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Scientists and Storytellers

Feminist Anthropologists and the Construction of the American Southwest

Catherine J. Lavender

Publication Year: 2006

The work of four early women ethnographers--Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Benedict, Gladys Reichard, and Ruth Underhill-- and their emphases on women's roles in Southwestern Indian cultures.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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p. iv


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p. v

Table of Contents

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p. vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-19

In the first decades of the twentieth century, American culture underwent violent transformation. In addition to the very real political and geographical changes wrought by the First World War, the emergence of modernism in art, culture, letters, and philosophy...

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1. Taking the Field: The Social Context of Southwestern Ethnography

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pp. 20-48

When beginning to address the ways in which feminist women anthropologists ethnographically constructed the Southwest, it is useful to start with an examination of the social context in which their research took place. As anthropologists, women ethnographers of this period...

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2. Present at the Creation

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pp. 49-70

Most of the earliest women anthropologists had little or no professional training; in this respect, Elsie Clews Parsons is a bit of an anomaly for her “informal” career cohort, in part because she had undergone professional training...

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3. The Poetic Professor

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pp. 71-86

Like Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Fulton Benedict was—and remains—a controversial figure.1 While the broad impact of her research is rarely dismissed, criticism of Benedict has become something of a growth industry among current academics. Writing...

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4. Listening Daughters

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pp. 87-118

Gladys Reichard, whose research focused mainly on the Navajo, became well known for her studies of Navajo culture and religious practice, for her apprenticeship as a Navajo weaver, and for her encyclopedic overviews of Navajo sandpainting designs.1...

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5. Executive Females and Matriarchs

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pp. 119-137

For many of the feminist ethnographers who conducted research before World War II in the American Southwest, gender roles became a chief focus of research. By examining the gender roles of their informants and of Native American women in general, feminist ethnographers...

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6. “Is She Not a Man?”

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pp. 138-162

Research into gender identity came to fascinate a large number of feminist women anthropologists who worked in the American Southwest. In part, feminist anthropologists studied gender identity because to do so gave them the opportunity to critique patriarchy...

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7. Making It New by Making It Old

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pp. 163-182

For many feminist ethnographers, an examination of cultural “pristineness” was of great interest. In part, they conducted their research in the Southwestern United States because they saw the region as more pristine and primitive than most of the rest of the United States...

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8. Strands of Knowledge

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pp. 183-188

The feminist anthropologists addressed in this study represent many different strands of knowledge. As the first generations of women scholars to emerge as professionally trained anthropologists, they marked a transition of the discipline from amateur...


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pp. 189-216

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 217-242


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pp. 243-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780826338709
E-ISBN-10: 0826338704
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826338686
Print-ISBN-10: 0826338682

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 779183263
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Scientists and Storytellers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Feminist anthropology -- Southwest, New -- History.
  • Women anthropologists -- Southwest, New -- History.
  • Ethnology -- Fieldwork -- Southwest, New.
  • Indians of North America -- Southwest, New -- Social life and customs.
  • Underhill, Ruth, 1883-1984.
  • Benedict, Ruth, 1887-1948.
  • Parsons, Elsie Worthington Clews, 1874-1941.
  • Reichard, Gladys Amanda, 1893-1955.
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