News (page 1 of 8)

The News section gathers announcements and current events relevant to anthropology and its history. To submit such news, please email us at news@histanthro.org.

Webinar: The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn? Race, Racism, and Its Reckoning in American Anthropology

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research will host a webinar on September 23rd at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 PM EST on “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn? Race, Racism, and Its Reckoning in American Anthropology,” sponsored by the UCLA Department of Anthropology Race, Racism, Policing and State Violence Committee, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

To register for this event click here.

Moderators: Kamari M. Clarke & Deborah Thomas

Introduction by Danilyn Rutherford, President, Wenner-Gren Foundation

Lucia Cantero, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of San Francisco

Ryan Jobson, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Chris Loperena, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center

Jonathan Rosa, Associate Professor of Education, Stanford University

Savannah Shange, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Zoe Todd, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Carleton University

Tripod: Performance, Media, Cybernetics by Jennifer Cool

A New Way of “Staging” the History of Anthropology

Jennifer Cool, Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Anthropology at the University of Southern California, is both a social anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that she has spent the past few years experimenting with staged performances and film in an attempt to draw out what she has described as “the performative entanglements of media.”[1]

Continue reading

Introducing the History of Anthropology Reading Group, in collaboration with the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

The editorial collective at the History of Anthropology Review (HAR) is pleased to announce the launch of a new reading group, hosted in collaboration with the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM). The “History of Anthropology Working Group” will allow anyone interested in the history of anthropology to take part in monthly discussions about topics of vital interest to the field. We warmly invite all HAR readers to join us for these online conversations. This year, spurred by Black Lives Matter protests, the reading group’s focus will be anthropology’s relationships to (and studies of) racism, racial science, white supremacy, anti-racism, and policing.

Continue reading

Conference: “Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future,” September 14-18, 2020

“The Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future” conference is jointly organized by the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Royal Geographical Society, the British Academy, the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, and the BM’s Department for Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The conference was originally planned as a face to face conference to be held in June 2020, but it will now be an online conference to be held 14-18 September 2020.

Continue reading

New release from BEROSE – Tambascia on Nimuendajú

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This paper, in Portuguese, discusses notable Brazilian anthropologist Curt Nimuendajú. Its English title says it all: “‘I don’t know how to make a living’: the backstage of Curt Nimuendajú’s ethnography”.

Tambascia, Christiano Key, 2020. “‘Não sei como hei de viver’: osbastidores da etnografia de Curt Nimuendajú”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Nimuendajú occupies an exceptional, legendary place in the history of Brazilian anthropology. He exerted a lasting fascination for Americanist anthropologists who recognized him as a great ethnographer. His unconditional defense of Indigenous peoples and his criticism of Brazilian Indigenous politics contributed to building the figure of a romantic ethnologist entirely devoted to his profession. Through a meticulous ethnography of the archives, Cristiano Tambascia takes us through the looking glass and helps us understand the making of this reputation and the many difficulties that littered the life and ethnographic practice of Nimuendajú, who lived in material and institutional precariousness, heightened by an uncompromising professional ethic.

New release from BEROSE – Goetzmann on Henry Sumner Maine

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This article, in French, discusses one of the founding fathers of anthropology in the nineteenth century, the jurist-anthropologist of the British Raj, Sir Henry Sumner Maine.

Goetzmann, Marc, 2020. “Le juriste anthropologue du British Raj. Sir Henry Sumner Maine et son oeuvre”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

British Victorian jurist Henry Maine was one of the founding fathers of anthropology, and legal anthropology in particular. He is best known for Ancient Law (1861) and its famous thesis on the transition from status to contract in Indo-European societies. For seven years, beginning in 1862, Maine was legal adviser to the Council of the Governor General of India. He was interested in the dynamics between law and social change and the functioning of customary law in Indian village communities. His writings fostered the development of field investigations in India from the 1870-1880s and onwards. He is regarded as one of the main inspirations for the policy of indirect rule in the British Empire. His ideas were to be successful among Indian nationalists wishing to preserve Indian institutions, primarily village communities. As a professor of law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was also the author of Village Communities in East and West (1871), Lectures on the Early History of Institutions (1875), and Dissertations on Early Law and Custom (1883).

