From 14-17 August 2018, Stockholm University in Sweden hosted the 15th biennial conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA). This year’s conference included four panels on the history of anthropology, as well as one session on a fifth panel, for a total of 38 papers on different aspects of the field’s history. This large number of papers suggests an upsurge of interest in the subject in Europe and worldwide. Since its reactivation in 2016, EASA’s History of Anthropology Network (HOAN) has aimed at facilitating this process, and its membership has nearly doubled since early 2017. All panels on the history of anthropology during this EASA conference were convened by members of HOAN; two of the panels were organized under the auspices of this network.
Each panel session in Stockholm consisted of about 30 to 40 people—a promising reflection of where the field is heading. The panels demonstrated the diversity of the field and displayed significant trends such as the rediscovery of peripheral or decentered anthropological traditions, both within and beyond Europe. Many panelists reassessed ethnographic and theoretical legacies with a focus on the human dimensions of the anthropological encounter, the importance of women, and the agency of interlocutors in the field. They furthermore paid attention to variations within—and complex relations between—local and cosmopolitan traditions, institutions and actors, and their unexpected genealogies, foreshadowings, and ruptures. Several papers claimed a history of anthropology that is not backward-looking, but attentive to its relevance to current anthropology, to the communities concerned, and to the future of humankind.
The first panel organized by HOAN took place on August 14 and dealt with Writing the History of Anthropology in a Global Era (P050). The convenors were Han F. Vermeulen (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) and Frederico Delgado Rosa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa-CRIA/FCSH). This panel included nine papers. In his presentation, Herbert S. Lewis (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) discussed the question, “Was Anthropology the Child and Handmaiden of Colonialism?” and concluded that the answer was negative—at least in the case of American anthropology prior to World War II. Anne Byrne (National University of Ireland, Galway) focused on the Harvard-Irish Mission—carried out by Conrad Arensberg and Solon Kimball from 1930 to 1936—with the aim of “redeploying the archive for the present” in all its dimensions and complexity. Peter Schröder (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil) discussed “An Episode from the Beginnings of Anthropology in the Amazon: Curt Nimuendajú and the Xipaya Indians.” Patrick Laviolette (Tallinn University, Estonia) lectured on “The Lesser Known Legacy in Sir Raymond’s Biography”—part of a larger biography project on Firth.
Following a short coffee break, Simone De Angelis (University of Graz, Austria) continued with a paper on “Renaissance Philosophy and the Emergence of Modern Anthropology,” which discussed the impact of Renaissance philosophy and natural law studies in the rise of early modern anthropology during the eighteenth century. Demetrius Eudell (Wesleyan University, USA) also discussed eighteenth-century anthropology and asked if the work of three representatives from Göttingen University’s “Wissenschaft vom Menschen” (Hume’s science of man)—namely, Johann David Michaelis, Christoph Meiners and Heinrich Moritz Gottlieb Grellmann—contributed to “Proto-Rassenkunde [Science of Human Races] or Proto-Anthropology?” Ageliki Lefkaditou (Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology, Oslo) dealt with another aspect of “Harvesting the Archive,” namely, the historical explorations of early-twentieth-century physical anthropologists in Greece. Dmitry Arzyutov (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm) gave a paper on “Siberian Landscapes, Samoyedic Indigenous Ethnogenesis, and the (Soviet) Anthropological Imagination.” Frederico Delgado Rosa returned to issues raised by Lewis and discussed Johannes Fabian’s theories in a paper titled “Totalitarian Critique? Johannes Fabian and the History of ‘Primitive’ Anthropology.” The panel concluded with a general discussion and a short presentation of Bérose: Online Encyclopaedia on the History of Anthropology and Ethnography (founded in 2006).
