In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University has curated All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology. The exhibition boasts an impressive array of ethnographic artifacts, which range from a Feejee mermaid to Hopi baskets to a bracelet from the Iron Age. Photographs, correspondence, and newspaper clippings set the historical contexts during which the artifacts were created, collected, and circulated. Together, these materials document the late-nineteenth-century ambitions behind the founding of the museum, while granting particular attention to the work of Frederic Ward Putnam, who served as the Peabody’s second director (1875-1909) and trained the first generation of ethnographers in the country, including Franz Boas. The exhibit argues that the Peabody Museum, as a hub for the aggregation of artifacts and intellectual engagement, provided an initial scaffolding for anthropology as an academic discipline in the United States.
Collecting Mesoamerica: The Hemispheric Roots of U.S. Anthropology. A recent exhibit (May 8 – July 7, 2017) at the Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, curated by Lindsay Van Tine.
Editor’s Note: Due to the participatory nature of museum exhibits, the HAN Editors have chosen to publish this piece both as a “Review” and as part of its “Participant Observation” series. The Editors welcome and encourage future multi-purpose submissions in the form of reviews, reports, or other reflections on interactive projects and exhibits related to the history of anthropology.
The name of Daniel Garrison Brinton is not one that is on the tip of the tongue for many anthropologists specializing in studies of Mesoamerican cultures, languages, and history. Nevertheless, in a recent exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Collecting Mesoamerica: The Hemispheric Roots of U.S. Anthropology, curator Lindsay Van Tine elucidates how Brinton—a prolific late nineteenth century “armchair anthropologist” par excellence—played a considerable role in defining what we now know as “Mesoamerica,” both as a bounded geographic space and as a field of scholarly specialization. As such, Van Tine’s exhibit contributes to an archaeology of the discipline in a Foucauldian sense of the term, exposing some of the deep and at times forgotten roots of Mesoamerican studies. The exhibit also contributes to an archaeology of the discipline in a somewhat literal sense. To curate the exhibit, Van Tine sifted through and uncovered objects and documents that had long been dispersed in a number of different archives at the University of Pennsylvania in an effort to reconstruct Brinton’s collection of Mesoamerican materials as it was constituted at the end of the nineteenth century.
This year’s conference on science and epistemology was organized by Natura, an interdisciplinary research group at Rutgers. It was themed Knowledges in Contact, and drew on a variety of issues pertaining to the history of anthropology, science, and, more broadly, knowledge. The central theme of the conference focused on the historical and ethical issues in understanding epistemology, and was explored through a range of interdisciplinary papers. In simple terms, the papers examined the processes through which diverse scientific ‘knowledges’ come into being. In the following reflections of the presented papers, I identify some theoretical points of interest to the history of anthropology, including themes relating to ‘contact’, ‘encounters’, ‘agency’, ‘representation’, ‘gaze’, ‘voice’ and ‘authority.’ Continue reading
The 14th biennial EASA conference was held at the University of Milano-Bicocca from July 20-23, 2016. Framed around the topic “Anthropological Legacies and Human Futures,” the conference included two panels on themes in the history of anthropology. The first panel was convened by David Shankland (Royal Anthropological Institute, London, UK) and Aleksandar Boskovic (University of Belgrade/Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia); the second by Andrés Barrera-González (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain) and Han F. Vermeulen. The second panel was the official panel of the Europeanist network for this conference. The panels were attended by between 30 and 40 people and received positive reactions. Based on the success of the conference, plans were made to publish one or more volumes. Subsequently, a network devoted to the history of anthropology (HOAN) was refounded (see below). Continue reading
From November 9-12, 2016, the American Society of Ethnohistory (ASE) convened its Annual Meeting at the Hutton Hotel in “Music City” Nashville, Tennessee. The meeting assembled scholars from a diverse range of fields including history, anthropology, linguistics, indigenous studies, and environmental and cultural studies, as well as representatives from various indigenous political, environmental, heritage, and cultural institutions. The canopy topic, “Ethnohistory of Native Space”, encouraged analyses that ranged from dwelling and diaspora notions of ‘home places’, to other experiences of space, place and time. This included inquiries into how native spaces are represented through narrative and performance and studies of different forms of colonial legacies. It also involved a focus on uses of mapping technologies employed to display place-based histories, interactions, and social transformations. Continue reading
