2022 (page 3 of 3)

A.L. Kroeber’s Work and Legacy, by Herbert Lewis et al.

Following the removal of Kroeber’s name from “Alfred Kroeber Hall” at the University of California-Berkeley in January 2021, a series of six papers dedicated to Kroeber was released in March 2022 by BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, in a dossier edited by Herbert S. Lewis. Originally delivered at the 2021 AAA conference in the session, “Alfred L. Kroeber: The Man, His Work and His Legacy,” the six papers offer retrospectives on the work of this major figure in the history of American anthropology. They are available at the links below:

Lewis, Herbert S., 2022. “Alfred L. Kroeber’s Career and Contributions to California’s Indigenous Peoples”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Brandes, Stanley, 2022. “The Anthropologist as Cultural Historian: Alfred Kroeber and the Forging of a Discipline”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Stanlaw, James, 2022. “Alfred Kroeber and the Development of Linguistic Anthropology: A Brief Reassessment”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Glazier, Jack, 2022. “The Kroeber‑Ishi Story: Three Cinematic Versions”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Barron, Nicholas, 2022. “Alfred Kroeber’s Handbook and Land Claims: Anthros, Agents, and Federal (Un)Acknowledgment in Native California”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, 2022. “Goodbye Kroeber, Kroeber Hall, and the Man We Know as Ishi, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

From the 1940s until his death, Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876–1960) was considered by many as the “Dean of American Anthropology.” A New Yorker from a German immigrant family, Kroeber studied English at Columbia University, earning an M.A. degree. He left literature for anthropology and became Franz Boas’ first PhD at Columbia University in 1901; that year he left New York for a life in California. He was the founder and predominant intellectual force in the University of California-Berkeley Department of Anthropology from 1901 until his retirement in 1946, publishing more than 550 works—books, monographs, papers, reviews—on a wide range of topics in ethnology, linguistics, history, and archaeology, addressing the whole world of humans and their cultures, their pasts and their interconnections. He collected texts in Indian languages, recorded songs, and engaged in participant observation, while publishing works of theory, generalization, and worldwide cultural comparison.

Kroeber’s Handbook of the Indians of California is the foundation for the study of the indigenous peoples of that state. His linguistics, ethnography, and recordings have been invaluable to many California Indian groups and individuals; his research and testimony were central to the success of several California Indian groups in Land Claims cases against the United States government. His book, Anthropology (1948), remains a landmark, while his massive edited enterprise, Anthropology Today (1953), encompassed the wide scope of the field at that time. Kroeber became known outside of anthropology as a result of Theodora Kroeber’s book Ishi in Two Worlds (1961), published soon after her husband’s death. Despite their serious intellectual disagreements, Kroeber was one of the principal successors to Franz Boas and their legacies are closely entwined.

New Resource: Special Focus on “Fields” in Isis, Vol 113, no.1 (March 2022): 108-156.

A special focus on “fields” has just been published in the March 2022 issue of Isis.

Featuring contributions from our very own HAR editors Cameron Brinitzer and Rosanna Dent, this focus section grapples with the seemingly straightforward but surprisingly unexamined question “What is a field?” Through highlighting some of the many transformations that have taken place in the field sciences since the mid-twentieth century, this collection of articles shows that rather than operating as fixed sites or practices, fields and fieldwork are dynamic phenomena,  situated in particular times and places, and guided by scientific personas, epistemological premises, rhetorical aims, and historical processes.

The full text version of this special focus can be found here.

Theory and Iconography in J.F. Blumenbach (1952-1840), by Mario Marino

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in English) on the “inventor” of the race concept, German anthropologist J. F. Blumenbach.

