News (page 2 of 12)

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.

New Release from BEROSE – Sansone on Melville and Frances Herskovits in Brazil

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in English on the Brazilian experience of Melville and Frances Herskovits.

Sansone, Livio, 2021. “‘No Sun Helmets!’ Melville & Frances Herskovits in Brazil,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Among the representatives of culturalism, Melville Herskovits (1895-1963) stands out for his pronounced inclination to African studies, bringing Africa and the Americas closer together around cultural issues, without neglecting the challenges of the historical framework of slavery. From the 1920s, he was active in several African-American and African research contexts. 

Between 1935 and 1943, the city of Salvador, Bahia in Brazil received different degrees of attention from a large number of foreign scholars and intellectuals, all of them impressed—if not seduced—by the “magic” of this city, largely the result of its Black popular culture. Among them were Frances Shapiro Herskovits (1897-1975) and her husband Melville Jean Herskovits. In this article, Sansone explores the manifold reasons for the lasting success of Melville and Frances’s fieldwork in Brazil, in spite of the fact that they never published the book they had planned. Their painstaking, detailed, and focused fieldwork in Brazil benefited from the experience, reputation, images, and recordings they had built up elsewhere in the Americas and Africa. The notion of African survivals or Africanism was in those days politically convenient and fitted with the priorities of the local modernist elites. Moreover, their presence and interest was convenient to the candomblé community, and the cult houses used the Herskovitses as leverage for local political support. Sansone concludes that Frances and Melville Herskovits were “the right people, with the right ideas, at the right time and place.” 

New Release from BEROSE – Pinho on Hasenbalg

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in Portuguese on Argentinian/Brazilian anthropologist Carlos Hasenbalg. 

Pinho, Osmundo, 2021. “Sociologia crítica do racismo à brasileira: um retrato intelectual e político de Carlos Hasenbalg” [Transl.: “Critical Sociology of Racism in Brazil: an Intellectual and Political Portrait of Carlos Hasenbalg”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Born in Buenos Aires, sociologist Carlos Hasenbalg (1942-2014) pursued his academic career abroad, following the Argentine military coup of 1966. From Chile, where he studied for two years, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he worked until his retirement. In the early 1970s, he did his doctoral studies in Berkeley in the United States, under the guidance of American sociologist Robert Blauner. His book Discriminação e Desigualdades Raciais no Brasil (Discrimination and Racial Inequalities in Brazil), from 1979, posits that the development of capitalism, the industrialization of the economy and the modernization of social relations do not guarantee an end to racism, its structural foundations, and its consequences. In this revealing article, Pinho argues that Carlos Hasenbalg’s place in the history of Brazilian anthropology, sociology, and social sciences in general is at the epicenter of a vast Brazilian and international debate marked by sociological discussions on race, class, and racial stratification. Hasenbalg’s work was a decisive influence on later studies of race relations.

New Release from BEROSE – Peatrik on Kenyatta

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: a fascinating article, in English, on Jomo Kenyatta, the famous Kenyan disciple of Malinowski. 

Peatrik, Anne–Marie, 2021. “Jomo Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya and its Rival Ethnographies: The Kikuyu in the Mirror of Colonial Anthropology,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Born around 1895 in southern Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1895-1978) or Kamau wa Ngengi (his name from his youth) was a Kenyan pan-African activist and politician. As a representative of an association defending the land interests of the Kikuyu dispossessed by the white settlers, he went to London in 1929, and remained in Europe until 1946, meeting more and more with the English-speaking and anti-colonial intelligentsia. A hero of Kenyan decolonization, he became the first president of the newly independent country from 1964 until his death in 1978. Jomo Kenyatta was also an anthropologist. In 1938, he published Facing Mount Kenya, The Traditional Life of the Gikuyu, a book based on a master’s degree in anthropology under the supervision of Bronislaw Malinowski. It was the first academic anthropological monograph to be written by an African about his people. In this challenging article, Peatrik unveils the tumultuous trajectory of Jomo Kenyatta’s monograph, which was ignored, disparaged, and celebrated in turn. Particularly from the 1930s until the period following the Second World War, other writers engaged in relations of anthropological rivalry with Kenyatta, clashing over the legitimate representation or anthropological truth of the Kikuyu. By unravelling the ways in which these competing versions affected the status of Facing Mount Kenya, Peatrik eventually reveals the hidden or forgotten story of a major work in the history of anthropology. 

