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.
David Shankland sees a link between the philosophy of the Enlightenment and British social anthropology in the Finnish anthropologist Edward Westermarck, professor and then colleague of Malinowski at the London School of Economics (LSE), indeed a pioneer in the anthropology of morals and ethics and an advocate of moral relativism.
According to Marilyn Strathern, Raymond Firth was the last of the great founders of British social anthropology. Freddy Foks recalls that he was an economics student at the LSE before becoming one of Malinowski’s disciples, and later his successor. Foks proposes entering into Firth’s body of work by evoking his writings on economic anthropology, on production and exchange activities in non-capitalist societies (Maori in particular) as fundamentally social activities. Karl Polanyi was to be one of Firth’s most attentive readers.
Africanist anthropologist Richard Fardon, biographer of Mary Douglas, invites the reader on a personal journey through the life and work of the most influential British anthropologist of her generation. He addresses Mary Douglas’s current posterity and how the many research themes that she pioneered (anthropology of religion, ritual classifications and institutions, economics and consumerism, risk and danger) continue to stimulate current debate in the social sciences. Alongside the French translation of two articles by Fardon, written almost ten years apart, a topical dossier on Mary Douglas allows students to rediscover the protean work of an anthropologist who is not just the author of Purity and Danger – a book whose conclusions she amended several years after its publication.
Richard Thurnwald, an Austrian anthropologist who closely dialogued with both British social anthropologists and American culturalists, established himself as one of the first great professional anthropologists, with multiple Melanesian fieldwork experiences. A nomadic anthropologist and a propounder of historical functionalism, he founded, however, no theoretical school. Viktor Stoll recalls that Thurnwald’s transnational imperial career made him a major protagonist of anthropology applied to colonial governance. He returned to Germany in 1936 and adapted himself to the Nazi regime, which did not prevent him from being one of the architects of the re-founding of German ethnology after 1945, thanks to his US network.
A new article written by Emmanuel Hourcade and devoted to Georg Forster – who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage – provides a better understanding of this central figure in the anthropology of the Enlightenment. Through his method of observation and his fight against prejudice, he contributed to giving a scientific basis to the description of exotic cultures. Through his criticisms, he also invited Europeans to question their behaviour towards the peoples they had just met and he underlined the dysfunctions, both social and political, of Europe. Hourcade also coordinates a topical dossier containing several resources, from Forster’s body of work to the countless historiographical works it has generated.
Richard Handler looks back on a particular moment in the history of American anthropology, at the turn of the 1920s, a time when Franz Boas and his students were reflecting on the relationship between culture, society, personality, and the relative importance of the individual in history. Handler focuses his attention on how Edward Sapir, drawing on aesthetic modernism, phonemic poetry and free verse, built a theory of culture based on the dialectic of creative personalities and aesthetic conventions. Through a reading of his 1921 article, “The Musical Foundations of Verse”, Handler reveals that Sapir staged his approach to cultural theory by showing how poets, readers/listeners and poetic language constitute each other.
A fine connoisseur of the anthropological work of Clifford Geertz, Roberto Malighetti deconstructs it into its many facets. Far from reductive shortcuts, Malighetti’s new article restores the interpretative turn Geertz inaugurated in anthropology in all its complexities and epistemological power.
Fabio Dei takes us on an odyssey through the complex history of Italian anthropology, taking as its vantage point the legendary journal Lares, founded in 1912. It was first devoted to Italian folklore (a focus that lasted through the Fascist period) in connection with the concept of demologia. Lares underwent a significant transformation from the 1970s onwards, before taking into account, more recently, the irruption of contemporary anthropological themes.
Giuseppe Cocchiara, author of the reference work History of Folklore in Europe (1952), is a major representative of Italian demologia. Alessandro D’Amato introduces the reader to his work, which is marked by late folklorism but which also insisted on the need to bring folklore closer to ethnology.
“Anthropologies in Brazil: a Short Historical Introduction”, by Stefania Capone and Fernanda Peixoto, is published both in English and Portuguese. This article surveys the complex history of anthropology and ethnography in and about Brazil, taking its international connections into account. Within the same theme, an article by João Leal focuses on Raimundo Nina Rodrigues. A controversial figure in Brazilian anthropology, Rodrigues was both an exponent of racialist thought in his country and a pioneer in the study of Afro-Brazilian religions, with his masterpiece O animismo fetichista dos negros baianos (1896-1897). His ethnographic style marked the so-called ‘Nina Rodrigues School’ or ‘Bahian School’ of the 1930s and 1940s, when Arthur Ramos revitalized Afro-Brazilian studies.
The dossier devoted to French ethnologist Jean Cuisenier is enriched by two articles: a testimony by André Burguière evokes the ethnologist’s historical sensitivity; another, by Richard Bucaille and Jeanne Virieux, recalls the Levi-Straussian anchoring of Cuisinier’s work and his structuralist theoretical ambition. It plunges into the meanderings of the complex and semi-complex structures of kinship and economics, and into the debates that agitated French anthropology at the end of the twentieth century.
Let us also recall the publication this spring of the thirteenth volume of the Carnets de Bérose, La culture en débat, l’anthropologie en question, which brings together four contemporary debates on the concept of culture. Translated into French, the polemical articles in question are selected and presented by Guillaume Rozenberg.