Recent Obituary Articles in American Anthropologist

Readers of History of Anthropology Review may be interested in the obituaries that are published in American Anthropologist. Each one is a fascinating portrait of an individual’s life and contribution to anthropology—an intimate history. Collectively they are a fabulous resource for learning about the recent history of anthropology and its diversity.

The following obituary essays have appeared in American Anthropologist during the last five years:

Nancy Oestreich Lurie by Grant Arndt (June 2018)

Paula G. Rubel by Lesley A. Sharp (June 2019)

Wendy Ashmore by Patricia Urban and Edward Schortman (Sept 2019)

Sydel Silverman by Jane Schneider (Dec 2019)

Charles Goodwin by Frederick Erickson (Dec 2019)

Deanna Jeanne Trakas by Athena McLean (Dec 2019)

Deborah Bird Rose by Thom van Dooren (Mar 2020)

Richard King Nelson by Sharon Bohn Gmelch and George Gmelch (June 2020)

Constance R. Sutton by Antonio Lauria-Perricelli, Linda Basch, A. Lynn Bolles, Nina Glick Schiller, Linden Lewis, Susan Makiesky Barrow, William P. Mitchell, David Sutton, Deborah A. Thomas, and Andrea J. Queeley (June 2020)

Jane H. Hill by Susan U. Philips (June 2020)

Napoleon A. Chagnon by William Irons (Sept 2020)

Kenelm O. L. Burridge by Dan Jorgensen (Dec 2020)

Jamie Pearl Bloom (James F. Weiner) by Alex Golub (Mar 2021)  

Abraham Rosman by Lesley A. Sharp and Maxine Weisgrau (Mar 2021)

Frederick George Bailey by Elisa J. Sobo, Kevin Avruch, David Lipset, and Paula Levin (June 2021)

June C. Nash by Christine Kovic (June 2021)

Saba Mahmood by Noah Salomon (June 2021)

Lambros Comitas by Gerald Murray (Sept 2021)

Sally Engle Merry by Mark Goodale (Sept 2021)

Audrey Smedley by Faye V. Harrison and Janis Hutchinson (Sept 2021)

Leith P. Mullings by Lee D. Baker (Dec 2021)

Marshall David Sahlins by Robert Brightman (Dec 2021)

Michael Silverstein by Susan Gal (March 2022)

Amelia Louise Susman Schultz by Jay Miller (March 2022)

Nancy D. Munn by Robert J. Foster and Webb Keane (June 2022)

Steven Gregory by Arlene Dávila (June 2022)

Jan Vansina by Nancy Rose Hunt (Sept 2022)

Frederick K. Errington by Martha Macintyre (Dec 2022)

Paul Rabinow by Talia Dan-Cohen and Nicolas Langlitz (Dec 2022)

Mary Catherine Bateson by William O. Beeman (Mar 2023)

Roy Wagner by Ira Bashkow and Justin Shaffner (June 2023) (early version)

Douglas Feldman by Tiantian Zheng (forthcoming in Sept 2023)

American Anthropologist has been publishing obituaries for a long time. Sydel Silverman edited them from 2001 to 2017. In her last years she was assisted by Flemming Daugaard-Hansen. I began serving as the journal’s Associate Editor for Obituaries in 2018.

I wish to publicly thank all of the authors who have written obituaries. These biographical articles require extensive research, and they are an effortful form of service to the history of anthropology and to the memory of colleagues, teachers, and friends. Many obituary authors are HAR subscribers and regular readers.

He also thanks the previous and current editors-in-chief of American Anthropologist, Deborah A. Thomas and Elizabeth J. Chin, for continuing to support the publication of substantive obituaries.

In addition, I hope everyone is aware of the shorter “In Memoriam” articles regularly published by Anthropology News, which is currently edited by Natalie Konopinski. Readers can find these articles online in Anthropology News. They, too, are an excellent history of anthropology resource.

And of course, there are obituaries of anthropologists in other scholarly journals, such as Transforming Anthropology, Ethnohistory, and the Journal of Anthropological Research.