American Philosophical Society Indigenous Studies Seminar, 2020-2021

The Indigenous Studies Seminar at the American Philosophical Society’s Library & Museum provides a forum for works-in-progress that explore topics in Native American and Indigenous Studies and related fields. Inspired by the work of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) at the APS, we are particularly interested in work by Indigenous scholars and projects that highlight community-engaged scholarship, use of archival and museum collections in research, teaching, and learning, Indigenous research methodologies, language revitalization, place-based teaching and learning, and related topics.

We welcome proposals from individuals working in a broad range of academic fields and community settings, and are particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches. The seminar is open to graduate students, faculty members, and independent scholars, whether campus- or community-based. To maximize time for discussion, papers are circulated electronically in advance. The seminar meets once a month on Fridays from 3-5pm EST from October through May. All meetings in 2020-2021 will be held on Zoom.

Any questions should be directed to the coordinators of the seminar, Kyle Roberts (kroberts@amphilsoc.org) and Adrianna Link (alink@amphilsoc.org) at the APS.

To submit a proposal, please email a one-page proposal, a brief statement (2-3 sentences) explaining how this paper relates to your other work, and a brief CV by August 21, 2020 to kroberts@amphilsoc.org and alink@amphilsoc.org.

New release from BEROSE – Mahias on the Nilgiris as Indian Tribal Sanctuary

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This article, in English, discusses the ideological construction of the Nilgiris region in southern India as a tribal sanctuary, c. 1812-1950.

Mahias, Marie–Claude, 2020. “The Construction of the Nilgiris (South India) as a ‘Tribal Sanctuary’ (1812-1950)”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Anthropologist Marie-Claude Mahias explains how the case of the Nilgiris region in India was used in modern anthropology to construct very different sociological models. It was equally easy to prove that the inhabitants of this region were isolated tribes or that they were part of a jajmânî-like system of interdependence, with either the Todas or the Badagas as the dominant caste. Mahias demonstrates that the basis of the British distinction between ‘caste’ and ‘tribe’ were never clearly defined, as scientific and political considerations have always been intertwined in the history of both concepts. Mahias questions the perception of the Nilgiri peoples during the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth and reveals that the choice of sociological concepts was never really discussed. This does not mean, however, that it was wholly arbitrary. ‘Caste’ and ‘tribe’ are the outcomes of a controversial epistemological construction that has evolved in complex ways over the course of time.

New release from BEROSE – Toffin on Nepalese Anthropology

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. These two articles, both in French, discuss the history of Nepalese anthropology and folklore.

Toffin, Gérard, 2020. “Les folkloristes népalais, entre sentiment national et diversité des cultures (XXe – début XXIe siècle)”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Toffin, Gérard, 2020. “Naissance de l’école népalaise d’anthropologie (1960-2020)”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

French anthropologist Gérard Toffin traces the history of Nepalese folklore since the beginning of the 20th century. He analyzes how this movement has evolved over the last few decades, partly under the influence of the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage policy, introduced in the early 2000s, as opposed to the previous focus on the archaeological legacies of classical written cultures. The article concludes with a reflection on the relationship between scholarly and popular culture in South Asia and on the deep roots of the Nepalese folklore movement in the context of a multicultural country of 30 million people, with some 100 different ethnic groups and castes, speaking nearly 90 different languages.

The second article by Toffin deals with the insightful case of Nepalese anthropology as a new discipline, a World Anthropology that was not created by the colonial power, as in India by the British Raj. Nepalese universities, funded largely with the help of developed countries, are unable to provide for the needs of young local anthropologists, who are forced to contract with foreign agencies in order to make a living. Overarching and ambiguous, dependence on foreign countries dates back to the first generation of Nepalese anthropologists, often trained as assistants to Western anthropologists – as was the case with Dor Bahadur Bista, the founding father of Nepalese anthropology, who was the informant/collaborator of the London SOAS professor of anthropology, Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf. Their utilitarian approach within applied anthropology often distinguishes Nepalese anthropologists from their foreign colleagues.