The conference’s second day saw a panel on The Role of Learned Societies and Associations in the Creation and Building of European Anthropology, also organized by HOAN (P049). Regretfully, co-convenor David Shankland (Royal Anthropological Institute, London) was unable to attend, leaving Aleksandar Bošković (Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade) to chair both sessions. Vida Savoniakaite (Lithuanian Institute for History, Vilnius) lectured on the “Lithuanian Science Society in European Anthropology.” Daša Ličen (Institute of Ethnology, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana) analyzed learned societies in nineteenth-century Trieste in her paper “Embracing, Ignoring or Resisting the Challenges of Nationalism?” Nathaniel Knight (Seton Hall University, USA) discussed “The Role of the Russian Geographical Society in the Creation of a Russian Ethnographic Tradition, 1845-70.” Han Vermeulen then focused on “Ethnographic Museums as Anthropological Laboratories.”
After the break, Erik Petschelies (State University of Campinas, Brazil) gave a paper on “The Ethnographic Department of the Gothenburg Museum and the Establishment of International Americanist Ethnology.” Salma Siddique (University of Aberdeen, Scotland) discussed “The Emergence of Psychotherapeutic Lines of Investigation in the Unfinished Business of Anthropology.” Aleksandar Bošković dealt with “The Role of the British Psychoanalytic Society in the Establishment of Social Anthropology.”
A panel on Making Knowledge Mobile: Knowledge Production and Transfer in/to/across/between Anthropology’s Actors, Locations, and Performances (P055) featured four papers on the history of anthropology during its second session. (The first session dealt with the Anthropology of Knowledge.) It was convened by Hande A. Birkalan-Gedik (Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main), Patrícia Ferraz de Matos (Universidade de Lisboa), Thomas Reinhardt (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) and Blanka Koffer (Humboldt University Berlin). Elisabeth Timm (University of Münster) discussed “Evolutionism in German Volkskunde in the 20th Century: Escaping the Predicament of ‘Volkskultur.’” Patrícia Ferraz de Matos lectured on “The Circulation of Knowledge Through Photography in the Portuguese Colonial Context.” Margarita Valdovinos (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) talked about “The ‘Retourn’ of Traditional Knowledge: Dialogues Triggered by the Repatriation of Ethnographic Registers among the Náayeri.” Céline Camus (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona) dealt with “Knowledge Circulation and Gender: Rethinking the Role of Paradigm Shifts and Resistance to Feminist Knowledges.”
Later that afternoon, HOAN held its business meeting, which was attended by 25 colleagues including both network convenors. Future events were discussed. Frederico Delgado Rosa introduced the online encyclopaedia Bérose on behalf of his co-director, Christine Laurière (CNRS, Paris). Daniela Salvucci (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy) presented the Malinowski Forum for Ethnography and Anthropology (MFEA), which was recently set up around Malinowski’s villa in Oberbozen (South Tyrol) where the family lived from 1922 to 1934. This project is coordinated by Dorothy Zinn and Elisabeth Tauber (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano). HOAN’s co-convernor Aleksandar Bošković called for manuscripts for a new series on “Anthropology’s Ancestors” to be published by Berghahn. Finally, HOAN elected Frederico Delgado Rosa as co-convenor of HOAN to replace Bošković, who was thanked for his valuable input during the first two years of HOAN’s existence. The present author will remain in office as co-convenor of HOAN for another two years.
The third day began with ‘Peripheral’ Anthropologies of Europe: Their Histories and Intellectual Genealogies (P048). Organized under the auspices of EASA’s Europeanist Network and convened by Andrés Barrera-González (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Lorena Anton (University of Bucharest), and Susana Matos Viegas (University of Lisbon), this panel included ten papers. In the first session, Andrés Barrera-González lectured on “Contributions to Anthropos-Logos from the Renaissance: Accounts about the Peoples and Cultures of the Indies Written by Spanish Authors.” Florian Grafl (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) analyzed “The Formation of Ethnographic Knowledge in Spain and Its (Post-) Colonies within the ‘Cuadros de Costumbres’ During the 19th Century.” Hande A. Birkalan-Gedik focused on “Andreas David Mordtmann, Traveling Theory, and the Tale of Turkish Ethnology.” Michael Harkin and Elly-Maria Papamichael (University of Wyoming, USA) gave a paper on “Prince Peter and the Attempt to Establish a National School of Anthropology in Greece.” Ildiko Sz. Kristof (Institute of Ethnology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest) talked about “Scholars in the Armchair, Knowledge on the Move: Agents and Contexts of the Appearance of Global Ethnography/Anthropology in Hungary, 1760-1830.”