New Release from BEROSE – Aranzadi, López and Sánchez on Spanish colonial ethnography in Africa

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: two articles (in Spanish) on Spanish colonial ethnography in Africa.

Aranzadi, Juan, 2021. “Estereotipos étnicos de los indígenas en los primeros estudios coloniales sobre la Guinea española (1900-1936)” [Transl: “Ethnic stereotypes of indigenous people in early colonial studies of Spanish Guinea (1900-1936)”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

López Sanz, Hasan G. & Nicolás Sánchez Durá, 2021. “Imaginación colonial y formas de aproximación gráfica de las poblaciones negro africanas. El caso de la Guinea española (1880-1968)” [Transl: “Colonial imagination and graphic representations of Black African populations. The case of Spanish Guinea (1880-1968)”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Often overlooked in the historiography of anthropology, Spanish colonialism in Africa is the subject of these two interconnected articles. The Instituto de Estudios Africanos, founded in 1945 after Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), promoted ethnological studies on the populations of Spanish Guinea. Despite their “scientific” pretensions and uneven quality, they are imbued with the national-Catholic ideology of the Franco regime and inherit the ethnic stereotypes of Guinean indigenous peoples elaborated in early colonial publications (1900-1936). These earlier sources are analyzed in the first article, by Aranzadi, including missionary writings on the island of Fernando Po, where the Claretian Fathers of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary arrived in 1883. The second article, by López and Sánchez, is dedicated to some forms of popular iconographic representation of Black African populations, especially the little-known case of Spanish Guinea, now Equatorial Guinea. This lavishly illustrated article results from the exhibition “Let’s Bring Blacks Home! Colonial Imagination and Graphic Representations of Africans (1880-1968),” which was held in 2020 at the Cultural Center La Nau of the University of Valencia (Spain), illustrating different aspects of anthropological investigation through objects, photographs, popular periodicals, books, documentaries, and fragments of fictional films.

New Release from BEROSE – Oliveira on Ramos

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in English) on Brazilian anthropologist Arthur Ramos, a leading figure of Afro-Brazilian studies during the first half of the twentieth century.

Oliveira, Amurabi, “Afro-Brazilian Studies From Psychoanalysis to Cultural Anthropology: An Intellectual Portrait of Arthur Ramos,” in BEROSE  International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Arthur Ramos (1903-1949) was one of the most prominent Brazilian anthropologists of the first half of the twentieth century, specializing in Afro-Brazilian populations. In his intellectual portrait of this paramount figure in the history of Brazilian anthropology, Oliveira retraces his path from racialized psychoanalysis to cultural anthropology. From 1935 on, Ramos had fruitful exchanges with Melville J. Herskovits and maintained his connections with U.S. anthropology in various ways – including his polemical critique of Ruth Landes’s “fantastic conclusions about a matriarchal cult and male ritual homosexuality among Black Brazilians.” Oliveira reveals that Ramos insisted on the importance of comparing Afro-American to African models to avoid “distorting” views. As Professor of anthropology and ethnography at the Universidade do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro beginning in 1939 and founder of the Brazilian Society of Anthropology and Ethnology in 1941, Ramos also had a relevant role in the institutionalization of anthropology in Brazil. He became the first head of the Department of Social Sciences at UNESCO in 1949, but he held this position for only a short time, as he died a few months after his arrival in Paris. Although his legacy for Brazilian anthropology and his influence over generations of Brazilian anthropologists are particularly significant, his place in disciplinary history is gaining wider international recognition within the world anthropologies paradigm.

Free registration for EASA “Anthropological Pathways and Crossings” conference, July 21 and 22, 2021

The European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) is offering free registration for its upcoming digital conference, “Anthropological Pathways and Crossings: Knowledge Production and Transfer in and Beyond Europe” until July 19, 2021. (After that date, registration will close completely.) The conference will take place on July 21 and 22, and is being organized jointly by EASA’s EuroNet group and the History of Anthropology Network (HOAN).

