furnishes the characters of classification; it shows the external shape of the brain, the most important and the highest organ of man; the skull is the means of the classification of the brain.”
On May 13, 1985, the city of Philadelphia killed eleven people by bombing the home of the MOVE organization. Local Philadelphia media recently reported that for the 36 years since then, anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology and Princeton University kept remains attributed to two children killed in that bombing, Tree and Delisha Africa, without their family’s knowledge or consent. They also filmed these remains for online lectures on forensic anthropology in 2019. During one of these videos, some of these remains were shown to the camera while the Morton Cranial Collection, including the remains of Black Philadelphians and enslaved people, filled shelves in the background. The objectification of human remains and the dehumanization of non-white people remain among the most insidious and persistent legacies of scientific racism in anthropology, archaeology, and museums.
This page displays our most recent batch of citations; a comprehensive bibliography of citations we’ve collected since 2016 (going back as far as 2013) and a search tool are also available.
We welcome suggestions from readers. If you come across something of interest during your own fieldwork in the library, whether that be physical or virtual, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coyault, Bernard, 2021. “Karl Edvard Laman, missionnaire ethnologue suédois au Congo (1891-1919). Entre culture savante et humanisme chrétien: l’utopie missionnaire face au léviathan colonial,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
[Transl: “Karl Edvard Laman, A Swedish Missionary and Ethnologist in Congo (1891-1919). Between Learned Culture and Christian Humanism: The Missionary Utopia in the Face of the Colonial Leviathan”]
Karl Edvard Laman (1867-1944) belonged to the first generation of Swedish missionaries who established themselves in the Congo Free State in 1881. He stayed there for more than a quarter of a century, from 1891 to 1919. Laman gradually asserted himself as a great scholar, linguist, and expert on Kongo culture, which he documented, including its material expressions, at a time when its foundations were breaking up under the shocks of the colonial enterprise. His scientific work was coupled with a humanist project: the emancipation of the population through popular education, the two vectors of which were access to the Bible in the Kikongo language (its first translation appeared in 1905) and the promotion of Kongo cultural values. This enhancement of the Kongo language and culture was the basis of his scholarly activity. Coyault’s in-depth article shows the complexity of Laman’s work, which straddles the line between apostolic mission and anthropological study.
This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.
In 2015, as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, my class had the opportunity to speak with Richard Lariviere, the then-director of the Field Museum, about museum ethics and repatriation. I had just been working on repatriation projects at Colorado State University, and had asked him whether it was difficult for museum staff to value Indigenous stakes in the objects/entities as much as their own stakes. His response was familiar to many situated within the museum and repatriation landscape:
“The Field Museum is compliant with both the letter and the spirit of the law.”
Brock, Peggy, 2021. “The Ethnographic Calling of a Lutheran Missionary in Central Australia: A Short Biography of Carl Strehlow,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
German missionary Carl Strehlow occupies a peculiar place in the history of anthropology. His language-centered ethnographic work in central Australia contrasted in several respects with Spencer and Gillen’s naturalistic and evolutionist approach. Strehlow’s Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (1907-1920) was regarded with suspicion by James George Frazer and other European admirers of Spencer and Gillen, but Strehlow’s contemporaries in Germany, France, and Britain were more familiar with his findings than Australian researchers. At the time of its publication, and until very recently, Strehlow’s detailed study of the Arrernte and Loritja peoples was largely ignored in Australia. This was partly a result of his work never having been published in English, but probably more importantly because of Strehlow’s disagreements with Spencer and Gillen, whose The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) garnered a huge amount of attention and praise as one of the earliest studies based on detailed ethnographic fieldwork. In this enlightening article, Brock sustains that Strehlow’s careful recording of language, customs, folklore, and other aspects of Arrernte and Loritja life has survived over a century. Despite the ongoing controversies around Strehlow’s work, his ethnography rather than the missionary work to which he devoted his life may be his lasting legacy.
On view now at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai’i through October 24, 2021
(Re)Generations: Challenging Scientific Racism in Hawaiʻi explores a collection of photographs and plaster busts created by anthropologist Louis R. Sullivan as a tool to measure and classify the physical traits of a supposedly “pure” Native Hawaiian race. The collection was presented at the Second International Eugenics Conference (1921) with the Bishop Museum’s endorsement and support. Measuring, classifying, and categorizing people through “race science” has been used to justify slavery, displacement, colonial occupation, eugenics, and genocide. There is no biological truth to race, and research like Sullivan’s is now long discredited. Yet the myths of race and racial superiority, and the structural inequalities they support, have lasting and traumatic effects.
Though Sullivan’s photographs and busts are tied to a legacy of scientific racism, the collection has become one of the Bishop Museum’s primary sources for genealogical research in Hawaiʻi. (Re)Generations aims to celebrate the ways this collection has been reappropriated by Native Hawaiian descendants as a vehicle for (re)discovering ancestors, genealogical connections, and family. Photographs of persons celebrated in the exhibit were selected through collaboration with their living descendants. Photographs and busts are recontextualized outside of Sullivan’s eugenics research through meaningful histories, including the additions of descendant interviews and family heirlooms, which offer a glimpse into these people’s lives and legacies.
The Bishop Museum’s hope is that this exhibit is not an end in itself, but rather aims to start conversations on how the Museum can better connect with and serve Native Hawaiian communities and stakeholders.
For more information on how to see the exhibit, including relevant COVID-19 policies, please visit the Bishop Museum’s website.
This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read part one and more reflections from this series here.
Part 2. ‘Recollection’
Dr. Holmie recalled the skull had belonged to one of his former patients, a child “owned” by the hospital’s keeper and who died under his medical care. “The boy,” Holmie wrote to Davis:
…was owned by the keeper or headman of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s hospital at Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, in 1840 and previously under my medical care. He was when in health a very fat, well featured, cheerful little fellow much liked by those he came in contact with on account of his mild and obliging disposition and he died after a few days illness—apparently inflammation of the brain, or its membranes.
Why have Black ancestors been largely excluded from anthropology’s intellectual history and canon? In this series of pieces, Tracie Canada talks with the authors of the 2018 volume The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology. Based on interviews she conducted with eleven of the fifteen contributors, Canada’s dialogue with the authors addresses these many erasures and advances ways to center, celebrate, and engage with these essential figures. Drawing on a vibrant set of current conversations in the broader field of anthropology, this series– a collaboration between HAR’s Reviews and Field Notes departments– offers a richly textured vision for new histories of anthropology and new anthropological futures.
Why have Black ancestors been largely excluded from anthropology’s intellectual history and canon? As a Black anthropologist mentored by several historians of the discipline, I have often asked this question. This is likely why I became so interested in The Second Generationof African American Pioneers in Anthropology (2018) upon its publication. Edited by Ira E. Harrison, Deborah Johnson-Simon, and Erica Lorraine Williams, The Second Generation presents the intellectual biographies of a cohort of fifteen Black anthropologists who earned their degrees between 1960 and 1969. It acts as the second volume to Ira E. Harrison and Faye V. Harrison’s African-American Pioneers in Anthropology (1999), which focuses on scholars trained after World War I.
Friends of mine know that one of the first things I do when I buy a new academic book is read the acknowledgements. Learning about the people deemed important enough to the scholar that they are mentioned in their book—family, mentors, colleagues, editors, institutional partners—adds a textured layer to the scholarship that lies ahead. I’m always interested in those who influenced the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the work.