New release from BEROSE – Rossi on Edison Carneiro

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This article, available in both in English and Portuguese, focuses on Edison Carneiro and is written by Carneiro’s biographer, Gustavo Rossi. Rossi draws a fascinating and moving portrait of the Brazilian anthropologist. From a “black white” family, he studied the terreiros of Bahia candomblé, and fought for freedom of worship of Afro-Brazilian religions. He was Ruth Landes’s guide in Bahia in the late 1930s.

Rossi, Gustavo, 2020. “A “Lost Vocation”? The Life and Work of Edison Carneiro, Exponent of Afro‑Brazilian Studies”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Rossi, Gustavo, 2020. “Uma ‘vocação perdida’? Vida e obra de Edison Carneiro, expoente dos estudos afro‑brasileiros”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

From a “black white” family, Brazilian anthropologist Edison Carneiro (1912-1972) devoted himself to ethnographic and historical studies on Afro-Brazilian religiosity and cultural practices, as well as on Brazilian folklore. He carried out ethnographic fieldwork from the 1930s onwards in the candomblé terreiros of Salvador, the “African Rome,” of which he became one of the main interpreters and specialists. A poet, communist intellectual and combative journalist, he fought for the freedom of worship of Afro-Brazilian religions. As the main guide of the American anthropologist Ruth Landes in Bahia in the late 1930s, Carneiro developed an intense romantic and professional partnership with her, which eventually put them in a situation of conflict and enmity with some of the main figures of Afro-Brazilian studies in their respective countries: Melville J. Herskovits in the United States, and Arthur Ramos in Brazil. Carneiro never obtained a university position. Among his extensive works are Religiões Negras (1936), Candomblés da Bahia (1947), Antologia do Negro Brasileiro (1950) and Dinâmica do Folclore (1965).

New release from BEROSE – Hall on Gellner’s Anthropological Method

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This new article from John Hall discusses the anthropological method of Ernest Gellner.

Hall, John A., 2020. “The Philosopher of Anthropology: Ernest Gellner on Anthropological Method”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Ernest Gellner has a peculiar place in the history of anthropology. His own anthropological fieldwork on the saintly lineages of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco – Saints of the Atlas (1969) – firmly places him within the British tradition of social anthropology that stressed the importance of extended periods of fieldwork. But Gellner was a polymath, whose training had been in philosophy, and the singularity of his contribution to anthropology lies in the fact that he theorized at a deep philosophical level what was involved in the practice of the discipline. The arguments he developed are highly distinctive because they suggest that mainstream anthropological self-understanding is not correct. John Hall portrays Gellner as a powerful, almost scandalous figure, whose reputation was initially built by his attack on linguistic philosophy. From this followed his most long-lasting contribution to anthropology: his reflections on method. Gellner was also a fierce critic of idealist explanations in social science, which too easily privileged cultural factors rather than considering social structural realities.

New release from BEROSE – Mahé on Bourdieu’s Kabyle Ethnology

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This new article by Alain Mahé examines the production of Pierre Bourdieu’s ethnographic studies of Kabylia.

Mahé, Alain, 2020. “En revisitant l’anthropologie de la Kabylie de Pierre Bourdieu”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Pierre Bourdieu’s writings on Kabylia are commonly regarded as his most successful and accomplished. Alain Mahé shows how the Kabyle context contributed to Bourdieu’s anthropological project, serving as an anchor for constituting his theory and conceptual apparatus. Of the three studies that Bourdieu conducted on Kabylia, none addresses politics explicitly, yet each of them proposes a theory of modes of domination. Through the concept of mutual convertibility of symbolic and economic capital, Bourdieu shows how practices contribute to the establishment of a political order. As a gateway to his anthropology, especially his political anthropology, Bourdieu’s studies on Kabylia lay bare what is overshadowed by the numerous devices and institutions mediating political power in French society and other modern nation states. Alain Mahé’s paper discusses the passage from authority to power and the power of the community as two essential aspects of Bourdieu’s ethnography and anthropology.

History of Anthropology panels at the 16th European Association of Social Anthropologists’ (Digital) Conference

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the 16th conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) will take place as a digital conference, from July 21 to July 24, 2020. The conference program includes a number of panels related to the history of anthropology.

