Kuklick, Henrika. The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Henrika Kuklick’s The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945 charts the professionalization and academic institutionalization of British anthropology across three “stages,” “generations,” or “schools”—evolutionist, diffusionist, and functionalist—by reading anthropological texts as cultural products which illuminate changes in British political mores and social life. Kuklick claims that “whatever their views on technical problems, anthropologists [of each generation] were, above all, creatures of their historical moments” (250). Taking anthropologists’ “analyses of remote societies” as “vehicles for projective fantasy” (244), and “interpretive differences” among each school as “products of observers’ social circumstances” (3), Kuklick evaluates the “significance of anthropological ideas on the basis of their social consequences” (242) in order to “contextualize anthropology within the national culture” of Britain (278). Thus, she explains evolutionist theories of linear historical progression in terms of their ability to justify educational reforms at home and colonial rule abroad, as well as the growing popularity of meritocratic ideals among the British middle-class. She explains diffusionist contentions that cultural variation was a product of differences in social organization, as opposed to unequal natural endowments of humans, by reference to World War I and a concomitant sense among the British that “individuals’ fortunes could be altered by the circumstances in which they were placed” (181). Finally, she explains functionalists’ “triumph” during the interwar years as a result of their successful appeals for patronage, hinging on claims about the superiority of professional fieldwork and anthropological expertise relative to the practices of rural colonial administrators.
Baker, Lee D. From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of the Race, 1896-1954. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Lee Baker’s From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 highlights the consequential role of anthropology in the development, dissemination, and critique of hegemonic conceptions of race.
Using the diametrically opposed Supreme Court rulings Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) as his landmarks for reckoning the changing nature of race relations in US politics, Baker documents the ways in which anthropology has been appropriated by politicians, popular media, and the courts to affirm, and later to challenge a racialized worldview steeped in Social Darwinism and eugenics. Importantly, Baker identifies a notable shift in this history. During the 1890s, amateur and professional anthropological thought, encapsulated in the works of Josiah Nott, Daniel G. Brinton, John Wesley Powell, and Frederic Putnam, affirmed the presumed racial inferiority of African Americans codified in Plessy. With care and precision, Baker shows how by the mid-20th century, African American intellectuals and leaders selectively appropriated anthropology—specifically, the work of Franz Boas—in their efforts to affirm notions of racial equality. Thus, From Savage to Negro documents the paradoxically liberating and normalizing potentiality of anthropological thought.
In large measure, archives have made our careers. From Nash’s first book on the history of tree-ring dating in the American Southwest to Colwell’s intellectual history of the first Native American archaeologist, Arthur C. Parker,we have depended on archives to illuminate anthropology’s fantastic and twisted story. In 2009, we applied for a Save America’s Treasure’s grant, which provided funding to hire an archivist, Aly Jabrocki, to garner intellectual and physical control over several of the key collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS), including materials donated by the famed pioneering anthropologist Ruth M. Underhill (1883-1983). The grant enabled us to explore this neglected historical resource—half-archived but entirely unstudied and unpublished since the materials were donated twenty-five years earlier. We were astounded by the result of Aly’s efforts. Rumors we had long heard of the archive’s historical wealth proved to be true. The Underhill Collection runs eighty-five linear-feet and includes such finds as original ethnographic notes from her work with Native Americans, syllabi and class notes from 1930s Columbia University, hand-corrected manuscript drafts, nearly three thousand photographs, and original sound recordings—all created during a life spanning more than ten decades.
My path as a historian forever changed during my first year in the archives.
When I began working at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) in an ominous, cloudy box of a building near the end of the Washington DC metro train line, I thought I might write a dissertation on exhibiting material culture. Secretly, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or looking for. What I did know by this point in my research life and education as a historian was how to ask questions and search for answers from different perspectives. I also knew how to benefit from the expertise of archivists. The brilliance of archivists, in fact, is where this story really took a fundamental turn for me.
In summer 1996 I had the good fortune to spend four weeks at the American Philosophical Society (APS) soaking myself in the Franz Boas archives there. The APS contains the bulk of Boas’s enormous correspondence, though hardly everything. Aside from the fact that there is something special about holding the original documents in one’s hands (very carefully), there is much more Boas material in the APS besides these letters. There are, for example, translations from the German of early family correspondence as well as notes for several lecture series he delivered, and a story Boas wrote and illustrated for his children recounting his adventures in Baffinland. Continue reading
This is the first entry in our “Archival Developments” series, in which we invite scholars to write and reflect on their experiences using specific archives. If you would like to suggest a contribution, please contact us at email@example.com.
Cora Alice Du Bois (1903–1991) is known for her studies in culture-and-personality and change in complex societies. Her personal and professional papers are divided among several institutions including Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. Du Bois was educated at Barnard College (BA) and UC Berkeley (PhD) and spent much of her academic career at Harvard, where she would hold the Zemurray-Stone Professorship and become the school’s first tenured woman. She did fieldwork among Native Americans in the western US and in Orissa, India, and her work in Indonesia led to her landmark study, The People of Alor: A Social-Psychological Study of an East Asian Island.[i]
Susan Seymour, the Jean M. Pitzer Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Pitzer College and a student of Du Bois at Harvard, used Du Bois’s archival collections extensively when writing her 2015 biography of Du Bois, Cora Du Bois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent.[ii] We asked her to write briefly about how her use of the Cora Du Bois Collection housed in Tozzer Library at Harvard, informed her work. Continue reading
Our ability to explore the history of anthropology in a substantive and empirical manner hinges upon access to primary and secondary source material. Since HAN was established in 1973, anthropologically relevant archives have gone through multiple material transformations that shape the way we do the history of anthropology. Today an anthropological archival collection might be fully digitized, however it remains much more likely that only parts of it or only a detailed description of its contents are accessible online. For those readers less familiar with archival collections and how to locate and access them, some basic resources and strategies might be useful.