Marino, Mario, 2022. “At the Roots of Racial Classification: Theory and Iconography in the Work and Legacy of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) was undoubtedly the most influential German anthropologist of his time. Blumenbach’s name is linked to physical and racial anthropology, due, among other reasons, to his division of mankind into five principal racial groups, which is regarded as the first modern racial classification. In this lavishly illustrated article, Marino intertwines Blumenbach’s work and racial iconography, with a special focus on the establishment of the term “Caucasian” for the type including Europeans. The article discusses the development of Blumenbach’s anthropology and racial classification by exploring the connections he made between natural and cultural factors in explaining human variation. Through a close analysis of different editions of Blumenbach’s most influential works, Marino shows the theoretical shifts as well as the ambiguities behind Blumenbach’s classification. According to Marino, Blumenbach did not resolve some theoretical shortfalls of his doctrine, such as the inclusion of the category of beauty as a defining trait of the “Caucasian” race, but nineteenth-century racism cleared these contradictions by developing a unilateral, radically racist interpretation of Blumenbach’s anthropology. A doctor of medicine, professor at the University of Göttingen and curator of the university museum, Blumenbach carried out a long-term research program connecting teaching and scientific collections, including his famous private collection of more than 200 skulls, which by the end of his life was probably the largest worldwide, and is now conserved at the University of Göttingen. At the time, the Kingdom of Hanover was under the British Crown, which meant enjoying easier contact with the international scientific community, and above all direct and privileged access to the naturalist and ethnological materials coming from the British colonies and from James Cook’s travels. Blumenbach led an increasingly revered existence as a scholar at the center of a great network of international exchanges, but his place in the history of science remains controversial.

Fonseca Cardoso (1865-1912) and Portuguese Colonial Anthropology, by Ricardo Roque

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article about the origins of Portuguese colonial anthropology.

Roque, Ricardo, 2022. “Equivocal Connections: Fonseca Cardoso and the Origins of Portuguese Colonial Anthropology,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The history of anthropology is strongly intertwined with colonial history. Yet, more still needs to be known about how anthropological texts were actually read and why and how they were used, or not, by colonial agents. How did anthropological texts become, or fail to become, connected to colonial projects, events, and materials across their histories of production and reception? This article addresses these issues by discussing the unstable trajectories of production and consumption of racial anthropometric texts, before, during, and after fieldwork. Roque focuses on the work and biography of Captain Artur da Fonseca Cardoso (1865-1912), an army officer and racial anthropologist who was posthumously celebrated as the ‘founding father’ of the Portuguese physical and racialist discipline of ‘colonial anthropology.’ The article critically reexamines this origin story by following the trajectory of production and consumption of the first published study of Portuguese racial anthropology in the colonies (the text ‘O Indígena de Satari’), between the 1890s and the 1930s. The analysis highlights the unsteady binding of anthropology and colonialism across time. Rather than a straightforward tale of the origins of colonial anthropology, the case of Fonseca Cardoso and ‘O Indígena de Satari’ shows anthropology’s attachment to colonialism can emerge as a chain of equivocal connections.

The Cornell Project in Peru (1951-1966), by Thomas Grillot

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French about the Cornell Project in Peru (1951-1966).

Grillot, Thomas, 2022. “L’hacienda de Vicos, laboratoire d’anthropologie appliquée. Le Projet Cornell au Pérou (1951‑1966),” in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Grillot notes that the ‘Cornell Project in Peru’ remains in the history of anthropology as one of the most controversial examples of the practical value of the discipline. Initially conceived as a place of experimentation that would allow for brilliant theorizations of cultural change, the hacienda of Vicos has above all secured its place as a location of memory for the profession. At the end of the 1940s, when the experiment began, anthropology was still widely perceived by the general public as a technique for the physical and cultural identification of ethnic and racial groups. At Vicos, it was thought of and presented differently, as a ‘technique of technique,’ a knowledge of supervision and transmission that rightfully belonged to the ‘social sciences.’ Even if it never allowed Allan Holmberg, the initiator of the experiment, to reach the holy grail of ‘transferability,’ the site reveals the transferability of the Vicos anthropologists themselves, whether they are ‘local’ or ‘foreign.’ Taking them from site to site, from South American field to U.S. field, from discipline to discipline, and moving them from the position of researchers to that of community organizers or trainers, their itineraries invite us to question the image of a transmission of knowledge that would start from a (U.S.) transmitting center and be ‘received’ elsewhere. On the contrary, the golden age of applied anthropology appears to be a time when anthropologists learn to define their specificity through the project, at the intersection of tangled ‘scenes’: the academic world, the development circle, local societies and survey sites.