Continue reading

Digital Conference: “Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future”

The “Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future” conference is jointly organized by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), the Royal Geographical Society, the British Academy, the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS-University of London, and the British Museum’s Department for Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The conference was originally planned as a face to face conference to be held in June 2020, but it will now be an online conference to be held September 14-18, 2020. It will feature a wide range of speakers on issues concerning the relationships between anthropology and geography, both past and present. Bruno Latour will deliver the keynote address.

Continue reading

Proposal to “Un-Name” Kroeber Hall

On July 1st, the University of California Berkeley Name Review Committee received a proposal to “un-name” Kroeber Hall, home to the Phoebe Hearst Museum and Worth Ryder Art Gallery . The building is named for Alfred L. Kroeber, who established the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley in 1901 (see HAR’s recent Generative Texts entry on Kroeber’s Anthropology textbook). Signed by members of the UC Berkeley Native American Advisory Council and the UC Berkeley Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Advisory Committee, the proposal encourages the “un-naming”  of the building on the grounds that Kroeber’s name “sends a harmful message to Native American students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley, deters prospective students, and hinders repair of a damaged relationship with Native Californians and all Indigenous people.”

Rosemary Joyce and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, both members of the anthropology department, have contributed thoughts on the matter to the Berkeley Blog, touching on Kroeber’s work with Native American communities, the life and death of the man Kroeber named Ishi, Berkeley’s earlier positions on indigenous remains in their collections, and the politics of naming and un-naming. The proposal, along with Joyce and Scheper-Hughes’s posts, have already generated substantial comments on the blog as well as on the History of Anthropology Interest Group listserv.

The review committee plans to open up the proposal for public comments on July 20, 2020. We welcome thoughts and discussion from HAR readers in the comments section below.

Recent Publications at BEROSE

BEROSE International Encyclopedia of the Histories of Anthropology is pleased to announce its June roundup of its online, open access articles on the history of anthropology. More than a dozen articles (in French, English, Italian and Portuguese) are summarized below for HAR readers.

Continue reading

Upcoming History of Anthropology Talks at the BSHS Global Digital History of Science Festival

The Global Digital History of Science Festival is a five-day online celebration run by the British Society for the History of Science featuring talks, discussions, workshops, performances, discussions, and more – free to everyone! The Festival will take place from July 6 through July 10, 2020.

The HAR News editors would like to highlight two lightning talks on the program related to the history of anthropology. Please note that the event times given are in U.K. time/UTC + 1:

Monday, July 6, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (part of Lightning Talks A panel):

Francis Galton and Joseph Jacobs’ Co-Construction of the ‘Jewish-type’: A Critical Image Analysis  – Efram Sera-Shriar, King’s College London

Reflecting on Francis Galton’s anthropometric work in anthropology from the late Victorian period, his former student Karl Pearson remarked that ‘There is little doubt that Galton’s Jewish type formed a landmark in composite photography.’ These images, it was claimed, produced with ‘extraordinary fidelity’ what many of Galton’s proponents believed to be examples of genuine ‘Jewish physiognomy.’ Although Galton’s photographic research played a pivotal role in constructing a new conception of the ‘Jewish type’ in Victorian anthropology, he did not work alone. His composites of Jewish schoolboys were a collaboration with the Jewish folklorist, literary critic, and anthropologist Joseph Jacobs. In fact, it was Jacobs who initiated the idea, and contacted Galton for assistance in making the photographic images. Galton took the lead in assembling the composites, but it was Jacobs who provided the most sophisticated analysis of them at the time. Through an analysis of these images, which appeared in The Photographic News in 1885, this lightning talk will explore the processes by which Galton and Jacobs co-constructed a so-called ‘Jewish type.’

Ethnographic studies of Northeast Siberian peoples in imperial Russia c.1890-1917, their political context and international significance  – Ekaterina (Katya) Morgunova, PhD Candidate, Centre for the History of Science, Technology & Medicine (CHoSTM), Department of History, King’s College London

This project aims to investigate studies of Northeast Siberian ethnic groups, conducted by the Russian Empire’s political exiles c.1890-1917. It considers their research against the backdrop of the Russian political context and the international landscape of anthropological research. I aim to shed light especially on the fascinating behind-the-scenes of scientific fieldwork. Using expedition diaries and correspondence alongside governmental and published sources, I investigate how ethnography was shaped by diverse actors including governmental authorities, philanthropists, and the less visible actors, especially the indigenous research subjects.

