On July 1st, the University of California Berkeley Name Review Committee received a proposal to “un-name” Kroeber Hall, home to the Phoebe Hearst Museum and Worth Ryder Art Gallery . The building is named for Alfred L. Kroeber, who established the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley in 1901 (see HAR’s recent Generative Texts entry on Kroeber’s Anthropology textbook). Signed by members of the UC Berkeley Native American Advisory Council and the UC Berkeley Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Advisory Committee, the proposal encourages the “un-naming” of the building on the grounds that Kroeber’s name “sends a harmful message to Native American students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley, deters prospective students, and hinders repair of a damaged relationship with Native Californians and all Indigenous people.”
Rosemary Joyce and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, both members of the anthropology department, have contributed thoughts on the matter to the Berkeley Blog, touching on Kroeber’s work with Native American communities, the life and death of the man Kroeber named Ishi, Berkeley’s earlier positions on indigenous remains in their collections, and the politics of naming and un-naming. The proposal, along with Joyce and Scheper-Hughes’s posts, have already generated substantial comments on the blog as well as on the History of Anthropology Interest Group listserv.
The review committee plans to open up the proposal for public comments on July 20, 2020. We welcome thoughts and discussion from HAR readers in the comments section below.