No knowledge, and particularly anthropological knowledge, is contingent upon a single tradition but is instead composed of multiple practices and contexts. Next to “major” European anthropological traditions, “minor” or “marginal” traditions in and beyond Europe bloomed and supported intellectual interactions at different points in time, and dynamically produced and disseminated anthropological knowledge. Based on these premises, the conference organizers aim to challenge the narrative of major, self-standing European traditions. Presenters will investigate the complexities and the embeddedness of anthropological knowledge transfer in and beyond European(ist) research, especially emphasizing the work at/between the “margins” — both geographic and conceptual — in past and present times.

Please visit the conference website to register and to read the full event program.

Reminder: History of Anthropology Working Group, “Visualization,” June 2, 2021

The next meeting of the History of Anthropology Working Group, hosted by the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, will be held on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET. The topic for the discussion will be “Visualization.” This meeting was rescheduled from April 7, 2021.

The discussion will be led by Abigail Nieves Delgado and Iris Clever, and will take a broad view of visualization from the 18th to 20th centuries across a range of traditions. It will focus on the following readings:

  • Keevak, Michael. 2011. “Taxonomies of Yellow: Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and the Making of a ‘Mongolian’ Race in the Eighteenth Century.” In Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton University Press.
  • Qureshi, Sadiah. 2012. “Peopling the landscape: Showmen, displayed peoples and travel illustration in nineteenth-century Britain.” Early Popular Visual Culture 10(1): 23-36.
  • Evans, Andrew. 2020. “‘Most Unusual’ Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935,” Isis 111(2): 289-309.
  • Stinson, Catherine. 2020. “Algorithms Associating Appearance and Criminality Have a Dark Past.” Aeon, May 15, 2020. https://aeon.co/ideas/algorithms-associating-appearance-and-criminality-….

The readings are available for download via the Working Group home page. Additional details about the group and information on how to attend may also be found on the site.

Upcoming Event: Debate on the Legacy of Jean Cuisenier

Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

May 25th, 2021, 4:30 p.m. (CET)

A session will take place at the Musée du Quai Branly (Paris) on the 25th of May, 2021 at 4:30 p.m., during which Laurent Le Gall (Université de Bretagne Occidentale) and Frédéric Fruteau de Laclos (Université Paris 1/Panthéon Sorbonne) will comment on texts resulting from a colloquium dedicated to anthropologist Jean Cuisenier and published by BEROSE in a topical dossier organized by Martine Segalen (Université Paris-Nanterre) and Nicolas Adell (Université Jean-Jaurès, Toulouse). Please note, this is an in-person event.

French anthropologist Jean Cuisenier (1927-2017) was head of the polemical Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires beginning in 1968. Considered both a continuator and innovator of Lévi-Strauss’s legacy, this less known but fundamental figure in the history of the French school of anthropology promoted an anthropology freed from its ties to backward-looking “folklore,” and open to the study of contemporary French and European societies. When institutional difficulties and a hot public debate led to the closure of his museum of folk arts and traditions in 2005, Jean Cuisenier continued to develop his reflections on issues of folk art and ritual.

Among other recently released articles and other resources, the topical dossier published within BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology includes this biography of Jean Cuisenier by Martine Segalen:

Segalen, Martine, 2020. “Un ethnologue européaniste au défi d’un musée : biographie de Jean Cuisenier,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Learn more about how to attend this event. Because of space constraints, interestested participants are invited to register by sending an email to martine.segalen@gmail.com and to nicolas.adell@univ-tlse2.fr.

Enclosures and Extraction: MOVE and the Penn Museum

This essay is the last of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

I am writing as someone who sits in one of the oldest anthropology departments in the United States, which sits in one of the oldest ethnographic museums in the country, and the world. Our department played a key role in the elaboration of scientific racism in the 19th century, as scholars applied the insights of Darwinian evolutionary theory to develop racist ideas about human origins and culture. Daniel Brinton, for example, was the first professor of anthropology at Penn. Though he was trained as a medical doctor, Brinton was hired in 1886 as a Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics, having previously held the position of Professor of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He was also the president of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) during the last years of the 19th century before he died in 1899, and an avid segregationist. In 1896, while president of the AAAS, Brinton argued in Popular Science Monthly that “the black, the brown and the red races differ anatomically so much from the white…that even with equal cerebral capacity they never could rival its results by equal efforts.”[1] Brinton publicly advocated theories of scientific racism across several scientific institutions in Philadelphia. He believed that acquired “traits” developed within particular environments were passed down from generation to generation, and this laid the basis for later proponents of the “culture of poverty” paradigm.

