At the American Anthropological Association Meeting in 2017, Sydel Silverman humbly asked Janet Steins, a HAN bibliography editor, if her 2002 book The Beast on the Table: Conferencing with Anthropologists could be included in our publication’s ever-evolving online bibliography.  Because our cutoff date for publications is 2013 or later, we were forced to decline. Fortunately, Silverman’s inquiry kicked off lengthy discussions among the HAN editorial collective concerning how we might bring the attention of our readers to important, provocative, and influential texts published at any time in the past which have generated discussions and new lines of thought for researchers and others interested in the history of anthropology. The recent and unfortunate passing of Silverman in March 2019 spurred these discussions and our desire to devise ways of better accounting for important works that have fallen through our cataloguing sieve. After many months of deliberation and collaboration, we are pleased to introduce a new subsection to the Bibliography page: Generative Texts.

It is not unprecedented for scholars to pause and take stock of the state of the history of anthropology as its own distinct field of inquiry.[1] Naturally, a key component of such reflection is an examination of the available literature. Generative Texts contributes to this tradition by bringing focused, individualized attention to monographs relating to the history of anthropology, broadly conceived. Less of a review and more of a contextualizing summary for the aid of students and researchers, each post provides synoptic information about the book’s content, a brief discussion of the text’s relation to the history of anthropology, and links to reviews of the book. Furthermore, it allows us to bring attention to texts published before 2013.

In addition to highlighting individual works such as Silverman’s, this section also has a more ambitious goal. With these posts, we hope to simultaneously trace and expand the ever-shifting contours of the field. Here we draw inspiration from recent conversations surrounding the question “Why do we read the classics?”[2] Beyond familiar canonical works, what might be “already out there” that can aid, expand, and generate new lines of inquiry in the history of anthropology?[3] With Generative Texts, we are not attempting to define a canon but rather, to borrow Yarimar Bonilla’s useful phrase, “to unsettle it, reimagine it, and approach its transformations with a critical eye.”[4] We begin with five texts, ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s, eager to expand in time, region, approach, and topic.

By placing different kinds of books—sometimes overlooked ones—in relation to the history of the field, this section will offer a working space in which to pluralize our view of anthropology’s history, in its temporal boundary, geographic focus, theoretical orientation, methodology, positionality of researchers, and more.

To further this goal, we encourage our readers to submit their own recommendations and short articles. What do you consider to be a generative text for the history of anthropology? Why? Perhaps you have additional thoughts about a text that has already been listed. Let us know at

[1] See Regna Darnell, “History of Anthropology in Historical Perspective,” Annual Review of Anthropology 6 (1977): 399–417; Robert L. A. Hancock, “Afterword: Reconceptualizing Anthropology’s Historiography,” in Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War: The Influence of Foundations, McCarthyism and the CIA, ed. Dustin M. Wax (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 166–78.

[2] Giovanni da Col, Claudio Sopranzetti, Fred Myers, Anastasia Piliavsky, John L. Jackson, Yarimar Bonilla, Adia Benton, and Paul Stoller, “Why Do We Read the Classics?,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 3 (2017): 1–38.

[3] Bridget Guarasci, Amelia Moore, and Sarah E. Vaughn, “Citation Matters: An Updated Reading List for a Progressive Environmental Anthropology,” Cultural Anthropology website, December 3, 2018.

[4] Yarimar Bonilla, “Unsettling the Classics: On Symptomatic Readings and Disciplinary Agnosticism,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 3 (2017): 27.