The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology (2018), edited by Ira E. Harrison, Deborah Johnson-Simon, and Erica Lorraine Williams, has no formal acknowledgement section, save for a short musing from one of the three co-editors. Instead, I’d argue the entire book acts as an acknowledgement to an older generation of Black anthropologists. Through intellectual biographies, a more junior group of Black anthropologists recognizes a cohort who earned their degrees between 1960 and 1969. This book gives thanks to fifteen pioneers who shaped the discipline through their administrative and leadership roles, theoretical interventions and intellectual labor, activism on and off campus, and commitment to their students and peers.
This generous presentation of a previous generation inspired me to speak with the authors who profiled these pioneers. In October 2020, I organized group interviews with eleven of the book’s contributors. I was interested to learn how these scholars chose their pioneer, what they found surprising during the research process, and what drew them to participate in a project that highlighted an older generation. Over the course of the interviews, we discussed their own work, the work of the person they wrote about, the current state of anthropology, and why the research of these Black scholars matters. The intergenerational nature of my interviews informed conversations that were temporally and historically grounded.
The book acts as a call to recognize and reclaim Black anthropologists who studied and worked during a time not too long ago. This foundation lends itself to thinking of the various histories of anthropology and rethinking the discipline’s narrative of itself to center the intellectual labor of Black scholars. I have crafted an argument that combines the contributors’ interview insights with the book’s intellectual biographies to capture the parallels between the experiences of multiple generations of Black anthropologists. All of these scholars demonstrate their commitment to calling out the impacts of white supremacy, racism, and colonialism in anthropology, institutions of higher education, and US society.
The Need to Rehistoricize Anthropology
Notions of time, history, and what constitutes the past are complicated when considering experiences of Blackness. This is particularly true when analyzed through the lens of Black studies, given, as Christina Sharpe notes, “in the wake, the past that is not past reappears, always, to rupture the present” (2016, 9). Through this frame, we can acknowledge the ways that events, narratives, and practices that took shape chronologically before us, particularly those rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy, have implications for contemporary Black life. Thus, living in the wake and the various afterlives of slavery (Sharpe 2016, Hartman 2007) disrupts normative notions of linear time because the past consistently reappears in the present.
The very real entanglements of the not-so-distant-past with the everyday, lived reality of Black folks has been explored ethnographically by a number of scholars. Their recent works include, but are not limited to, Deborah A. Thomas’s Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation (2019), Karla Slocum’s Black Towns, Black Futures (2019), Dána-Ain Davis’s Reproductive Injustice (2019), Savannah Shange’s Progressive Dystopia (2019), and Laurence Ralph’s The Torture Letters (2020). This understanding of history, as necessary to quotidian life, further underlines the importance of The Second Generation. The stories in the book skillfully demonstrate how the discipline’s colonial and racist foundations, thought to be addressed by the liberal anti-racism of the Boasians (Anderson 2019), continued to impact Black scholars in the 1960s as they moved through the academy and larger society.
The interconnectedness of the recent past and the present is woven through this book. In the first Pioneer volume, the editors write that “Anthropology’s critical reconstruction […] can be achieved only through a rethought historicism, a rehistoricization that repossesses both exposed and hidden dimensions of the past” (Harrison and Harrison 1999, 5). This continues to be the project of The Second Generation because of its focus on Black anthropologists who were attempting to create space for themselves only a few decades ago. As these pioneers are the “black classmates and counterparts of some of American anthropology’s most recognized and esteemed (white) anthropologists” (Harrison and Harrison 1999, 8), acknowledging their accomplishments reconfigures the stories that are often told of the discipline. When we center the narratives of Black anthropologists, we shift the discipline’s historical frame and reorient our views of what counts as decisive scholarly interventions.
As Elgin L. Klugh stated in our interview, these scholars were “coming into anthropology in a highly segregated society at a time when anthropology was not necessarily as committed to the ideals of inclusion.” By focusing on the lived experiences and theoretical contributions of the Black pioneers, instead of their white peers, the contributors succeed in bringing attention to often erased aspects of twentieth century intellectual life.
The contributors spoke directly to this need to rethink the discipline’s history by bringing attention to the term “pioneer.” Perhaps most importantly, the use of the term in the title acknowledges the book’s predecessor, Ira E. Harrison and Faye V. Harrison’s African-American Pioneers in Anthropology (1999), which focused on scholars trained in the period after World War I. Pioneers are those who are “the first and are forging this path for us to follow,” says Alice Baldwin-Jones. One of the book’s co-editors, Erica Lorraine Williams, points to the significance of the pioneers’ accomplishments: “They were the first Black person to be tenured, or Black woman to be tenured, the first woman president. So, they’re still occupying a lot of different roles where they were the first to do certain things.” Bertin M. Louis, Jr. adds that these were pioneering scholars because of their roles in developing different institutions, programs, and disciplinary fields. Not only were those profiled in the book foundational in shaping certain institutions, they were also creating space for future generations by leading the way forward. By claiming these under-recognized scholars as pioneers, we force the discipline to rethink the intellectuals it frequently celebrates as its founders.
To further emphasize the importance of rehistoricization, consider the number of interviews included in The Second Generation. Nine of the fifteen pioneers—James Lowell Gibbs Jr., Diane K. Lewis, Niara Sudarkasa, Johnnetta B. Cole, Ira E. Harrison, Audrey Smedley, Oliver Osborne, Anselme Remy, and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan—were still living at the time that research was collected for the book. Therefore, rather than solely relying on an archive of texts to piece together a narrative, some contributing writers spoke directly with their pioneer and contributed interview data to their intellectual biography. The fact that this is partially an oral history project speaks powerfully to the relative newness of Black scholars in anthropology and shifts the frame of what we consider as historical and in the past.
Organizing in Professional Associations
Beyond exposing different histories of anthropology, The Second Generation highlights racist and anti-Black experiences within the discipline that are frequently written out of more liberal accounts. Many such narratives appear throughout the book. Charles Preston Warren II was a military forensic anthropologist whose work was purposely excluded from textbooks and stolen by other scholars. Diane K. Lewis experienced blatant racism and sexism at every level as she journeyed through the academy, which led her to study anthropology and contribute to the Black feminist movement. Niara Sudarkasa was initially denied promotion to full professor at University of Michigan because her courses were seen as only tangentially relevant to her department.
It is because of these kinds of institutional and bureaucratic barriers that the Black pioneers came together in creative ways, despite their educational experiences and faculty appointments across various universities. Karen Brodkin, Sandra Morgen, and Janis Hutchinson remind us that “anthropology’s resistance to the epistemologies of ethnic‐studies scholarship to examine disciplinary praxis led underrepresented anthropologists of color to create their own institutional spaces in the AAA [American Anthropological Association] from which to develop critical and theoretically informed scholarship” (2011, 551).
For Black anthropologists, this process began in 1968, when pioneers Council Taylor, Delmos Jones, Diane K. Lewis, Johnnetta B. Cole, and Oliver Osborne established the Minority Caucus in the AAA. This group, formally institutionalized in 1970 as the Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA), was also led by pioneers Ira E. Harrison, Vera Mae Green, Sheila S. Walker, and Glenn Jordan. Transforming Anthropology, the flagship journal for the ABA, was established in 1990 by linguistic anthropologist Arthur Spears. Its roots can be traced back to ABA newsletters, Notes from the Natives and Notes from the ABA, which first appeared in 1973 and were spearheaded by Sheila S. Walker. Together, the creation of this association and its publications demonstrate Black anthropologists’ efforts to shift “the center of authority and legitimacy in research and scholarship from those established institutions which our people do not control to more democratically structured bases which embody the interests and priorities of ordinary Black folk” (Harrison 1990, 11). With these new institutions, there was space for Black anthropologists to come together, as thinkers and as writers, to critically consider structures of power that shaped both the discipline and their lived experiences.