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New Release from BEROSE – Link on the Center for the Study of Man

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article on the Smithsonian’s Center for the Study of Man, by Adrianna Link.

Link, Adrianna, 2021. “(Re)inventing Urgency: The Case of the Smithsonian’s Center for the Study of Man, 1968-1976,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

The Center for the Study of Man was established at the Smithsonian Institution in 1968 to develop international research programs focused on the interrelationship between humans and their physical, biological, and cultural environments. Major projects initiated under its auspices included a program in “urgent anthropology”; the 1978 revision of the Handbook of North American Indians; the development of the National Anthropological Film Center (now the Human Studies Film Archives); the establishment of a Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies (RIIES); and planning for a Museum of Man. Other partially-conceived initiatives included a bibliographic and computerization program; a conference and publication series on topics such as population growth, human fertility, and drug and alcohol use; and a community-based American Indian program. In this thorough study, Link explains that the Center remained an independent research unit at the Smithsonian until 1976, at which point its major programs were discontinued or reassigned elsewhere within the Institution.

Event Reminder and Invitation: History of Anthropology Interest Group organizational meeting, May 14, 1pm ET

This is a reminder and invitation for an organizational meeting for the American Anthropological Association’s History of Anthropology Interest Group co-convened by Grant Arndt and Mindy Morgan. The meeting is open to all those interested in discussing preparations for this year’s meeting as well as future HOAIG activities.

The meeting will be held virtually on Friday, May 14 from 1-2 PM Eastern Time.

Please contact Grant Arndt (gparndt@iastate.edu) know if you are interested in attending.

On Demarcation

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

Physical anthropology began as a science of skulls. As the Italian practitioner Giuseppi Sergi put it in 1893, “The skull chiefly furnishes the characters of classification; it shows the external shape of the brain, the most important and the highest organ of man; the skull is the means of the classification of the brain.”[1]

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On the Possession and Unethical Use of the Remains of Tree and Delisha Africa

On May 13, 1985, the city of Philadelphia killed eleven people by bombing the home of the MOVE organization. Local Philadelphia media recently reported that for the 36 years since then, anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology and Princeton University kept remains attributed to two children killed in that bombing, Tree and Delisha Africa, without their family’s knowledge or consent. They also filmed these remains for online lectures on forensic anthropology in 2019. During one of these videos, some of these remains were shown to the camera while the Morton Cranial Collection, including the remains of Black Philadelphians and enslaved people, filled shelves in the background. The objectification of human remains and the dehumanization of non-white people remain among the most insidious and persistent legacies of scientific racism in anthropology, archaeology, and museums. 

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New Release from BEROSE – Coyault on Laman

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French about a Protestant Swedish missionary and ethnographer, Karl Edvard Laman.

Coyault, Bernard, 2021. “Karl Edvard Laman, missionnaire ethnologue suédois au Congo (1891-1919). Entre culture savante et humanisme chrétien: l’utopie missionnaire face au léviathan colonial,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL: https://www.berose.fr/article2268.html?lang=en

[Transl: “Karl Edvard Laman, A Swedish Missionary and Ethnologist in Congo (1891-1919). Between Learned Culture and Christian Humanism: The Missionary Utopia in the Face of the Colonial Leviathan”]

Karl Edvard Laman (1867-1944) belonged to the first generation of Swedish missionaries who established themselves in the Congo Free State in 1881. He stayed there for more than a quarter of a century, from 1891 to 1919. Laman gradually asserted himself as a great scholar, linguist, and expert on Kongo culture, which he documented, including its material expressions, at a time when its foundations were breaking up under the shocks of the colonial enterprise. His scientific work was coupled with a humanist project: the emancipation of the population through popular education, the two vectors of which were access to the Bible in the Kikongo language (its first translation appeared in 1905) and the promotion of Kongo cultural values. This enhancement of the Kongo language and culture was the basis of his scholarly activity. Coyault’s in-depth article shows the complexity of Laman’s work, which straddles the line between apostolic mission and anthropological study.

Spiritual Inequality

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

In 2015, as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, my class had the opportunity to speak with Richard Lariviere, the then-director of the Field Museum, about museum ethics and repatriation. I had just been working on repatriation projects at Colorado State University, and had asked him whether it was difficult for museum staff to value Indigenous stakes in the objects/entities as much as their own stakes. His response was familiar to many situated within the museum and repatriation landscape: 

“The Field Museum is compliant with both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

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New Release from BEROSE – Brock on Strehlow

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in English about German missionary and ethnographer Carl Strehlow.

