Editors’ note: The following review by Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, the accomplished historian of anthropology and folklore, reflects on a collection of essays recently published about the 2020 decision by officials of the University of California Berkeley to change the name of Alfred Kroeber Hall. At the time, HAR reported on the controversy, with links to comments by Berkeley professors Rosemary Joyce and Nancy Scheper-Hughes; readers may also wish to read Berkeley linguist Andrew Garrett’s later 38-page evaluation of the issues or Native American scholar David Shane Lowry’s 2021 essay in Anthrodendum. Professor Zumwalt’s essay represents her views and not necessarily those of HAR’s editors.

The 2021 meeting of the American Anthropological Association included a panel of six papers focusing on “Alfred Louis Kroeber: The Man, His Work and His Legacy.” These six papers have now been revised and published in BEROSE. Herbert Lewis explains the panel’s genesis: “On January 27, 2021, the University of California, Berkeley, removed the name of Alfred Kroeber from the building that housed the Department of Anthropology and the Museum of Anthropology—institutions he had built.”

My own interest in the controversy around the unnaming of Kroeber Hall has both professional and personal roots. I spent eight intense years in Kroeber Hall working toward my Master’s in folklore (1978) and my PhD in anthropology (1982). From 1977 to 1980, I was on the editorial board of the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers (KAS) – established in 1950 and the longest running student publication in the United States – and was an organizer of the Kroeber Anthropological Society Meetings. (It was touching to me to read Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s recollection of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s visit to the department in 1984, and his request “to see the Kroeber Anthropological Society Journal, a graduate student journal that he much admired”.)[1]The KAS journal that Lévi-Strauss perused was Opportunity, Constraint and Change: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Colson, Nos. 63–64, 1984. I remember one day sitting in the afternoon sun on a wooden bench just off to the side of the front wall with the name that has now been chiseled from the building, “Kroeber Hall,” pondering the treacherous, demanding journey toward a PhD. I visualized myself in a tunnel, too far down to turn back, and not close enough to the end to see the light of possibility; I perceived also that my only practical option was to continue through the tunnel. This struggle and perseverance are connected in my mind always with Alfred Louis Kroeber.

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1 The KAS journal that Lévi-Strauss perused was Opportunity, Constraint and Change: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Colson, Nos. 63–64, 1984.