To get oriented and explore the many events taking place, as well as find details on how to access the events online, visit the Festival welcome page. You can also browse the full program. Please note that events are subject to change and it is best to check the program regularly for the events you are interested in.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on History of World Anthropologies

The journal Horizontes Antropológicos has issued a Call for Papers for a special issue on the theme of “History of World Anthropologies.” This issue (no. 62) is slated to be published in January 2022.

This thematic issue intends to contribute towards a reassessment of the past of anthropology in a broad sense, by understanding the knowledge and ethnographic practices that precede or complement scientific institutionalization, including features of amateurism and experimentalism in varied and interconnected contexts. The editors seek not only a post-colonial criticism of the attempts to survey and analyze human variability, but rather to examine the contributions in their own time and place, in the historical dynamics of anthropology. This issue is open to case studies focused on peripheral, external or off-center anthropological traditions as compared to the so-called “major traditions.”

The editors seek to pay special attention to the Lusophone and Ibero-American contexts (including all of Latin America), considering not only their intersections, but also the fact that they are often excluded from hegemonic historiographic narratives. They hope to produce a comparative reflection on the historical antecedents of the current paradigm of World Anthropologies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (up to the 1970s) and the dissemination of anthropological praxis. Interdisciplinarity between anthropology, history, history of science, and historical anthropology is encouraged, as is dialogue through a re-reading of ethnographic and anthropological texts from different places, times and dimensions.

The issue’s editors are Eduardo Dullo (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil), Patrícia Ferraz de Matos (Universidade de Lisboa – Portugal), and Frederico Delgado Rosa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa – Portugal). 

Submission of articles will be open from October 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. Full details about the special issue can be found on the website of Horizontes Antropológicos, or obtained via e-mail at horizontes@ufrgs.br.

“Who’s Zoomin’ Who”: A Reflection on the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropology Association

Editors' note: We are delighted to announce that Participant Observations is widening its remit. We welcome shorter reactions to conferences, exhibitions, research projects, and reflections on elements of the history of anthropology as a field. How has your experience of organizing or participating in remote conferences been? What online resources have caught your eye in this moment? What works, events, or conversations that you've recently encountered seem to capture vital new or ongoing conversations in the history of anthropology? If you have an idea for a piece, please email news@histanthro.org or one of our News editors. In this spirit, we are pleased to publish HAR editor Nick Barron's short reflection on the 2019 American Anthropology Association Meeting.

In the crowd, I caught your eye
You can’t hide your stuff
You thought I’d be naive and tame
(You met your match) but I beat you at your own game

Such were the lyrics from the song that emanated from Lee Baker’s smart phone as he prepared to give his comments for the panel “Re-Presenting Historical Legacies: A Decolonial Reckoning with Anthropology’s Ruin.” Alongside his co-discussant Christien Tompkins, Baker considered an assortment of papers focusing on the discipline’s tangled historical encounters by centering analyses from the perspectives of those who call field sites “home.” Each of the panelists explored cases at the interstices of anthropologist-community engagements in regions that have been heavily mined for ethnographic knowledge including the Brazilian Amazon, Canadian Pacific Northwest, U.S. Southwest, and Egypt. Less concerned with the “truth” of past ethnographic depictions, the panelists, in various ways, considered what happens when anthropologists (and other social scientists) leave the field. What it is that these interlopers leave behind? How do the people that call “the field” home come to live with the debris of ethnography?

As a participant and panel co-organizer, I was quite intrigued by Baker’s theatrical introduction. As Tompkins underscored post-panel, “all panel papers should have entrance music.” But of course, the choice of this particular song from the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was hardly trivial as were the sincere and challenging comments from Baker and Tompkins. [1] As Baker noted, the song tells a story of romantic role reversals in which the seduced becomes the seducer (“you thought you had me covered… but you’re bound to be my love”). While the papers from myself, Rosanna Dent, Taylor Moore, and Joseph Weiss and the panel abstract conceived by myself and Hilary Leathem were perhaps light on romance (at least of the non-platonic variety), they did speak of collaboration, intimacy, affect, magic, and the ways in which these phenomena have continued to bind communities of study to the discipline and vice versa. Importantly, the song indexes an obfuscated and creative agency (“here stands an experienced girl/I ain’t nobody’s fool”). The papers, though hardly unequivocally celebratory in their examination of agency, motioned toward the enduring ways in which the “objects” of ethnographic inquiry have long been engaging, salvaging, adopting, and enchanting anthropology on their own terms. 