Even 50 years later, the need for the Association of Black Anthropologists persists—perhaps even more so now. The current President of the ABA, Riché J. Daniel Barnes, spoke to the continued importance of the organization and her role in it, saying, “the reason why I was okay with being told to run for president was because of how much ABA has done for me and I wanted to be able to continue to do that for others, and even expand our offerings. Our ability to continue to mentor young anthropologists, to continue to help mid-career anthropologists get to associate and tenure, to support our applied anthropologists and make sure they have a platform as well within anthropology and especially within the Association of Black Anthropologists.” These aims, and more, are outlined as original goals of the ABA (Harrison 2010). It is through the leadership of the association’s Presidents, several pioneers included, that the organization has been so successful over time.
Black anthropologists are still working to bring representation to the field’s subdisciplines. Biocultural anthropologist Rachel Watkins recently referred to this discrepancy during a SAPIENS/Wenner-Gren panel discussion. “Western science, as an extension of western knowledge creation, is largely about racial ordering in relation to a human standard that puts people who are not white, cis, hetero, able-bodied, on the margins,” she explained. “So the people’s remains who are in laboratories and institutions reflect being on those margins. By extension, western science and western knowledge also racially order what roles different groups of people play in the production of knowledge relative to where they are to the center or the margins. Given that legacy, I think that’s a large part of the reason why there are so few folks of color in archaeology and biological anthropology, in particular.” This contemporary concern is particularly reflected amongst the pioneers, as most of the second generation were cultural anthropologists. Only a few were affiliated with subfields or subdisciplines, with Oliver Osborne in medical anthropology as a trained nurse, Claudia Mitchell-Kernan in linguistic anthropology, and Charles Preston Warren II in military forensic anthropology.
In response to this discrepancy, groups for anthropology’s subdisciplines were recently developed. This is an interesting call back to the organizing work done by the pioneers to form the ABA. It also speaks to the importance of creating space for scholars to thrive outside of, but alongside, organizations that are racially unmarked, but coded as white:
The Society of Black Language & Culture (SOBLAC) was created in 2020 for linguistic anthropologists, with a forthcoming journal entitled Journal of Black Language & Culture. The group, under the leadership of Anne Charity Hudley, has two edited volumes in the works.
Hope and Optimism for this Critical Moment
I ended each group interview with a question about hope. At a time of overlapping crises rooted in anti-Black racism and state and police violence which recall struggles experienced by earlier generations of Black scholars, what might be the potential of this particular moment?
The contributors’ answers addressed the chaos that has been added to the already taxing experience of being a Black anthropologist and educator. For example, Angela McMillan Howell explains that putting “out fires for Black students who are struggling right now,” as they deal with COVID-related illness, mental illness, food insecurity, and academic struggles, is a “very practiced and applied” process. Riché J. Daniel Barnes added that because of how these moments converge, “I’m trying to do so much and I think many of us are trying to do so much to move things in these moments,” but “it’s very difficult to believe in a longer lasting movement or change.” They noted how challenging it can be to remain hopeful when Black people are consistently under attack and disproportionately at risk of experiencing systemic, state-sanctioned violence.
Still, the contributors displayed optimism. For example, they considered the idea of letting anthropology burn (Jobson 2020) to be one of great potential. “I think a lot of the new work coming out by people like Savannah Shange and Ashanté Reese is thinking about anti-Blackness in really critical ways,” said Erica Lorraine Williams. She continued, “In terms of highlighting white supremacy, highlighting Black resistance, highlighting all these different things, they’re building upon the past and the contributions and the things that we’ve learned from the past.”
Bertin M. Louis, Jr. added, “I see it as not really like anthropology burning, but more as a moment of restructuring. In the ashes of not just the discipline but also of the world that’s burning now to hopefully do something better with this. I think Black studies and Black anthropologists have a lot to say about this tradition of not just preserving Black life, but preserving our species.” He continues by saying that simultaneous to arguments for restructuring, “we also need to pay attention to these folks who are part of this Black anthropological lineage and what they do with their anthropological knowledge outside of the discipline to affect other parts of academia and society.” Antoinette Jackson agreed: “If you let anthropology burn, you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. So, you don’t want to throw out people like Vera Green, who spent her life inside of the academy. These are things we need to highlight and maybe we’re throwing out the canon, but not Anthropology.”
The most consistent hopeful response referred to the “critical mass” that currently exists within the discipline. This exact wording was repeatedly used to speak to the relative power Black anthropologists have gained through their heightened presence and intergenerational solidarity and mentoring. “We now have a critical mass of scholars who can bring attention to these things and talk about these things within anthropology,” begins Rachel Watkins. “I think that the fact that a number of the contributors to this volume are people in my cohort, in terms of when you’re in school, the fact that we’re all in anthropology departments is a manifestation of the labor that the previous generation poured into us. What they poured into us allowed us to be able to secure those positions.”
Elgin L. Klugh continues reflecting on changes in the profession, “It’s been interesting to see that critical mass that Rachel’s talked of, these newcomers, these young folks. I see more people at the AAA conference and not just more, but more people in the subdisciplines. For example, Justin Dunnavant, the archaeologist, doing this interesting underwater archaeology. I had him come and speak to Coppin State because he’s from Maryland and he’s a graduate of Howard University. The idea that we’re actually getting so big in number we don’t even get a chance to know each other, quite frankly, and just integrating into all the various nooks and crannies of anthropology.” In short, the greater number of Black scholars with doctoral degrees in anthropology has helped to create a space in the discipline for their scholarship and voices.
Further, Alisha R. Winn points out that key to this critical mass is the visibility of Black anthropologists in various leadership positions. This provides an opportunity to take “advantage of the positions we are in to voice, or encourage, or push for incorporation.” For example, several of the contributors currently act as department chairs (Angela McMillan Howell, Antoinette Jackson, Riché J. Daniel Barnes, and Erica Lorraine Williams), department administrators (Elgin L. Klugh and Bertin M. Louis, Jr.), company founders (Alisha R. Winn and Deborah Johnson-Simon), and members of leadership boards of AAA sections (Riché J. Daniel Barnes and Bertin M. Louis, Jr.). It matters that there are more Black anthropologists present in the discipline and in these positions because it creates opportunities to guide structural change.
Emulating the Pioneers
Rachel Watkins stated that the contributors in various leadership positions are “actually emulating the pioneers” because “it was their kind of radical imaginings of anthropology that allowed them to claim anthropology, while they were doing all of these things that within the context of Western knowledge production, were not anthropology.” Watkins speaks directly to institutional and disciplinary barriers that determine what is included and excluded as anthropological theory and knowledge. Because of their positioning in relation to other disciplines, particularly Black studies, and their critiques of the need to remain “objective” to contribute critical interventions, Black anthropologists have been able to shape conversations within the field to stretch the narrow boundaries of what is classified as worthy of study and who is able to conduct this research– a potential intensified when Black anthropologists hold positions of authority.
Their desire to reimagine the field is just one of the ways that the experiences of the pioneers and contributors mirror each other. Another is in the way that both cohorts prioritize working with and connecting with local communities, given their shared understanding that research is not meant to be circulated just within the walls of the academy. Consider, for example, Elgin L. Klugh’s work with the Laurel Cemetery project, Angela McMillan Howell’s participation in The Hill Community Project, and Antoinette Jackson’s commitment to The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
One of the book’s co-editors, Deborah Johnson-Simon, believes that the local Black community is integral to her work and research in Savannah, Georgia, especially because of her commitment to museum anthropology. She desires “to work with communities enough so they see that the things you’re interested in are all the things that are of interest to them. I think that should be our guiding piece because that’s the only way we’re going to get young people to be able to come into this field and make any kind of difference. It’s to take seriously that we need to engage with communities in really meaningful ways that are important to them.”
