Following the removal of Kroeber’s name from “Alfred Kroeber Hall” at the University of California-Berkeley in January 2021, a series of six papers dedicated to Kroeber was released in March 2022 by BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, in a dossier edited by Herbert S. Lewis. Originally delivered at the 2021 AAA conference in the session, “Alfred L. Kroeber: The Man, His Work and His Legacy,” the six papers offer retrospectives on the work of this major figure in the history of American anthropology. They are available at the links below:
Lewis, Herbert S., 2022. “Alfred L. Kroeber’s Career and Contributions to California’s Indigenous Peoples”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Brandes, Stanley, 2022. “The Anthropologist as Cultural Historian: Alfred Kroeber and the Forging of a Discipline”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Stanlaw, James, 2022. “Alfred Kroeber and the Development of Linguistic Anthropology: A Brief Reassessment”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Glazier, Jack, 2022. “The Kroeber‑Ishi Story: Three Cinematic Versions”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Barron, Nicholas, 2022. “Alfred Kroeber’s Handbook and Land Claims: Anthros, Agents, and Federal (Un)Acknowledgment in Native California”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, 2022. “Goodbye Kroeber, Kroeber Hall, and the Man We Know as Ishi”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
From the 1940s until his death, Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876–1960) was considered by many as the “Dean of American Anthropology.” A New Yorker from a German immigrant family, Kroeber studied English at Columbia University, earning an M.A. degree. He left literature for anthropology and became Franz Boas’ first PhD at Columbia University in 1901; that year he left New York for a life in California. He was the founder and predominant intellectual force in the University of California-Berkeley Department of Anthropology from 1901 until his retirement in 1946, publishing more than 550 works—books, monographs, papers, reviews—on a wide range of topics in ethnology, linguistics, history, and archaeology, addressing the whole world of humans and their cultures, their pasts and their interconnections. He collected texts in Indian languages, recorded songs, and engaged in participant observation, while publishing works of theory, generalization, and worldwide cultural comparison.
Kroeber’s Handbook of the Indians of California is the foundation for the study of the indigenous peoples of that state. His linguistics, ethnography, and recordings have been invaluable to many California Indian groups and individuals; his research and testimony were central to the success of several California Indian groups in Land Claims cases against the United States government. His book, Anthropology (1948), remains a landmark, while his massive edited enterprise, Anthropology Today (1953), encompassed the wide scope of the field at that time. Kroeber became known outside of anthropology as a result of Theodora Kroeber’s book Ishi in Two Worlds (1961), published soon after her husband’s death. Despite their serious intellectual disagreements, Kroeber was one of the principal successors to Franz Boas and their legacies are closely entwined.