I reflected on the keen observations of my fellow panelists the following morning as I sat in on the panel “Hate USA,” an appropriately sobering title for an 8:00 a.m. timeslot. In a series of wonderful papers, I was most struck by Nancy Scheper-Hughes comments on Benjamin Teitelbaum’s Lions of the North: Sounds of the New Radical Nordic Radical Nationalism.[2] Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with this book before the panel. However, as Scheper-Hughes summarized, Lions of the North is a recently published ethnography concerning alt-right, white nationalist groups in various Nordic countries. Scheper-Hughes was invited to comment on one of Teitelbaum’s recent articles for a forum in Current Anthropology.[3] She expressed great consternation in the face of Teitelbaum’s self-proclaimed “immoral anthropology,” which has led him not only to observe these groups, but take an active role in their dissemination of propaganda. After a couple of exchanges with members of the audience who made a respectful plea for the value of Teitelbaum’s work and the spirit of his relativism, Scheper-Hughes’s response did not mince words: we are not simply here to parrot the views of others, to be “handmaidens to informants.”[4] With Ms. Franklin’s lyrics still ringing in my ears, I couldn’t help but think, “Who’s zoomin’ who?”

On my return flight to California, I took it upon myself to read Teitelbaum’s article as well as Scheper-Hughes’s published comment. The characterization of Teitelbaum as a “handmaiden” remained most prominent in my mind. In my own research, I consider how anthropologists become wittingly and unwittingly enrolled in the political projects of their research subjects—specifically indigenous groups living in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.[5] Seen from the perspective of the historian (and the self-reflexive anthropologist), the roles of “ethnographer,” “advocate,” and “handmaiden” exists on a continuum, and anthropologists do not necessarily determine where they will fall. The ethnographic method is shot through with dialogical twists and turns that are hardly the exclusive design of the anthropologist.

To be fair, Teitelbaum underscores the dynamic nature of participant-observation when explaining his questionable engagements with white nationalists. “So long as we prefer dialogic and intersubjective models of understanding to those of observation and monologue, we are led to embrace a research practice laced with political and moral compromise.”[6]

I suppose this is a helpful reminder for anyone just starting out in the field who might be inclined to take a naive view of knowledge production, which assumes they can stand outside the webs of power in which they operate. However, recognizing the inherently dynamic and situated nature of the ethnographic approach in no way invalidates Scheper-Hughes’s critique nor does it justify Teitelbaum’s rationale. One might assert that all anthropologists are handmaidens of one sort or another. Perhaps there is always some degree of zoomin’. But the important aspect of Franklin’s question (“Who’s zoomin’ who?”) is not just the “zoomin’” but the “who.” Is it not one thing to be a handmaiden of a small community of borderlands Indians, for example, and another thing to be a handmaiden of white nationalists? Veiling such a question behind invocations of the inherently intersubjective nature of the discipline’s signature method is not just morally dubious—it is historiographically hollow.

Ms. Franklin may have passed away, but her acute anthropological commentary remains relevant to the discipline and persistent debates within the ranks regarding the relationship between anthropologists and their interlocutors.


[1] Aretha Franklin, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” (Arista, 1985).

[2] Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, Lions of the North: Sounds of the New Nordic Radical Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

[3] Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “The Case for a Moral and Politically Engaged Anthropology,” Current Anthropology 60, no. 3 (2019): 427–30.

[4] I am paraphrasing from my notes.

[5] Nicholas Barron, “Assembling ‘Enduring Peoples,’ Mediating Recognition: Anthropology, the Pascua Yaqui Indians, and the Co-Construction of Ideas and Politics,” History and Anthropology (2019).

[6] Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, “Collaborating with the Radical Right: Scholar-Informant Solidarity and the Case for an Immoral Anthropology,” Current Anthropology 60, no. 3 (2019): 415.