Brock, Peggy, 2021. “The Ethnographic Calling of a Lutheran Missionary in Central Australia: A Short Biography of Carl Strehlow,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL: article2226.html

German missionary Carl Strehlow occupies a peculiar place in the history of anthropology. His language-centered ethnographic work in central Australia contrasted in several respects with Spencer and Gillen’s naturalistic and evolutionist approach. Strehlow’s Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (1907-1920) was regarded with suspicion by James George Frazer and other European admirers of Spencer and Gillen, but Strehlow’s contemporaries in Germany, France, and Britain were more familiar with his findings than Australian researchers. At the time of its publication, and until very recently, Strehlow’s detailed study of the Arrernte and Loritja peoples was largely ignored in Australia. This was partly a result of his work never having been published in English, but probably more importantly because of Strehlow’s disagreements with Spencer and Gillen, whose The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) garnered a huge amount of attention and praise as one of the earliest studies based on detailed ethnographic fieldwork. In this enlightening article, Brock sustains that Strehlow’s careful recording of language, customs, folklore, and other aspects of Arrernte and Loritja life has survived over a century. Despite the ongoing controversies around Strehlow’s work, his ethnography rather than the missionary work to which he devoted his life may be his lasting legacy.

New Exhibit Announcement: (Re)Generations: Challenging Scientific Racism in Hawaiʻi

On view now at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai’i through October 24, 2021

(Re)Generations: Challenging Scientific Racism in Hawaiʻi explores a collection of photographs and plaster busts created by anthropologist Louis R. Sullivan as a tool to measure and classify the physical traits of a supposedly “pure” Native Hawaiian race. The collection was presented at the Second International Eugenics Conference (1921) with the Bishop Museum’s endorsement and support. Measuring, classifying, and categorizing people through “race science” has been used to justify slavery, displacement, colonial occupation, eugenics, and genocide. There is no biological truth to race, and research like Sullivan’s is now long discredited. Yet the myths of race and racial superiority, and the structural inequalities they support, have lasting and traumatic effects.

Though Sullivan’s photographs and busts are tied to a legacy of scientific racism, the collection has become one of the Bishop Museum’s primary sources for genealogical research in Hawaiʻi. (Re)Generations aims to celebrate the ways this collection has been reappropriated by Native Hawaiian descendants as a vehicle for (re)discovering ancestors, genealogical connections, and family. Photographs of persons celebrated in the exhibit were selected through collaboration with their living descendants. Photographs and busts are recontextualized outside of Sullivan’s eugenics research through meaningful histories, including the additions of descendant interviews and family heirlooms, which offer a glimpse into these people’s lives and legacies.

The Bishop Museum’s hope is that this exhibit is not an end in itself, but rather aims to start conversations on how the Museum can better connect with and serve Native Hawaiian communities and stakeholders.

For more information on how to see the exhibit, including relevant COVID-19 policies, please visit the Bishop Museum’s website.

Enslaved Remains, Scientific Racism, and the Work of Counter-History (Part Two)

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read part one and more reflections from this series here.

Part 2. ‘Recollection’

Dr. Holmie recalled the skull had belonged to one of his former patients, a child “owned” by the hospital’s keeper and who died under his medical care. “The boy,” Holmie wrote to Davis:

…was owned by the keeper or headman of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s hospital at Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, in 1840 and previously under my medical care. He was when in health a very fat, well featured, cheerful little fellow much liked by those he came in contact with on account of his mild and obliging disposition and he died after a few days illness—apparently inflammation of the brain, or its membranes.[1]

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Recording Kastom: Alfred Haddon’s Journals – Webinar and Book Launch

The Royal Anthropological Institute will host a webinar and book launch for Recording Kastom: Alfred Haddon’s Journals from his Expeditions to Torres Strait and New Guinea, 1888 and 1898, with the book’s editors Dr. Anita Herle (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Jude Philp (University of Sydney) on April 20, 2021 at 12:00 pm GMT (7:00 am EST).

To register, please click here.