Job Opportunity: Assistant Professor, General Faculty, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s Department of Anthropology invites applications for a three-year general faculty (non-tenure-track) position to teach regularly offered courses that serve our undergraduate major and graduate program, particularly in the history and theory of anthropology, ethnographic research and design, and ethnographic writing and representation. The successful applicant will be appointed as assistant professor, general faculty. This is a three-year, tenure-ineligible appointment with the possibility of renewal, contingent upon available funding, satisfactory performance, and need for the position. The successful candidate must have a PhD in anthropology. Preference will be given to candidates with at least five years’ university teaching experience (not including graduate school teaching assistantships), significant experience mentoring graduate students (advising, seminar, research design, and professional preparation) and a record of research and publication. Preference will be given to those who demonstrate commitment to teaching anthropology to diverse undergraduate and graduate audiences. Region and topic of specialization is open. Responsibilities of the position include teaching core courses in the undergraduate major and graduate program (as described above) and courses in the applicant’s area of interest (with a 3/3 load). The appointment start date is August 25, 2022.

Review of applications will begin on March 18, 2022 and the position will remain open until filled.

Additional details and instructions on how to apply may be found here.

History of Anthropology Working Group with Anand Pandian, March 2, 2022

The next meeting of the 2022 History of Anthropology Working Group hosted by the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine will be held on Wednesday, March 2 at 12:00pm ET via Zoom.

As part of our ongoing series on the relations between current anthropological practice and the discipline’s history, we’ll be engaging with work from Anand Pandian (The Johns Hopkins University) and resonances with Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques.

Readings include:

Anand Pandian, “A Method of Experience: Reading, Writing, Teaching, Fieldwork,” pp.44-76, in A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times (Duke, 2019).
Claude Levi-Strauss, from Tristes Tropiques (John and Doreen Weightman, trans., NY, Atheneum, 1975): “The Quest for Power” (37-45); and “The Making of an Anthropologist” (51-61). The full text of Tristes Tropiques is available here for borrowing.

Additional details about the group, access to the readings, 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.

Joan Halifax (1942-), Anthropologist and Buddhist Teacher, by Sara Le Menestrel

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in English about the U.S. anthropologist and Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax.

Le Menestrel, Sara, 2022. “Intersecting Cultural Anthropology, Religious Authority and Medicine: A Portrait of Joan Halifax,” in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

While Joan Halifax (1942-) is known as a major figure in Buddhism and a Zen roshi expert on end-of-life care and spirituality, her career as an anthropologist working alongside prominent academic figures of the discipline is less well-known. Her academic career began in the 1960s at Columbia University with Alan Lomax. Her stay at the Musée de l’Homme and her meeting with Roger Bastide and Jean Rouch sparked her interest in mental health and dying. She is one of the key figures in the popularization and institutionalization of shamanism in the West. The process of building her respectability as a religious expert is the result of multiple circulations – geographical (between the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Asia), disciplinary (between ethnomusicology, medical anthropology, shamanism, transpersonal psychology, palliative care, and Buddhism) and statutory, navigating between the academic institution and its margins. According to Le Menestrel in her challenging article, Joan Halifax’s itinerary epitomizes the intertwining of spiritual and academic authority, leading to the respectability of religious experts in the public sphere.

In Memoriam: Jean Jamin

Jean Jamin, 1945-2022

The editors regret to inform HAR readers of the death of Jean Jamin last week in Paris; see the notice in Le Monde. A founder of Gradhiva, Revue d’histoire et d’archives de l’anthropologie, Jamin was a pre-eminent historian of anthropology who made significant contributions to the field in research, writing, teaching, editing, and mentorship, with a singular emphasis on anthropology’s relations to music, art, and museums. We had the pleasure of translating and publishing his essay on Lévi-Strauss, Leiris, and opera in HAR recently. He will be greatly missed.

Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929), by Erik Petschelies

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (published both in English and in Portuguese) about the German ethnographer and ethnologist Karl von den Steinen.

Petschelies, Erik, 2021. “The Doyen of South American Ethnography: Life and Work of Karl von den Steinen,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Petschelies, Erik, 2021. “O Decano da etnografia sul‑americana: vida e obra de Karl von den Steinen,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

In 1924, the first post-war conference of Americanists was held in Gothenburg (Sweden) through the concerted efforts of Franz Boas and a small circle of Americanist scholars from different European countries. The presence of German ethnologist Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929), who had undertaken the first two ethnological expeditions to the Xingu River basin in Central Brazil in 1884 and in 1877-88, thus inaugurating Amerindian ethnography of the South American lowlands, was considered mandatory. But he refused to participate, arguing that it would not be possible to ignore the imposed peace by the winners of the war. Eventually, von den Steinen was convinced to participate by his colleagues, who appealed to the international nature of ethnology and to the fundamental contribution that he could offer to its reconstruction. The encounter between von den Steinen and French Americanist Paul Rivet represented the unity of scientists overcoming differences of nationality and the conflicts in which their countries were involved.

What is less known is that von den Steinen’s private life was falling apart. He was depressed, his wife was gravely ill, and his family’s financial resources were practically non-existent. In this biographical essay based on archival sources held in institutions in Germany, Sweden, and the United States, with a focus on both personal and scientific correspondence, Petschelies aims to describe how anthropology entangled with the personal life of this legendary figure in the history of anthropology by addressing the network of social relations he created and by which he was carved. Von den Steinen, professor at the universities of Marburg and Berlin, chief and director of the Americanist section of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and president of the Anthropological Society of Berlin, was also a loving husband and father of eight children, a good friend, and a complex human being. 

Paolo Toschi (1896-1974) and Italian Folklore between Croce and Mussolini, by Maurizio Coppola

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology:  two articles (both in Italian and French) on the Italian folklorist Paolo Toschi.

Coppola, Maurizio, 2021. “Paolo Toschi et le folklore italien : vies parallèles” [Transl.: “Paolo Toschi and Italian Folklore: Parallel Lives”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Coppola, Maurizio, 2021. “Paolo Toschi, entre Benedetto Croce et Benito Mussolini. Une histoire du folklore italien pendant le fascisme” [Transl.: “Paolo Toschi between Benedetto Croce and Benito Mussolini. A History of Italian folklore during Fascism”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Despite being a little-known figure internationally, Paolo Toschi (1896-1974) occupies a prominent place in the history of Italian anthropology, particularly in the field of folklore. Coppola devotes two complementary articles to him. The first outlines Toschi’s life and work, particularly his studies on folk poetry and theatre in Italy and Europe. Toschi’s contribution to the institutional, namely academic recognition of folklore as an academic discipline – which he termed “history of folk traditions” – was fundamental. He also contributed to the foundation of the Museo Nazionale di Tradizioni Popolari in Rome. At the end of the 1940s, he took over the direction of the journal Lares, a position he occupied until his death. Based on a thorough archival survey, the second article focuses on a dark period in the history of the discipline in Italy, when Fascism took folklore studies by storm. In search of institutional support for the development of this field of research, Toschi attempted a rapprochement with political visions as opposed as those of liberal philosopher Benedetto Croce or of Benito Mussolini himself. Toschi and the Duce shared common Romagna origins. In short, the Italian folklorist frequented intellectual and literary circles that rallied to Fascism. Toschi’s biography allows us to understand the institutionalization of folklore in Italy and its complex connections to nation-building before, during, and after Fascism.

Latest Additions to the Bibliography, January 2022

With this batch of new citations to HAR’s Bibliography page, we mark a milestone!  There are now over 500 authors represented in the bibliography, each one having contributed important scholarship to the discipline of the history of anthropology.  (Our bibliography begins with publications dated 2013; paper issues of History of Anthropology Newsletter, published from 1973 to 2012, each contained a bibliography of relevant publications, and you can see them here.)  