This kind of approach is one that Cheryl R. Rodriguez credits to pioneer Diane K. Lewis: “she encouraged Black anthropologists to work in Black communities. Those ideas that Black anthropologists should work in Black communities and not only take from Black communities to create scholarship and knowledge but also contribute back to them. She talked about applied anthropology and the ways in which we should be contributing to Black communities and that has been a legacy among Black anthropologists. Many of us have really tried to do that.” Another exemplary pioneer in this respect is Vera Mae Green; Antoinette Jackson said “we’re producing and reproducing Vera Green all time” in the applied anthropology program at the University of South Florida. Through such public-facing projects, the contributors are working against a form of anthropology that extracts knowledge from people and communities in order merely to perform its theorization in the academy. As anthropologists, we should constantly be circling back to the people and the places we work with and learn from.
The contributors also emulate the work of the pioneers through their prolonged commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The pioneers were deeply rooted in HBCUs: Ira E. Harrison was a graduate of Morehouse College and conducted research at Hampton University, Anselme Remy taught at Fisk University, Johnnetta B. Cole served as the president of Spelman College and Bennett College, and Niara Sudarkasa was president of Lincoln University. Not only are several in the contributors’ cohort HBCU alumni, including Alisha R. Winn, Rachel Watkins, Elgin L. Klugh, Riché J. Daniel Barnes, and Angela McMillan Howell, but several have also joined the faculty at these institutions, either previously or currently, including Alisha R. Winn, Erica Lorraine Williams, Deborah Johnson-Simon, Angela McMillan Howell, and Elgin L. Klugh. Connections to HBCUs demonstrate how important these institutions remain in educating Black undergraduates, introducing them to anthropology, and creating a pipeline to graduate programs in the discipline.
An AAA panel about HBCUs and anthropology organized for the 2011 Montreal meetings included several of the contributors. Alisha R. Winn participated in the panel and explained that “we were describing the importance of having anthropology programs and anthropology courses at HBCUs because for the majority of us, anthropology was introduced to us through these HBCUs.” Despite how important these institutions have been in introducing anthropology to young Black scholars, there are now only one or two trained anthropologists employed at these institutions. This makes it difficult for the few who are there to encourage interest in the discipline and to be the discipline’s sole representatives to large groups of undergraduate students. Deborah Johnson-Simon noted that “you have to fight with people to get more anthropology. The only thing we can keep is intro, so I do everything with intro. I do it all.” Referring to the critical mass suggested by others, Elgin L. Klugh added, “I’d like to see the growth of the fields within HBCUs. I understand some of the historical context as to why anthropology is not necessarily present in HBCUs, but now is the time where that critical mass can start to spill over into that arena, too.”
A number of networks surfaced when tracing the intergenerational and institutional connections between the pioneers and the contributors to the volume. Johnnetta B. Cole was president of Spelman College when Riché J. Daniel Barnes was an undergraduate. Subsequently, the former was a distinguished presidential professor in anthropology at Emory University when the latter attended graduate school there. Because of his connection to Morehouse College, Ira E. Harrison was a mentor to Elgin L. Klugh. Rachel Watkins was introduced to biological anthropology at Howard University through W. Montague Cobb’s Black scholar activist tradition and Michael Blakey’s continuation of this tradition, and she also worked with Delmos Jones at that time. Antoinette Jackson and Alisha R. Winn were the first winners of The Vera Green Publication Award, an award named for the pioneer to highlight the work of public anthropologists. Alisha R. Winn and Ira E. Harrison were both archivists for the ABA, with the latter mentoring the former while she held the role. Alice Baldwin-Jones worked with Yolanda Moses as an undergraduate at City College of New York, during which time she learned of Laurence Foster, and then she worked with George Clement Bond as a graduate student at Columbia University.
This is just one way to consider the threads that link the pioneers and the contributors. By coding their institutional connections in this way, it becomes clear that the pioneers were committed not only to their own success in the academy, but to nurturing, supporting, and mentoring forthcoming generations in ways that have continued to shape the discipline.
Honoring Dr. Ira E. Harrison
When discussing mentors, I would be remiss if I did not focus on Dr. Ira E. Harrison, who passed away in April 2020. Dr. Harrison was a co-editor of both Pioneer volumes and was also profiled by Alisha R. Winn in The Second Generation. He was described as “a historian and preserver of history” with a commitment “to locate and identify past and present African American anthropologists. As the ABA’s first archivist, Harrison sought to ensure that the accomplishments and works of ABA members as well as ABA events and meetings were recorded and preserved” (Winn 2018, 121). Angela McMillan Howell affectionately referred to him as “the dean of all things Black anthropology.”
Almost every contributor shared a story about him; they collectively narrate a lighthearted personality which shines through in his love of photographs and poetry, his spirit of inclusiveness and collegiality, his unmatched approach to mentorship and community-building, and his persistence to the project of reclaiming Black scholars.
Bertin M. Louis, Jr. noted, “He was very special in the sense that he did a lot of the behind the scenes work that put things together that you don’t necessarily hear about or is published about. But he did all this behind the scenes work that kept the ABA going and he contributed something that was much bigger than himself.” As an example of this background work, several contributors described how Dr. Harrison quietly bestowed upon them a pioneer to research during the AAA meetings in Montreal in 2011. It appears that when the panelists met to discuss the relationship between HBCUs and anthropology, Dr. Harrison was already tinkering with the idea of a second Pioneers book. Co-editor Deborah Johnson-Simon describes his years-long dedication to seeing the book come to fruition as a “real labor of love.”
To celebrate Dr. Harrison’s life and legacy, Riché J. Daniel Barnes said that we must “make sure that the Association of Black Anthropologists continues to do the work of being that voice within American anthropology and also continuing the mentoring of those that are coming behind us.”
It is because of this ongoing legacy that I found my conversations with the contributors to be so powerful: the President and President-elect were present as we discussed those who provided the foundation for the Association of Black Anthropologists in the 1960s; Dr. Harrison’s presence was made clear through the comments of others; anthropologists both in the academy and in the public space participated in the interviews; and, through the pioneers, the contributors, and me, sixty years of Black anthropology was represented.
Savannah Shange notes that “writing is ancestor work” (2019, ix) and this truth was felt throughout the various layers of this work. On every level, this project is an acknowledgement of the brilliance that Black anthropologists, as intellectual contemporaries, elders, and ancestors, offered a discipline that continues to participate in the erasure of their work. It is a concerted effort to write against the fact that, according to Cheryl R. Rodriguez, “we as Black people, as African Americans and as Black people throughout the diaspora, we had been so misrepresented by anthropologists, so exploited.” Even more, “Black women were brutally misrepresented or just completely invisible in anthropology.” Because of how it chronicles the pioneers’ experiences, The Second Generation is a bold and necessary celebration of all that Black anthropologists have accomplished.
But there’s still work to be done to ensure that Black anthropologists are adequately recognized for their theoretical interventions, intellectual contributions, and labor in and beyond the academy. When describing the project of anthropology for Black students and scholars, Rachel Watkins says, “There’s an intellectual prowess associated with the challenge of having to theorize yourself into humanity on a daily basis.” It is with this in mind that we must work to recognize scholars, narratives, and histories that continue to be taken for granted.
 Volume contributors’ names are bolded throughout these pieces and, unless otherwise noted, their quoted words are drawn from the interviews that form the basis for this series as described in the author’s introduction.
 The association’s fiftieth year and the journal’s thirtieth year were marked in 2020. To celebrate these anniversaries, the October 2020 issue of Transforming Anthropology honors the fiftieth anniversary of the ABA through commentaries that reflect on the elders’ contributions to the discipline. The volume’s cover art includes a drawing rendition of Ira E. Harrison.