Recording Kastom brings readers into the heart of colonial Torres Strait and New Guinea with the personal journals of Cambridge zoologist and anthropologist Alfred Haddon. Haddon’s journals highlight his comprehensive vision of anthropology and preoccupation with documentation and reveal the central role played by named Islanders who worked with him to record their kastom. The work of Haddon and the members of the 1898 Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait was hugely influential on the nascent discipline of anthropology and remains of great interest to Islanders and scholars working in the region.

Join the authors and editors for a discussion of the content and process of publishing the journals, involving collaboration with Islander communities and descendants of the people with whom Haddon worked. The session will also provide an opportunity to reassess the importance of Haddon’s work and consider the far-reaching value of anthropological archives today.

Recording Kastom: Alfred Haddon’s Journals from his Expeditions to Torres Strait and New Guinea, 1888 and 1898 is published by Sydney University Press.

Enslaved Remains, Scientific Racism, and the Work of Counter-History (Part One)

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

The recent debate over the relocation and restitution of over 50 human crania of enslaved people in Samuel George Morton’s collection at the Penn Museum prompts a reflection on anthropology’s entanglements with the history of slavery. When the HAR editorial team asked me to offer some thoughts a propos this event, I revisited my research notes in search of archival traces of these complex crossings. This short note is an analytical reflection about one such trace—a letter exchange found in the private papers of another notorious race scholar and skull collector and Morton’s contemporary) British surgeon Joseph Barnard Davis (1801-1881). I ask how enslavement becomes epistemically and politically embedded in collections of human remains. I ask how historiographical work may help us to counter, subvert, heal, and remember the presence and effects of these past processes today.

Part 1. ‘Inscription’

Fervently devoted to racial craniology, Joseph Barnard Davis spent his life and wealth assembling a comparative anthropological collection of human crania. By 1880 he was the owner of the world’s largest private collection of skulls, an achievement inspired partly by Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) in Philadelphia.[1] Davis’s skull collecting and investigations were, like Morton’s, founded upon conceptions grounded in scientific racism. It reflected his belief, for example, that specific physical features of the cranium represented differences and hierarchies in mental attributes and moral and social states; and that (inferior) African “black” and (superior) “white” European human races were separate “natural” occurrences with separate origins.[2] Davis’s collection was based on a vast network of skull suppliers and collaborators based in a number of different colonies and territories outside Europe. His manuscript catalogues and letters, held in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, along with what survives of his cranial collection, show how the collection was generated and how certain human skulls entered the museum embedded in histories of enslavement.

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Reminder: History of Anthropology Working Group, “Visualization,” April 7, 2021

The next meeting of the History of Anthropology Working Group, hosted by the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, will be held on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET. The topic for the discussion will be “Visualization.”

The discussion will be led by Abigail Nieves Delgado and Iris Clever, and will take a broad view of visualization from the 18th to 20th centuries across a range of traditions. It will focus on the following readings:

  • Keevak, Michael. 2011. “Taxonomies of Yellow: Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and the Making of a ‘Mongolian’ Race in the Eighteenth Century.” In Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton University Press.
  • Qureshi, Sadiah. 2012. “Peopling the landscape: Showmen, displayed peoples and travel illustration in nineteenth-century Britain.” Early Popular Visual Culture 10(1): 23-36.
  • Evans, Andrew. 2020. “‘Most Unusual’ Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935,” Isis 111(2): 289-309.
  • Stinson, Catherine. 2020. “Algorithms Associating Appearance and Criminality Have a Dark Past.” Aeon, May 15, 2020. https://aeon.co/ideas/algorithms-associating-appearance-and-criminality-….

The readings are available for download via the Working Group home page. Additional details about the group and information on how to attend may also be found on the site.

The Penn & Slavery Project: On Visualizing The Afterlives of Slavery at Penn

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

In both 2006 and 2016, the University of Pennsylvania released statements denying any connections to the institution of slavery. Since 2017, The Penn and Slavery Project (P&SP) has repeatedly challenged and disproven that claim, revealing the many ways in which “America’s first university” benefitted from and contributed to the institution. But that denial is not unique to Penn; it reflects the tendency to value optics over functions, the idea of focusing on the way things look instead of the way things work. That’s a U.S. tradition. In the U.S., we release statements, circulate textbooks, and wave flags that paper over histories that make us uncomfortable. We have statues that elevate some historical figures and cast others in shadow. 