We’ve decided to mark this occasion by briefly highlighting two of the authors appearing in this batch of citations.  Making his first appearance is Paul Henley, an ethnographic filmmaker and now Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester.  A prolific writer, Henley has several recent publications included here, including his 2020 book Beyond Observation: A History of Authorship in Ethnographic Film, which is a detailed historical analysis of the authoring of ethnographic films between 1895 and 1915. Our second noted author, already in the bibliography and now represented by an additional two works, is Anthony Q. Hazard, Jr., an assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies department with a courtesy appointment in the History department at Santa Clara University. One of his new articles is concerned with Ashley Montagu and the other with Margaret Mead, and both continue his exploration of “race” in 20th century American history.   

For additional information on works by these authors and others, please see below. 

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Raymond Firth in the Antipodes, by Geoffrey Gray and Christine Winter

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article on Raymond Firth in Australia and New Zealand.

Gray, Geoffrey and Christine Winter, 2021. “Raymond Firth in the Antipodes: A ‘Capacity for Organising and Administration as well as First-Rate Anthropology’,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

New Zealand-born Raymond Firth, anthropologist and successor to Malinowski at the London School of Economics, has been described as an “organisation man, both in his theory and in his administrative activities…In administration he was a consistent and fair-minded advocate for anthropology at home and abroad.’ It is this aspect – a consistent and fair-minded advocate for anthropology – that this article examines. It is a persona that is clearly seen after World War II. There were hints before then, such as his role in putting the needs of the institution ahead of personal friendship in enabling Adolphus Peter Elkin to succeed him as professor at the University of Sydney in 1932. After World War II Firth was consulted on all senior academic appointments between 1946 and 1965 during this crucial foundation and consolidation time for academic anthropology in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. An unexpected consequence was that through these appointments, he introduced new ways of thinking about the discipline that contrasted with what existed in Australia before the war, which is particularly evident in the appointments of Siegfried Frederick Nadel and John Arundel Barnes. Grown and nurtured in the Antipodes, Gray and Winter argue, Firth’s Southern sensibilities remained throughout his career, and allowed him in turn to bring fresh approaches to anthropology in the Antipodes. 

2nd Notice – CFP: 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.

CFP: “Collaborations and Confrontations in World Anthropologies during the Cold War and Beyond,” IUAES Congress, St. Petersburg, 25-31 May 2022


Anthropologists and historians of anthropology have discussed the embeddedness of anthropology in imperialism and Western colonialism for decades (Asad 1973, Kucklick 1993, Stocking 1991). Several “waves” of decolonizing anthropology have given birth to a vision of a world anthropology, in which the power hierarchies of center and periphery, “local” and “global”, indigenous “informants” and Western academics would be flattened or even erased (Pels 2018). At the same time, globalization of scientific knowledge production entails imposing presumably universal Western-centered academic standards. Current research of the “Cold War anthropology” may serve as a pertinent example. Due to the work of David H. Price and other scholars, this concept gained currency (Price 2004, 2008, 2016; Wax, 2009). Still, this concept remains remarkably USA-centered and rarely takes into account activity of scholars from rival Cold War camp. The study of geopolitics of Cold War knowledge production is a vibrant emerging field (Djagalov 2020, Engerman, 2009, Hazard 2012, Rupprecht 2015), but it rarely focuses on anthropology (but Verdery 2018). Conveners of this panel claim that now it is high time to take stock of our understanding of the nature of relations between various “national” traditions and ideological inclinations within world anthropology (Bošković, Hann 2013).

This panel seeks contributions from anthropologists as well as historians of anthropology, which reflect on historical, political, and epistemological contexts (Stocking) of production of anthropological knowledge, including but not limited to those of the Cold War epoch. We are interested in accounts of both confrontations and collaborations of anthropologists from different national traditions and ideological “camps”. These cases might include histories of international conferences, joint expeditions, transfer of ideas, or life-histories of individual scholars, involved in such activities. We are especially interested in still poorly researched histories of collaborations between scholars of the second and third worlds in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. However, one should not collapse ideological and geographical space: leftist anthropologists in the West and “revisionists” in the East encountered similar issues in dealing with establishment. Another important line of research we look forward to deals with similarities and differences of decolonizing tendencies in the East and West and the role anthropologists play in them.