Webinar: “Anthropology of Policing Part II: The Persistence of Racialized Police Brutality and Community Responses,” June 25, 2020

The American Anthropological Association is continuing the conversation on the Anthropology of Policing by offering a second webinar on the persistence of racialized police brutality and community responses. The webinar will take place on June 25, 2020 at 1pm EDT.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration information and instructions on how to access this event can be found here

New release from BEROSE – Hourcade on Georg Forster

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This new article by Emmanuel Hourcade traces the life of Georg Forster, the famous German traveler and ethnographer who, in 1772, accompanied Captain James Cook on his second voyage.

Hourcade, Emmanuel, 2020. “Anthropologie et rencontre des cultures au XVIIIe siècle: vie et œuvre de Georg Forster,” in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

In addition to unveiling the richness, vividness and sophistication of the ethnographic reports and reflections contained in Forster’s travelogue, A Voyage Round the World (1777), this piece also discusses the travelogue’s popular reception, and explains how Forster came to be recognized as a founding father of German scientific literature

Webinar: Anti-Blackness: Readings on Violence, Resistance, and Repair

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and SAPIENS will co-host a webinar on “Anti-Blackness: Readings on Violence, Resistance, and Repair” on June 17, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. EST. The discussion will feature books by Laurence Ralph (The Torture Letters), Savannah Shange (Progressive Dystopia), Christen A. Smith (Afro-Paradise), and Deborah A. Thomas (Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation) and a conversation with the authors on how their work speaks to our current moment. Discussion will be moderated by Danilyn Rutherford, Eshe Lewis, and Chip Colwell.

Participants should register in advance, as participation is limited to the first 1,000 individuals to sign up.

New release from BEROSE – Leal on Nina Rodrigues

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This article by João Leal (Centre for Research in Anthropology, NOVA University, Lisbon) presents the complex anthropological legacy of Raimundo Nina Rodrigues, who played a key role in the emergence of the anthropology of Afro-Brazilian religions (and especially the Candomblé studies) at the turn of the twentieth century.

Leal, João, 2020. “Nina Rodrigues e as religiões afro‑brasileiras”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Raimundo Nina Rodrigues (1862-1906) is a key figure – albeit a controversial one – in the history of Brazilian anthropology at the turn of the twentieth century. He was a major representative of the racialist theories that prevailed in Brazil at that time, but was also a pioneer in the study of Afro-Brazilian religions, to which he devoted his best-known work, The Fetishist Animism of Bahian Blacks (1896-97). Resulting from his own ethnographic fieldwork, this paradoxical work combines evolutionary and racialist ideas with a thorough first-hand description of candomblé. It launched several themes –  such as syncretism – that were to inspire later representatives of this subdisciplinary field, namely from the 1930s and 1940s, when Arthur Ramos (1903-1949) revitalized Afro-Brazilian studies.

Online Event: American Anthropology Association Webinar on the “Anthropology of Policing,” June 11, 2020

On June 11, 2020 at 1pm EDT/11am PDT the American Anthropology Association is hosting a webinar titled: “Anthropology of Policing: The Persistence of Racialized Police Brutality and Community Responses – What Can Anthropologists Contribute?

Featuring a variety of panelists, including Ramona Perez, Kalfani Ture, Donna Auston, Shanti Parikh, and Avram Bornstein, discussions will be guided by two principle questions: (1) What should an Anthropology of policing look like and (2) What practical and actionable steps should anthropologists, as cultural experts of the lived experiences of impacted communities, take to transform American policing.

This webinar is FREE and open to the public. Instructions for how to access this event can be found here. The full event abstract is provided below.

Continue reading

Online Event: “Seeing Indigenous Land Struggles in COVID-19,” June 9, 2020

On June 9, 2020 the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship & Globalisation and the Science and Society Network is hosting an online workshop titled “Seeing Indigenous Land Struggles in COVID-19.”

Drawing on examples from the Philippines and Malaysia, this event will explore how indigenous struggles for land and livelihood are central to understanding the emergence of a zoonotic pathogen like SARS-CoV-2.

The seminar will be available to stream on YouTube live on June 9, 2020 from 10am – 11:30am (Australian Eastern Standard Time, GMT+10). Registration information can be found here.

More information about this event can be found below.

Continue reading
Older posts