When given the opportunity to describe something surprising or particularly interesting about their pioneer, the contributors to The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology offered rich accounts that spoke to various aspects of their lives and careers. These answers echo observations that appear in the book, but in our conversations, the contributors were able to ground their insights within the context of their own experiences and those of other contributors. The fact that these were group interviews allowed the contributors to be in conversation with one another.
These highlights are arranged in the order they appear in the book, with the corresponding chapter listed alongside the names of the contributor and the pioneer profiled. The interviews were transcribed by Alissa Rae Funderburk and these snippets were lightly edited for clarity and length.
Alice Baldwin-Jones on Charles Preston Warren II (Chapter 2)
“I guess in today’s lexicon, Charles Warren would be considered an applied anthropologist. He went to school at the University of Chicago and then he did some ethnography in the Philippines. He worked in a museum in the Philippines as well, and then he was in the military, and he worked for the military as a forensic anthropologist at the birth of forensic anthropology—so, learning and developing the methods as he went along. I think one of the things that I found surprising is we often hear these stories in school that Black people are not smart. And then I’m reading Warren’s papers, and there it is. He’s basing his [academic] work on his work for the military in identifying the dead in the Vietnam War, the Korean War. He goes to Korea. He goes to Japan, and he’s coming up with all these methodologies, but because he’s working for the military, the military has all these rules and regulations, and he can’t publish his work. He’s presenting the methodologies that he came up with during his work and oftentimes he’s working with a Japanese forensic anthropologist as well. I mean, this was the beginning of forensic anthropology, because the military made an executive order that all its war dead must be identified. Then he’s going to conferences, he’s sharing his work and then he sees his work being published by the top forensic anthropologist at the time. So, he’s having to work with people who are stealing his work and publishing it as theirs.”
Cheryl R. Rodriguez on Diane K. Lewis (Chapter 4)
“Diane Lewis is a very courageous, very brilliant, and determined woman who had such a vision for her work as an anthropologist. I wasn’t surprised at how brilliant this woman is. I am a Black person living in America who grew up with brilliant people so I know what Black people are capable of. That’s not anything I’ve ever had to be convinced of. But, more than that, what really struck me was her determination to stand up to racism and sexism, which she experienced quite vividly during her undergraduate years. And this was all in the 1950s and 60s, so you can imagine just how frustrating it must have felt for a Black intellectual at that time to be trying to break down these barriers in the midst of so much oppression and not enough protection, not enough legal protection, not enough policy protection. But one of the things that also impressed me about her was just the kinds of writing that she did. She wrote this article, “Anthropology and Colonialism,” which has been cited so many times because she published that in 1973. It conceptualized and analyzed the historical relationship between anthropologists and the non-white people that they study. She was really looking carefully at what anthropology really meant, even though she was a part of it. She looked at its colonial context and she looked at that in many different ways. Another article that I wrote about here is her piece called “A Response to Inequality: Black Women, Racism, and Sexism” (1977), which was really pioneering at its time. This article has been published in several different places and a lot of people don’t even know that this exists, that she wrote this before many other Black feminists actually wrote about the intersection of gender, race, and class for Black women.”
Elgin L. Klugh on Delmos Jones (Chapter 5)
“To this day, I use Delmos Jones’s “Social Responsibility and the Belief in Basic Research: An Example from Thailand” (1971) in my teaching when I’m in the section about ethics. When I teach ethnography, what I want to convey to students is who you are as the ethnographer matters in terms of the kind of relationships you’re able to form in the field, the kind of information that people feel comfortable sharing with you, and the kind of biases and predispositions that you bring to your research and you’re thinking about the individuals. Delmos Jones, being somebody who was born in a sharecropping family in the South, throughout his career, his perspective was that he was able to identify with poor and marginalized people no matter where they were on the planet, whether they’re Native Americans, Australians, or individuals in the highlands of Thailand. And he put their well-being first in a real way that trumped his career goals. I find that is a really good case study that students can identify with when I’m trying to drive home the point of the personality of the ethnographer and also this right, this duty to our populations that we study. The ideas of really doing no harm and putting your people first, it’s a great example for those.”
Erica Lorraine Williams on Niara Sudarkasa (Chapter 6)
“Niara Sudarkasa was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her original name was Gloria Marshall and her parents and grandparents were from the Bahamas. I feel like her early work made really important contributions to feminist anthropology because her work pushed back against the generalization and the universalization of the feminist anthropologists who would say that “this” is how gender plays out in the world. Her work in Nigeria showed that actually, it doesn’t really play out like that. After she finished her PhD, she worked. She was assistant professor at NYU, and then she went to the University of Michigan. She was the first Black woman to earn tenure at the University of Michigan and she was also involved in the Black Action Movement, which was led by Black students who were really mobilizing and organizing on Michigan’s campus. Speaking of the impact of racism and sexism, she was actually initially denied tenure. That was really interesting to look at; I did research in the archives. There was a rich kind of documentation of the process, the different letters that were written by her pushing back against the decision because a lot of the things that the anthropology faculty said were racist. So, she ended up earning tenure and becoming full professor. And then she became the first Black woman, or the first woman, president of Lincoln University, which is the oldest HBCU in Pennsylvania. In her later work, she did a lot of work on extended families and pushing back against the universalization of the nuclear family, pushing back against the idea that Black families, single mother households, or different things like that were stigmatized. She argued that there were certain values implicit in them, that they were multi-generational, different things like that. A lot of her work was really pushing back against these dominant narratives.”
Riché J. Daniel Barnes on Johnnetta B. Cole (Chapter 7)
“My pioneer is Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and she has been my long, long, long time mentor and scholarly everything. One of the things that was really cool to me was the way that she changed her perspective about sexuality. It was her friendship with Audre Lorde that helped her to understand Black sexuality in a broader context. And that was really something that I would not have known to ask about because my perspective of her, having known her since I was an undergrad, has always been that she’s just been very open to every way in which you can show up as a human being. And not that she wasn’t prior. She talks about how she grew up with these images, these ways of being in community with people but had not really interrogated her own thinking around those things. And for Spelman to now have this endowed chair that is about doing work on Black sexuality, the groundwork for that kind of thing was laid while she was there because she was working with Beverly Guy-Sheftall to make those things happen. I uncovered her impact in all of these arenas, and how she got to the place of being able to unpack those things and make a substantial contribution in those arenas. And then, of course, there’s the frustration of seeing that she’s not recognized as an anthropologist. She’s recognized as an educator and now, of course, as someone in the museum world, and has always been recognized as a Black woman leader. But it’s so hard, you know, for her and so many others to be recognized as anthropologists.”
Deborah Johnson-Simon on John Langston Gwaltney (Chapter 8)
“A lot of what I did with Gwaltney was because he appeared on another list for me that I was studying with Blacks in museums and I was surprised by that directory that I received that there was even a category among museum professionals that was anthropologists. Because of his tutelage, I was able to use that with my students at an HBCU, where a lot of students coming into that class had never even heard the word ‘anthropology.’ So, they didn’t know what they were signing up for and by the end of a semester students had coined the term ‘Gwaltneyites’ because they were so passionate about the way he went about doing his work. They want to be Gwaltneyites. And doing that native anthropology and becoming African American museum anthropologists, I mean it was just amazing what you get from learning with these pioneers. So, they’re more than just theories and they become real to you when you start to do the work, when you write it, and then you start to feel like an anthropologist. And that’s what I wanted my students, even though they were just taking an introduction class, to come out of it feeling like: that they were doing something and that they could contribute to the field.”