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New Release from BEROSE – Cole and Andreson on Landes

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: two articles in English on Ruth Landes, the “scandalous” disciple of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. 

Andreson, Jamie Lee, 2021. “In the City of Women: The Life and Work of Ruth Landes,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL: article2218.html

Cole, Sally, 2021. “The End of Chastity and Modesty: Ruth Landes Writing Race and Gender in 1930s Anthropology,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL: article2219.html

Jamie Lee Andreson presents the life and work of American anthropologist Ruth Landes (1908-1991), the famous disciple of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict who contributed to the development of Afro-American Studies and Feminist Anthropology. Landes did ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil from 1938 to 1939. Her work that had the greatest impact was the dynamic narrative ethnography, The City of Women (1947) published in Brazil as A Cidade das Mulheres (1967), which documented the lives of prominent head priestesses of Candomblé temples and argued that the religion was a matriarchy, based on the prominence of Black women’s leadership and community reverence for the priestesses as Mothers. Her close collaboration with Brazilian colleague Edison Carneiro granted her privileged access to research sites and subjects, producing an historical archive of Candomblé still available at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) of the Smithsonian Museum. However, her research approach and relationships in the field were considered scandalous by prominent male colleagues, who negatively impacted her career opportunities in the United States. Nevertheless, her legacy remains strong in Brazil both in academia and among Candomblé practitioners themselves.

Sally Cole’s article focuses on Ruth Landes writing race and gender in 1930s anthropology. City of Women (1947) was anomalous in its time for its focus on women’s agency and gender fluidity among Afro-Brazilian Candomblé practitioners in 1930s Bahia and for its personal memoir writing style. Melville Herskovits (1895-1963) and Arthur Ramos (1903-1949), who were then working to establish the field of Afro-Brazilian studies, severely critiqued Landes’s study of cultural creativity and internal dynamics and her failure to engage in their search for African survivals.  Twenty-first-century historians of anthropology now describe the text as um espelho, a mirror, on gender and race in 1930s Brazil. This article traces the singularity of Landes’s ethnography to her autobiographical experience of gender conventions in the Russian Jewish labor Zionist immigrant milieu she was raised in; her training by Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) to pay attention to the experience of “culturally unprovided for” individuals; and, Landes’s method of intensive fieldwork with Indigenous collaborators – prior to coming to Brazil with Ojibwa elder Maggie Wilson (1879-1940) in Canada that resulted in the book, The Ojibwa Woman (1938) and, in Bahia, with Salvador-born folklorist, Edison Carneiro (1912-1971).  

Death, Dignity, and Descendants

This essay is one of a series of “Participant Observations” on the removal of the Samuel Morton Cranial Collection from public display and legacies of scientific racism in museums. Read more reflections from this series here.

I have long been uncomfortable with the public display of human remains.[1] As a child, it disturbed me that museums would display mummified bodies in glass cases. I was equally uncomfortable at funeral homes, but the juxtaposition between the two sites troubled me. I wondered then, as now—why are some dead bodies accorded such respect and ceremony, while others are objectified and subjected to our gaze? 

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New Release from BEROSE – Marquet on Colonial India

HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French on the caste system in Colonial India and more specifically about the production of law in British- and French-ruled territories in the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. 

Marquet, Julie, 2021. “Le régime des castes dans l’Inde coloniale. Productions du droit dans les territoires sous domination anglaise et française, XVIIIe‑XXe siècles” (“The Caste System in Colonial India. Making Law in the Territories under British and French Rule, 18th through 20th Centuries”), in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL: https://www.berose.fr/article2181.html?lang=en

As they gradually asserted their domination over parts of the Indian subcontinent, the British and the French initially committed themselves to respecting the rights, customs, and manners of Indian peoples. In matters of caste, they established a specific legal regime, constituted by local regulations, justice decisions actively sought by the Indians, and collections of jurisprudence. This surprising article by Julie Marquet focuses on this legal regime as a lost chapter in the history of anthropology. It sheds light on the constitution and implementation of the caste legal regime in colonial India, from the eighteenth century to independence. From a comparative historical perspective, it examines both the legal rules regulating the functioning of castes and the methods of their production. It is published as part of the BEROSE research theme “History of the Relationship between Law and Anthropology,” directed by Frédéric Audren (CNRS) and Laetitia Guerlain (University of Bordeaux).

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