John Tresch

Warburg Institute, University of London

Toward an Anthropology of Automation: Leroi-Gourhan and the “Elementary Forms of Action on Matter” at the Musée de l’Homme

In the archives of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, I found an advertisement torn from a magazine in the late 1950s or early 1960s promoting a new electric slide projector. “Open your eyes wide,” it says, and “don’t make a single move. It’s ENTIRELY AUTOMATIC.” A well-coiffed, contented, schematically drawn face hovers over a pair of hands, their fingers snugly entwined. The thumbs twiddle idly; they have nothing to do.

From Collection “Salle des Arts et Techniques,” folder “Corps Humain.” Archives of the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
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CFP: EASA 2020, Call for Papers on History of Anthropology

From Han Vermeulen, History of Anthropology Network (HOAN):

Having turned 30 in January, The European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) will hold its 16th Biennial Conference in Lisbon, 21-24 July 2020. Returning to Portugal on the occasion of its 30th anniversary (the first EASA conference was held in Coimbra in 1990), the theme of the conference is: New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe. The following panel proposals relating to the history of anthropology and/or submitted by HOAN members have been accepted:

P001: “Ethnographers before Malinowski [History of Anthropology Network]” Convenors: Christine Laurière (CNRS) and Frederico Rosa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa-CRIA/FCSH);

Disscussant: Han F. Vermeulen (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

P003: “World Fairs, Exhibitions, and Anthropology: Revisiting Contexts of Post/Colonialism [Europeanist Network]” Convenors: Hande A. Birkalan-Gedik (Goethe Universität), Patrícia Ferraz de Matos (Universidade de Lisboa) and Andrés Barrera-González (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

P028: “Anthropological Perspectives: Past, Present and Future [Roundtable]” Convenors: Aleksandar Boskovic (University of Belgrade) and Virginia Dominguez (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Discussant: Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo)

P030: “Making and Remaking Anthropology Museums: Provenance and Restitution.” Convenors: Adam Kuper (London School of Economics) and Han F. Vermeulen (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

P049: “Uncomfortable Ancestors: Anthropology (not) Dealing with Totalitarian Regimes” Convenors: Fabiana Dimpflmeier (University of Pisa) and Reinhard Johler (University Tübingen)

P067: “The ‘Other Europe’: Chris M. Hann and the Development of Long-Term Anthropological Fieldwork of Socialism/Postsocialism” [Roundtable] Convenors: László Kürti (University of Miskolc) and Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové)

P120: “The futures of visual restitution.” Convenors: Rodrigo Lacerda (CRIA/NOVA FCSH, Lisbon) and Renato Athias (Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil)

P176: “Engaged Anthropology at Times of Nationalistic Enhancement in the XX Century.” Convenors: Grazyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University) and Anna Engelking (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences)

P179: “Curating the (Post)Colonial in Europe and Beyond.” Convenors: Chiara De Cesari (University of Amsterdam), Nelia Dias (ISCTE, Lisbon) and Wayne Modest (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/ National Museum of World Cultures).

EASA2020 The Call for Papers has opened on 2 December 2019 and will close on 20 January 2020. Before proposing a paper, please read the conference theme, the rules on that page, and browse the list of panels. Paper proposals can be submitted online by clicking on the Propose paper button in the title section of each panel at this list of panels.

Editors’ Introduction: Fields, Furrows, and Landmarks in the History of Anthropology

In 1973, the first issue of the History of Anthropology Newsletter opened with a statement of purpose from the editorial committee, called “Prospects and Problems,” by George Stocking. The editors were self-consciously defining and claiming a field. They let loose with territorial metaphors: occupation, soil, furrows, forays. Now, as we continue our relaunch of HAN, we return to this 40-year-old manifesto as a starting point for thinking about the past, present, and future of the field.

The 1973 essay noted a sense of disciplinary crisis as a spur to growth; it asked whether this history should be done by anthropologists, intellectual historians on “one-book forays,” by “anthropologists manqué,” or by a new generation of interdisciplinarians; it announced the need for “landmarks” including lists of archival holdings, bibliographic aids, research in progress, recent publications—which HAN would provide. It ended with a call for participation from readers.

Seeking to continue HAN’s role as a site for debating the field’s present state and shaping its future, in late 2016 we invited a series of scholars from various fields to respond to this manifesto. In February 2017, eight distinguished authors responded with generosity, insight, experience, good humor—and impressive speed. Continuing our reappraisal of Stocking’s inaugural editorial statement, in August 2017 we added nine additional surveys of the field’s potential terrain. These contributions covered new ground, unearthed skepticisms, and sowed a set of new questions. Now, in October 2017, we close the series with a third set of reflections from an impressive group of early career scholars. They imply a rich future for the study of anthropology’s past.

We encourage HAN readers and subscribers to make use of the comments section to respond to individual pieces, or to the section as a whole. Dig in and leave a mark.


This editorial was originally published on February 1, 2017. It was updated on August 15, 2017 and on October 21, 2017.


Special Focus: Fields, Furrows, and Landmarks in the History of Anthropology

Read the full Focus Section here.

Rites of Passage

When we editors of the History of Anthropology Newsletter refer to ourselves as “the HAN Dynasty,” we’re making a (bad) joke. But we have all felt the weighty presence of the ancestors. It was a strange and awful coincidence that HAN’s first two editors died in the first half of 2013: George Stocking after long preparation, Riki Kuklick with terrible suddenness.

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‘HAU and when?’: Review of SOAS conference on The Gift

On April 30th, 2016, a conference was held in London at SOAS to celebrate Jane Guyer’s new translation and introduction to Marcel Mauss’ classic Essay on the Gift, published by HAU Books. Commenters included Marilyn Strathern, Marshall Sahlins, Keith Hart, David Graeber, and Maurice Bloch.

Dan Hicks reports and reflects on the conference in this one-page essay for Anthropology Today.

Video of the conference can be viewed on YouTube.


The first issue of the History of Anthropology Newsletter in 1973 included “CLIO’S FANCY: DOCUMENTS  TO  PIQUE THE HISTORICAL  IMAGINATION.” The entry, a pair of anecdotes suggesting that late in life, Louis Henry Morgan may have had second thoughts about his own theories, received the juicy title “DID THE ARCH-EVOLUTIONIST MAKE A DEATHBED RECANTATION?” The next issue’s contribution transcribed a 1904 letter from Franz Boas to Booker T. Washington, asking for frank advice about the eventual job prospects of J.E. Aggrey, an African-American student interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology, under the equally intriguing header: “THE TUSKEGEE NOD IN AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGY.”

The editor, George W. Stocking, Jr., closed with a deadpan plea: “We particularly  encourage readers to submit items for Clio’s Fancy. Both of these have so far come from the same source, who is by no means inexhaustible.”

Our first entry to the relaunched “Clio’s Fancy,” from Joanna Radin, adds to this tradition of archival oddities which raise the historical eyebrow; it speaks of kinship rituals, alternative histories, and ethnographies of the future. We hope you will enjoy it—and better yet, that you’ll submit gems you unearth in the archival mine.