Alisha R. Winn on Ira E. Harrison (Chapter 9)
“I didn’t know Dr. Harrison was a poet. He was like a big-time poet, he had written so many books of poems and every time I talked to him, he would quote some line in his poetry. Every single time. Or he would make up a poem right on the spot that included me, or whatever we were talking about, or something encouraging. Or as we get off the phone, he would leave me with a line. I expected it every time. He’s literally a pioneer in such a great way. [He accomplished] so many things. I didn’t know that he did a lot of his research and particularly his dissertation on the desegregation of churches and storefront churches. And that’s because he thought, initially, he was going to go into the ministry. And so, he still got a chance to look at faith and religion by doing his research on that extensively and by serving on boards related to church work in Ohio and in other places. And so, I learned that about him, being a poet and initially wanting to go into the ministry, which I found fascinating. But also, how he used all of that to build in his profession and in his life’s work. So, they weren’t these separate things. Even though someone from the outside might say, ‘Oh, he did this and this.’ No, all of those things connected together. His work with looking at HBCUs in anthropology and how Hampton got its program started in anthropology. I mean, all of these things connected to his curiosity and his pioneering work of wanting to make sure that African American anthropologists are recognized for their contributions. And so, his work is so broad, but is a holistic work that tells so much of a life’s work of someone who embodies all these things in one.”
Rachel Watkins on George Clement Bond (Chapter 11)
“We all kind of come to our research by way of exploring who we are, in some ways. I knew that I would learn about George Clement Bond as part of learning about his research and learning about his research would allow me the opportunity to do what I love to do, which is to be a biologically oriented anthropologist who’s learning more about the subfields. Bond is an Africanist anthropologist, whose work extended into education and he was based at Columbia University in the Teachers College. What I learned about him is that he was very much so a generalist. He started out as an Africanist and he used the research that he did and his particular departure from structural functionalism, he used his particular way of thinking and doing research to extend that to other questions. He thought about, ‘Okay, how can the methodological and theoretical kind of developments that come out of my research in this particular area be applied to other areas,’ to the point that he had several edited volumes he was co-authoring long before that was something that—well we still kind of struggle with that in anthropology. He was about creating space for exploring the breadth of application of the work of Black scholars and Black scholar-activists.”
Bertin M. Louis, Jr. on Oliver Osborne (Chapter 12)
“Dr. Oliver Osborne was a pioneering nurse anthropologist. He grew up in New York, his family was originally from Barbados. What was interesting about his trajectory is the odd way he came to nursing first and then anthropology. And he came to nursing, despite being in law school at the time. He decided to work in nursing and specialize in mental health issues. In his interview [with me for the book] he talked about how he was able to quench his thirst for all the different types of things he wanted to learn about through anthropology. And his studies, he wanted to do, he went on to do field work in the area of psychosocial nursing in Nigeria and he did a lot of back-and-forth trips between the United States and Nigeria. When he finished his PhD, he went on to pioneer a lot of different things within the area of psychosocial nursing. First, he was a Black man who blazed the trail for Black folks in the white women-dominated profession of nursing. He also was able to articulate a holistic view of nursing, as well as touting the utility of anthropological studies for nurses. He also was a pioneer in the sense of the different institutions that he helped to build up, like the first department that was related to psychosocial nursing at the University of Washington, as well as other professional organizations related to nursing and his emphasis on delivering mental health nursing services to the marginalized and the oppressed. Reflecting on Dr. Osborne, the main thing that really impressed me was the way that he applied good aspects of anthropological methods and knowledge towards pioneering this field of psychosocial nursing.”
Angela McMillan Howell on Anselme Remy (Chapter 13)
“I think the most fulfilling part of Anselme Remy’s career, he would say, was the component of it which was really around Black studies and what he was able to do with Fisk University and connecting with other Black scholars who saw their research as an activist lifestyle. That it wasn’t just for the sake of curiosity, but it was about needing to connect and to radically change people’s everyday situations. And the other part that was incredibly fulfilling for him was the ways in which he worked outside of the academy directly to impact the Haitian government, to impact US policies towards Haiti, and then eventually returning to Haiti. And so these were spaces that were not mainline anthropological spaces, even though he had that masters from NYU, even though he was ABD at Brandeis. And because he chose the activist’s route and he chose to return to his home, he basically was an unknown scholar in a lot of ways. And then the last thing I wanted to just add was I believe he is the only non-American in the book. It’s really interesting as well that our perspective in anthropology is still so American-centric and Western-centric. I just think his presence in the [book] opens the door for people to also wonder. Americans are not the only anthropologists; African Americans are not the only anthropologists. How do we continue to access other people’s ways of knowing the world who are in Senegal, in Kenya, in Haiti, in wherever they are, that are anthropologists? They’re trained, they’re Black, potentially, but they’re not recognized because they’re just not even in the English canon.”
Antoinette Jackson on Vera Mae Green (Chapter 14)
“Vera Green was a cultural anthropologist, very much a public anthropologist. She actually put into practice many of the anthropological tenets. In the chapter, I was really struggling to find a little bit of a different angle on her that wasn’t quite tapped into fully. And it was the fact that she was a Quaker. I decided to really focus on how that influenced part of her life. In addition to her being a public anthropologist, she seemed to always operate outside the box or go against the grain of what you typically think of as a Black person doing something. In her work she was always talking about heterogeneity, like ‘don’t look at every Black person the same.’ So, looking at the Quaker experience was a chance to highlight something different about her in the sense [of what] people typically think about Black folks’ religious practices and really figure out how that informs her. Also, she stressed looking at intersectionality before that word became a word. She was looking at the socioeconomic differences between how people experience location or parts of their life or cultural experiences. She looked at Black folk outside of the typical ways that people are talking about them. She’s looking at folk in the Netherlands Antilles. And she’s seeking out Black people in areas where people weren’t really doing a lot of research on Black folk and then looking in different contexts. Seeing how she was able to elaborate on Black people’s experiences and environments really made it okay, or just helped me hone my own way of thinking and looking. She gave me a way to do that.”
This seemingly innocuous question encouraged conversations about the circulation of particular histories of and in the discipline, and it centered our attention on canonization and citation practices. And rightfully so, given the ways that anthropologists of color, in general, and Black anthropologists, in particular, have been underrecognized in the field.
In their interrogation of anthropology’s success towards its goal of racial inclusivity, Karen Brodkin, Sandra Morgen, and Janis Hutchinson concluded that anthropology departments are institutionally organized as “white public spaces,” thus participating in “a hegemonic, daily, unreflexive praxis that marginalizes faculty and students of color” (2011, 554). One of the ways departments constitute themselves in this way is by establishing clear “boundaries by theoretical perspectives and explanatory projects as well as subject matter” (552). These boundaries determine which ideas and perspectives “belong” in anthropological thought, and make it difficult to include courses, research, and writings on race and racism. For these reasons, anthropologists of color are often met with resistance and have been excluded from theory building exercises which are imperative to the perpetuation of the discipline.
Drawing on Sylvia Wynter’s theorization of the Western Man, one could argue that disciplines are “storytellers who now storytellingly invent themselves” (Wynter and McKittrick 2015, 11) by relying upon the circulation of scholars, ideas, readings, and histories that best fit the story they are hoping to tell. In anthropology, these narratives have favored Western scholars who are white and male, often hoping to portray some authentic truth about “other” populations and cultures. Together, these theoretical boundaries and the systemic privileging of certain scholars contribute to an idealized canon that tends to over-represent the historical and contemporary scholarship of white male cis-gender thinkers.
Alternatively, as Joshua Bennett and Imani Perry brilliantly reflect, we should challenge the fraught and often fetishized canon. Instead we should consider its purpose to simply “create a set of common texts and common texts function as ways for us to have sustained conversations.” With this in mind, a kind of deliberate curation should be invested in ensuring that “canons are elastic, or they should be, and they should make room for beauty.” We can take this as a call to uplift legacies and make visible the intellectual labor of Black anthropologists who have been pushed to the margins of the discipline or have had to find disciplinary homes in other departments.