The Boas Circle vs. White Supremacy

Charles King. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century. 448pp., notes, bibl., index. New York: Doubleday, 2019. $30 (hardcover), $17 (paperback), $14.99 (ebook)

Note: This review first appeared in The TLS: Times Literary Supplement (no. 6114, 5 June 2020, pp. 4–6) with the title “Lines of thought: Franz Boas: The Man Who Opened Up Anthropology in America” and is reprinted with permission of TLS and the author. (In the UK, Charles King’s book is published as The Reinvention of Humanity: A Story of Race, Sex, Gender and the Discovery of Culture.) The essay’s timeliness is self-evident. The History of Anthropology Review joins with the many now protesting against the reprehensible police killings and systemic racism which have afflicted Black, Indigenous and other Communities of Color for so long; we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and are committed to documenting, discussing, and critically evaluating racism’s legacies in anthropology, while working for greater equity within our disciplines, institutions, and communities. —The Editors

The President of the United States was saying “America must be kept American,”[1] emboldening white supremacists to blame darker-skinned immigrants for causing crime and taking working-class jobs. It was the 1920s, and the US was erecting barriers against immigration, with severe effects on those who were poor or classed as non-white. White patricians, feeling under threat from those who spoke foreign languages and clustered in tenements, rallied around a confident, energetic, mustachioed ideologue named Madison Grant, a wealthy New Yorker and close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. Grant’s book The Passing of the Great Race (1916) implausibly suggested that America had once been racially homogeneous but was becoming degraded by immigration—plunged into a chaotic, impoverished “racial abyss.” “Teutonics” or “Nordics” like him were being “replaced,” he warned, by “lower” races and would soon be “extinct.”[2] Grant’s malevolent thesis that racial mixing posed a grave threat to white vitality was seized on by Hitler, who in 1925 wrote Grant a fan letter, praising the German translation of his book as “my Bible” (114, 306).

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The Inspiration for the History of Anthropology Newsletter

A few years ago when the History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) relaunched as an online publication, a number of articles described how it was started by George Stocking in 1973. More recently, a series of 24 articles has reflected on HAN’s inaugural editorial vision statement, which had the goal of marking out and developing the history of anthropology as a field of inquiry. We know a lot about the purposes which HAN was founded to serve, but we know little about the models that might have inspired it. 

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‘Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange’ by Marc Flandreau

Marc Flandreau. Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange: A Financial History of Victorian Science. 421pp., 12 halftones, notes, sources, works cited, index. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. $105 (cloth), $35 (paper), $10-35 (e-book options)

Note: This review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement (no. 5943, 24 February 2017, pp. 9-10) with the title “The Cannibal Club: How Victorian Anthropologists Tried to Defraud the Financial Markets” and is reprinted with permission of TLS and the author.

When the American railway engineer George Earl Church visited La Paz in 1868, it was to lay the groundwork for a grandiose scheme to build a railway through Bolivia’s rainforested border with Brazil, allowing its natural resources to be exported via the Amazon River. After several more stops, Church was in London where he got himself elected to the Royal Geographical Society, lending a sheen of scientific credibility to what was in fact a financial scam. No railway was built, but the scheme was a marvel of financial engineering. After Church signed the loan contract in Bolivia’s name, bonds to fund the loan were sold to English investors. These bonds traded on the London Stock Exchange.

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George Stocking’s Stockings: Needlepoint to Pique the Historical Imagination

Many HAN readers will be familiar with George Stocking’s work on the history of anthropology; not all will know that he was also an artist. Until his last year of high school, while living in Manhattan, he thought of himself as bound for a career as a painter (Stocking 2010:25-26). After college, he worked in a meat packing factory, seeking to organize a union; he grew disillusioned with the Communist Party and entered graduate school in 1956, “to understand why American culture was so resistant to radical change” (69). That set him on the path of a scholar and teacher.

Yet in the 1970s, when George was settled on the faculty at the University of Chicago, he returned to his artistic pursuits. Not in painting, however—but in needlepoint. At first, he purchased kits for a footstool and pillows. After the birth of a grandchild, he needlepointed a Christmas stocking, using a standard design. In 1980, he dispensed with the kit and designed his own Christmas stocking, creating an original pattern with biographical details tailored to the recipient: his seven-year-old grandson, Jesse, who was much taken with The Incredible Hulk. The stocking portrayed Santa as a muscular, green-skinned superhero who seems to have arrived on a garbage truck, punching through a brick wall, to the amazement of a Krazy-Kat like Mickey Mouse. Continue reading

Why a Newsletter?

The History of Anthropology Newsletter (HAN) has always been an unprepossessing publication. Its physical format and graphic design were homespun. Initially mimeographed, it appeared for nineteen years in typescript, before the font was changed to Times in volume 20, and even after four decades no hint of slickness had crept into the layout of even the cover and contents page. The very title of the publication, a “newsletter,” connotes an informal publication about goings-on, nothing too serious.[1] In 1987, when I entered graduate school, the cost of a HAN subscription was $4 a year, discounted to $2.50 for students.[2] Even then, this was cheap.

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Special Focus: History of the History of Anthropology Newsletter

Read this focus section.