The second session, chaired by Susana Viegas, likewise consisted of five papers. Lazar Jovanović (University of Münster) talked about “The Peripheral Centre: Dispersed Tradition of the German Enlightenment and Non-Colonialist Travelogues.” Christos Panagiotopoulos (Cornell University, USA) discussed the “Anthropology of Decadence at the Margins of Hellenism: Elias Petropoulos and the Greek Underground.” Auksuole Cepaitiene (Lithuanian Institute of History, Vilnius) lectured on a “Self-educated Ethnologist: Jan Witort (1853-1903), an Ethnographer from Lithuania.” Joseph Grim Feinberg (Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague) considered “The Study of the People in People’s Democracies.” Finally, Jurij Fikfak (Institute of Slovenian Ethnology, Ljubljana) gave a paper on “Writing One’s Own Culture and ‘the Other’s’ Culture in the Heart of Europe.”
On the conference’s final day, Grażyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University Cracow) and Dorothy Louise Zinn (Free University Bozen-Bolzano) convened the panel On the Move: Fieldwork, Academy and Home in the Early Anthropologists’ Careers (P030). Daniela Salvucci read the paper “Almost an Anthropologist: Elsie Masson Observes Indigenous Australia Before Becoming Mrs. Malinowski.” Amurabi Oliveira (Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil) talked about “Ruth Landes and the Construction and Reception of ‘The City of Women.” Gheorghita Geana (Academia Romana, Bucharest) lectured on “Mircea Eliade and the Nostalgia for Origins.” Adam Kuper’s paper “No Place for a Woman: South African Anthropology, 1930-1960” was read by Dorothy Zinn.
In the final session, Blanka Koffer (Humboldt University Berlin) gave a paper on “Women Moving Anthropology in Early Socialist Central Europe.” Anna Engelking (Institute of Slavic Studies, Warsaw) lectured on “Between Polish and Britsh Academia and Macedonian Fieldwork: Józef Obrębski and the First Functionalist Research of a European Village.” Grażyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University, Cracow) discussed the “‘Emigration of Capabilities’ and Political Exile—the Trajectories of Two Polish Anthropologists: Maria Czaplicka and Alicja Iwánska.” Marian Viorel Anastasoaie (New Europe College, Bucharest/University College, London) gave a paper on “From Odessa to Chicago with a Detour to the Battlefields of Spain: Politics and Anthropological Vocation in John Murra’s Life.”
Other historical panels of note at EASA’s conference in Stockholm included: “Old Crocodiles and New Challenges: Social Anthropology after EASA’s First 30 Years” (P052),“Beyond Precarity” (P056), “Museums of World Culture: History and Future of an Idea” (P124), “Museums in Transition” (P125), “Marx @200” (P129), and “The (Im)mobility of Race” (P141). For an overview of all panels, see here.
The next EASA conference will be held at Lisbon, Portugal, in 2020. EASA’s HoANetwork, convened by Frederico Delgado Rosa and the present author, will certainly call for papers.
HoA references appearing during the conference:
Hannerz, Ulf. “Swedish Anthropology: Past and Present.” kritisk etnografi – Swedish Journal of Anthropology 1, no. 1 (2018): 55-68. Published online on 15 August 2018.
Kuper, Adam. “Anthropology: Scope of the Discipline.” In The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Hilary Callan. 12 vols. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018. Published online on 25 July 2018. An early version appeared in Wiley Online Library.