Suggestions for how to meaningfully reimagine the discipline and the canon are plenty. Moreover, demands to decolonize and transform anthropology have circulated for decades. Ashanté Reese calls for the elevation of ethnography that draws on epistemological elsewheres, including “from Black studies, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, and the lives we lived before the academy” (2019). In her estimation, the field’s harsh disciplinary boundaries are limiting, monotonous, and uncreative.
“We need to overhaul the way we teach anthropology,” Riché J. Daniel Barnes explained (2013). “We cannot be afraid to talk about the way anthropology has been complicit in the degradation of cultures and the accompanying oppression of people. We cannot continue to begin with the ‘primitive’ and the ‘savage’ and expect students whose ancestors were part of those populations to find merit in the field.”
Angela McMillan Howell and Elgin L. Klugh considered institutional ways to combat this alienation. Howell and Klugh, both alumni and faculty members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), believe that “their history, student characteristics, and overall learning environments uniquely position HBCUs to give voice to a number of perspectives that would add texture to the anthropological canon” (Klugh and Howell 2013). It is our responsibility as educators to ensure that students and scholars of all identities and subject positions do not feel alienated and ostracized by a discipline with a deeply colonial history.
Overall, these suggestions point to the need to combat the erasure of certain voices and highlight the theoretical interventions of those whose existence is often written out of the discipline. “We have this legacy of African American pioneers who have decolonized and we could use them to further decolonize the discipline,” Alice Baldwin-Jones explains, referring not only to those scholars profiled in the book, but to all those elders who contributed their intellectual labor to anthropology. This would require an incorporation of their work in courses, as well as tangible engagement with their theory in our own writing, particularly given the importance of citation to the academic enterprise.
Erica Lorraine Williams, whose current book project deals with Black feminist activism in Bahia, expounds: “It’s really important that we document these stories and document people’s trajectories and their work, reviewing their work and the contributions that it made so that we don’t continue to be marginalized and kind of left out of the canon.” Christen A. Smith’s #CiteBlackWomen movement, a collective of which Williams is a member, is one such commitment to crediting the life and work of Black women intellectuals. Another is Black feminist anthropology, which Irma McClaurin defines as an intervention that “constructs its own canon that is both theoretical and based in the politics of praxis and poetics” and “seeks to deconstruct the institutionalized racism and sexism that has characterized the history of the discipline of anthropology” (2001, 2).
Therefore, to keep these scholars “active and alive” and to “keep building and highlighting them,” as Antoinette Jackson implores, I present a reading list curated by the volume’s contributors (with a few suggested additions of my own). This kind of list is in good company, as existing examples include the Zora’s Daughters Podcast syllabi and the Decanonizing Anthropology Syllabus Project. These collections, and others similar to them, are living documents that might shift and grow over time, but remain committed to centering the voices of marginalized folks and respecting them as knowledge producers, rather than mere research subjects. Across theories and geographies, disciplines and subfields, and methodological approaches, these texts speak to a past and present of anthropology that takes seriously the lived realities of race and racism.
See also Mark Anthony Neal’s interview with Riché J. Daniel Barnes on the Left of Black video podcast (season 8, episode 12: “When Black Professional Women Redefine Marriage, Motherhood, and Community”).
Franklin, Maria, and Robert Paynter. 2010. “Inequality and Archaeology.” In Voices in American Archaeology: The 75th Anniversary Volume of the Society for American Archaeology, edited by Wendy Ashmore, Dorothy T. Lippert, and Barbara J. Mills, 94–130. Washington, D.C.: Society for American Archaeology.
While interviewing the contributors and collecting these suggested readings, an interesting detail arose. Several pioneers have donated or stored their papers across sites and platforms, an act that inevitably speaks to their understanding of the importance of collecting, recording, documenting, and archiving. I have included a non-exhaustive list below:
Angela Gilliam’s papers have been digitized and can be found online here and here.
Vera Mae Green’s papers are located at the Tuskegee University library, but many of the holdings have yet to be digitized.
Anselme Remy’s papers, mostly published in French, can be found at the Library of Congress.
The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University houses both Ira E. Harrison’s papers and the archives of the Association of Black Anthropologists. Dr. Harrison also has papers at Emory University.
 Volume contributors’ names are place in bold type throughout these pieces and, unless otherwise noted, their quoted words are drawn from the interviews that form the basis for this series as described in the author’s introduction.
Following the model of the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s lesson plans, I offer a curriculum guide for The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology. This book could be assigned and incorporated into class discussion in a number of ways. Its potential lies especially in its discussion of various themes, including race and racism, gender and sexism, class and labor inequality, fieldwork and ethnographic methods, intersectionality, and decolonizing and diversifying disciplines.
I agree with Antoinette Jackson: the book “provides a means of broadening the conversation and enables students to experience different ways of critiquing and applying anthropology.” Also, since all the pioneers and contributors are Black, incorporating this text onto syllabi is just one way to respond to Laurence Ralph and Aisha Beliso-De Jesús’ critique of how whiteness is privileged in anthropology syllabi.
Erica Lorraine Williams remarks that “you go through your whole graduate training and there’s still these people that you just haven’t heard of, that you don’t know about, that you haven’t been taught.” This book helps correct this silence, providing a valuable resource in its own right because of its skillful recovery of prominent anthropologists for a contemporary cohort of scholars. But the potential of the book is not limited to the text. During a recent ACLS/SSRC conversation with Alondra Nelson and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Bianca C. Williams stated, “you can’t understand race and racism and you can’t understand the utility of the humanities and social sciences if you’re not engaging the work of Black studies, Black feminist studies, and Black queer studies.” This call echoes the pioneers’ reliance on the Black Power and Black studies movements (Anderson 2019) to critique and challenge anthropology as a discipline largely implicated in colonialism and racism. We should take Williams’ contemporary assertion seriously and the pioneers’ work is a place to start.
Thus, in addition to the book itself, the pioneers’ articles and books should be used to prepare new generations of scholars. Their scholarship includes, but is not limited to, ethnography across Africa and the diaspora, Black feminist thought, critiques of colonialism, white supremacy, racism, and sexism, and critical methodological interventions. With this in mind, here is just one example of how the pioneers’ areas of research could be organized and taught:
Military forensic anthropology: Charles Preston Warren II
Medical anthropology: Oliver Osborne
Linguistic anthropology: Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
Africanist scholarship: George Clement Bond, Niara Sudarkasa, James Lowell Gibbs Jr., William Shack
Anthropology of race: Audrey Smedley
Applied and public anthropology: Johnnetta B. Cole, Vera Mae Green, Ira E. Harrison, Diane K. Lewis
Native anthropology: Delmos Jones, John Langston Gwaltney, Anselme Remy
Now for tangible ways to assign the book itself: I’ll start this guide by offering my own idea first. Twenty-eight Black anthropologists are highlighted across both installments to the Pioneers archive. However, these are not autobiographical entries; each anthropologist is profiled by a more junior anthropologist. As a final assignment, students could provide a Pioneers-like entry for one of the contributors to either volume. For example, what would they write in a chapter about Betty J. Harris or Janis Faye Hutchinson? A student could flex multiple methodological muscles for this assignment, as oral history collection, interviews, archival research, digital ethnography, and close reading could come in handy. The final product might include an overview of the scholar’s educational background, their published works and intellectual contributions, their approach to the discipline, and their engagement with a community outside of academia. If relevant, it would also be interesting to include a reflection on the connection between the contributor and their pioneer: why might Deborah Johnson-Simon have profiled John Langston Gwaltney? What connects Dallas Browne and William Alfred Shack?