Keywords: World anthropology, history, decolonization

The deadline for proposals is February 15, 2022. Apply online.

Please contact Sergei Alymov (alymovs@mail.ru) or David Anderson
(david.anderson@abdn.ac.uk) for any questions.

Additional information may be found via the links below:

Beyond the End of Anthropology: Ethnography and its Discontents

Tobias Rees. After Ethnos. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2018. 192 pp., 3 illus., notes, bibl., index.

In “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” Clifford Geertz wrote that to understand a discipline you should look at what its practitioners do, rather than accepting what they say they do. And anthropologists, he claimed, do ethnography: they write. “The ethnographer ‘inscribes’ social discourse; he writes it down,” Geertz argued. Ethnographers thus turn passing events into accounts.[1] Since the years of Malinowski, this method-driven definition of the discipline—at least in its “cultural” branch—implied the existence of more or less static “societies,” “cultures,” a well-defined ethnos constructed as an object to be studied and described with a long-term fieldwork approach. The answer thus emerged before the question: cultural anthropologists knew that human lifeworlds took place in societies or cultures, and their science should describe them. But as the world changed—decolonization, the emergence of new states and what Geertz later called “complicated places,”[2] the end of the Cold War, deeper globalization (from above and from below)—it became harder to disentangle the ethnographic project from the practice of delimiting, defining, or better yet, inventing “peoples,” “societies,” and “cultures” in order to write them down.

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New Series from Berghahn Books: Anthropology’s Ancestors

Berghahn Books has launched a new book series, Anthropology’s Ancestors, that will feature titles we believe will be of great interest to readers of HAR.  

Two titles in Anthropology’s Ancestors have appeared to date with a third scheduled for February, 2022. The descriptions below are from the publisher’s website:

Volume 1: Margaret Mead, by Paul Shankman (2021)

Tracing Mead’s career as an ethnographer, as the early voice of public anthropology, and as a public figure, this elegantly written biography links the professional and personal sides of her career. The book looks at Mead’s early career through the end of World War II, when she produced her most important anthropological works, as well as her role as a public figure in the post-war period, through the 1960s until her death in 1978. Criticisms of Mead are also discussed and analyzed. This short volume is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to learn about, arguably, the most famous anthropologist of the twentieth century.

Volume 2: William Robertson Smith, by Aleksandra Bošković

William Robertson Smith’s influence on anthropology ranged from his relationship with John Ferguson McLennan, to advising James George Frazer to write about “Totem” and “Taboo” for the Encyclopaedia Britannica that he edited. This biography places a special emphasis on the notes and observations from his travels to Arabia, as well as on his influence on the representatives of the “Myth and Ritual School.” With his discussion of myth and ritual, Smith influenced generations of scholars, and his insistence on the connection between the people, their God, and the land they inhabited inspired many of the concepts later developed by Émile Durkheim.

Volume 3 : Françoise Héritier, by Gérald Gaillard (forthcoming, 2022)

A great intellectual figure, Françoise Héritier succeeded Claude Lévi-Strauss as the Chair of Anthropology at the Collège de France in 1982. She was both an Africanist, author of magnificent works on the Samo population, the scientific progenitor of kinship studies, the creator of a theoretical base to feminist thought, and an activist for many causes. This book follows the path of her life, which had a lasting impact on a generation of French anthropologists and continues to this day.

Berghahn has assembled an outstanding editorial board for the new series.

Anthropology’s Ancestors joins such well-established ongoing book series as Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology and Histories of Anthropology Annual (both from the University of Nebraska Press). HAR’s bibliography editors strive to include all titles in these series on HAR’s fully searchable Bibliography section, with complete contents added for edited works.  

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