Poster for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA)
How do we care for objects and how do objects care for us? Dr. Bill Wood, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a 2016 SIMA Faculty Fellow, asked this question during the discussion portion of the 2016 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) Symposium. The Symposium, which took place Thursday and Friday, July 21-22, was the culmination of four weeks of work by Master’s students and PhD candidates from across the United States and Canada. Since 2009, the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology has brought 12 to 14 anthropology graduate students into the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to engage collections. In 2015, the program has expanded to include two visiting faculty fellows. Funded by the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation, the program is run and hosted by NMNH’s Anthropology Department. SIMA participants are taught by staff from NMNH and across the Smithsonian, as well as by three visiting professors. Through hands-on work with objects in intensive seminars, SIMA trains students in the core methodological aspects of museum anthropology and helps them understand the types of data in museums, and the issues involved in working with collections. In the process, students learn how to apply their diverse theoretical interests through object-based research. Continue reading
From May 18-21, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) held its Annual Meeting at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in Honolulu, HI. The meeting was broad in scope, drawing together scholars from a diverse range of fields—including history, anthropology, linguistics, and cultural studies—as well as activists and representatives from various indigenous political organizations and cultural institutions. It was an extremely welcoming event (helped by the beautiful surroundings and relaxed atmosphere) which encouraged open conversation and interdisciplinary exchange. For the first time in NAISA’s history, the conference schedule also included a “day of service” without panels, which provided an opportunity for attendees to participate in a number of activities focused on community engagement, which ranged from a tour of the Iolani Palace to an environmental justice bus tour of Oahu.
In early April 2016, during what will surely turn out to be a notable moment in Brazil’s political history, scholars representing a variety of disciplines from across the globe met in Rio de Janeiro to participate in the workshop, “Racial Conceptions in the Twentieth-Century: Comparisons, Connections and Circulations in the Portuguese-speaking Global South.” The two-day workshop was characterized not only by the collegiality and enthusiasm of its participants, but also its commitment to illuminating the diversity of racial thought emerging from the Lusophone Global South.
On April 30th, 2016, a conference was held in London at SOAS to celebrate Jane Guyer’s new translation and introduction to Marcel Mauss’ classic Essay on the Gift, published by HAU Books. Commenters included Marilyn Strathern, Marshall Sahlins, Keith Hart, David Graeber, and Maurice Bloch.
In December 2015, an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars gathered at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City to attend the workshop “Populations of Cognition: Interconnected histories of human variation in Latin America.” We enjoyed a lively three-day meeting replete with bilingual interventions, and afternoon enjoyment of Oaxacan food and mezcal.
In 2015, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) celebrated its 120th anniversary. As part of this, the LSE’s Department of Anthropology held a day-long event to explore its history, covering the transformative leadership of Malinowski and its development in the years after his departure. The workshop included LSE alumni from several decades, current and past faculty members, and current and former students, who gathered on the final day of term in December to recollect the life of the department through a mixture of personal reminiscence, entertaining anecdote, and reflective intellectual history.
Since 1973, the History of Anthropology Review (formerly the History of Anthropology Newsletter) has been a venue for publication and conversation on the many histories of the discipline of anthropology. We became an open access web publication in 2016. Please subscribe to our emails below to receive updates as we publish new essays, reviews, and bibliographies.
The History of Anthropology Review became an online publication with volume 40 in 2016, and changed its title from History of Anthropology Newsletter to History of Anthropology Review on October 18, 2019. Content is updated continually, and subscribers receive weekly emails with links to new content.
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