Once this research has been conducted and these biographies are written, one might encourage students to submit pieces to History of Anthropology Review. An analysis of a pioneers’ foundational work could be contributed to Generative Texts or a surprising archival detail could find a place in Clio’s Fancy. For work based on the Pioneer archive, there are plenty of outlets at HAR that could result in a student publication.
Rachel Watkins: “Thinking about how the work of scholars in the book is obscured, I like the idea of pairing chapters in The Second Generation with some of the scholars’ work—or work they inspired. I think Karen Field’s ‘Witchcraft and Racecraft’ piece in [George Clement Bond’s edited volume] Witchcraft Dialogues: Anthropological and Philosophical Exchanges (2001) would be great to assign alongside my podcast episode on race. I don’t think a lot of people know this—in terms of the way that our pioneers have created space for all sorts of things—in his edited volume Witchcraft Dialogues, that’s actually where Karen Fields first wrote about Racecraft. She has a chapter in there because the edited volume was focused on kind of turning this idea of witchcraft on its head and not using witchcraft to amplify this exotic African trope at what it means. There are also pieces Bond authored that frame things like ancestor worship in rather ‘decolonized’ ways that are important for students to learn sooner than later.”
Angela McMillan Howell: “I used the first Pioneers book the last time I taught anthropological theory and this is an activity that went really well in my class. Everybody was assigned certain pioneers. It was a small seminar class and we had a roundtable with the pioneers. You had to embody that person that you read about. You had to read their chapter, you had to dress like them, you had to read other stuff about them. And then I made little placards with each of their names in front of them. I was the interviewer and I asked everybody about their lives and they had to answer as if they were their person. They weren’t going to read every biography of every person, but they were able to really connect to that one person. And then they were able to hear how other people answered and asked them about their family life, where they feel like they had been recognized in the academy, and all these different things. I loved it.”
How might you choose to incorporate these scholars and their work into your courses? Perhaps you would appreciate Bertin M. Louis, Jr.’s suggestion to use both contributions to the Pioneer archive in a “Black anthropology course which charts the growth of anti-racist/pro-Black anthropological research.” Instead, if interested in discussing Black intellectual contributions to anthropology, alongside scholars’ experiences of racism and discrimination in the academy, you might consider Alice Baldwin-Jones’s approach to assign Zora Neale Hurston’s Tell My Horse with writings from Audrey Smedley, Katherine Dunham, Laurence Foster, and Louis Eugene King. Or perhaps, Zora Neale Hurston might be better suited for a discussion of ethnographic methods, as Riché J. Daniel Barnes assigns Mules and Men and centers “Hurston for a discussion on insider/outsider methodology, subjectivity, and US-based ethnographies.”
The possibilities are endless for how The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology, African-American Pioneers in Anthropology, and the scholarship of these 28 Black pioneers could be used in a classroom and in one’s writing. As, in the words of Hortense Spillers, we strive to “rediscover” and “reassert” “all these earlier pioneers in the institutional works of the black intellectual” (2007, 301), I welcome suggestions for further pedagogical techniques that highlight this rich archive.
Fields, Karen E. 2001. “Witchcraft and Racecraft: Invisible Ontology and Its Sensible Manifestations.” In Withcraft Dialogues: Anthropological and Philosophical Exchanges, edited by George Clement Bond and Diane M. Ciekawy, 283–315. Ohio University Press.
 Volume contributors’ names are in bold type throughout these pieces and, unless otherwise noted, their quoted words are drawn from the interviews that form the basis for this series as described in the author’s introduction.
I interviewed eleven of The Second Generation’s contributing authors to better understand their motivations for participating in the volume. Since they appear numerous times throughout these texts, quick professional sketches of their current affiliations help to place them:
Alice Baldwin-Jones, an applied anthropologist at LaGuardia Community College and William Paterson University of New Jersey
Riché J. Daniel Barnes, Associate Professor and Chair of Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College, and current President of the Association of Black Anthropologists
Angela McMillan Howell, Associate Professor of Anthropology and interim Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology department at Morgan State University
Antoinette Jackson, Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of South Florida
Elgin L. Klugh, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social and Political Sciences, and Coordinator for Social Sciences and Anthropology at Coppin State University
Bertin M. Louis, Jr., Associate Professor of Anthropology and African American & Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky, and President-elect of the Association of Black Anthropologists
Cheryl R. Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Anthropology at the University of South Florida
Rachel Watkins, Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University
Erica Lorraine Williams, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology department at Spelman College, and the Book and Film Review Editor for Transforming Anthropology
Alisha R. Winn, an applied and practicing cultural anthropologist at Palm Beach Atlantic University and founder of Consider the Culture, a business that infuses anthropology in governmental institutions, religious institutions, and educational institutions to impact communities
Additionally, all contributor biographies from the book are reprinted below, courtesy of University of Illinois Press. Please keep in mind that these were originally published in 2018, so some details may have changed.
Recording Kastom brings readers into the heart of colonial Torres Strait and New Guinea with the personal journals of Cambridge zoologist and anthropologist Alfred Haddon. Haddon’s journals highlight his comprehensive vision of anthropology and preoccupation with documentation and reveal the central role played by named Islanders who worked with him to record their kastom. The work of Haddon and the members of the 1898 Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait was hugely influential on the nascent discipline of anthropology and remains of great interest to Islanders and scholars working in the region.
Join the authors and editors for a discussion of the content and process of publishing the journals, involving collaboration with Islander communities and descendants of the people with whom Haddon worked. The session will also provide an opportunity to reassess the importance of Haddon’s work and consider the far-reaching value of anthropological archives today.
Recording Kastom: Alfred Haddon’s Journals from his Expeditions to Torres Strait and New Guinea, 1888 and 1898 is published by Sydney University Press.
This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.
The recent debate over the relocation and restitution of over 50 human crania of enslaved people in Samuel George Morton’s collection at the Penn Museum prompts a reflection on anthropology’s entanglements with the history of slavery. When the HAR editorial team asked me to offer some thoughts a propos this event, I revisited my research notes in search of archival traces of these complex crossings. This short note is an analytical reflection about one such trace—a letter exchange found in the private papers of another notorious race scholar and skull collector and Morton’s contemporary) British surgeon Joseph Barnard Davis (1801-1881). I ask how enslavement becomes epistemically and politically embedded in collections of human remains. I ask how historiographical work may help us to counter, subvert, heal, and remember the presence and effects of these past processes today.
Part 1. ‘Inscription’
Fervently devoted to racial craniology, Joseph Barnard Davis spent his life and wealth assembling a comparative anthropological collection of human crania. By 1880 he was the owner of the world’s largest private collection of skulls, an achievement inspired partly by Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) in Philadelphia. Davis’s skull collecting and investigations were, like Morton’s, founded upon conceptions grounded in scientific racism. It reflected his belief, for example, that specific physical features of the cranium represented differences and hierarchies in mental attributes and moral and social states; and that (inferior) African “black” and (superior) “white” European human races were separate “natural” occurrences with separate origins. Davis’s collection was based on a vast network of skull suppliers and collaborators based in a number of different colonies and territories outside Europe. His manuscript catalogues and letters, held in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, along with what survives of his cranial collection, show how the collection was generated and how certain human skulls entered the museum embedded in histories of enslavement.
Since 1973, the History of Anthropology Review (formerly the History of Anthropology Newsletter) has been a venue for publication and conversation on the many histories of the discipline of anthropology. We became an open access web publication in 2016. Please subscribe to our emails below to receive updates as we publish new essays, reviews, and bibliographies.
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