We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Central Sites, Peripheral Visions

Cultural and Institutional Crossings in the History of Anthropology

Edited by Richard Handler

Publication Year: 2006

The terms "center" and "periphery" are particularly relevant to anthropologists, since traditionally they look outward from institutional "centers"-universities, museums, government bureaus-to learn about people on the "peripheries." Yet anthropology itself, as compared with economics, politics, or history, occupies a space somewhat on the margins of academe.  Still, anthropologists, who control esoteric knowledge about the vast range of human variation, often find themselves in a theoretically central position, able to critique the "universal" truths promoted by other disciplines.

Central Sites, Peripheral Visions
presents five case studies that explore the dilemmas, moral as well as political, that emerge out of this unique position. From David Koester's analysis of how ethnographic descriptions of Iceland marginalized that country's population, to Kath Weston's account of an offshore penal colony where officials mixed prison work with ethnographic pursuits; from Brad Evans's reflections on the "bohemianism" of both the Harlem vogue and American anthropology, to Arthur J. Ray's study of anthropologists who serve as expert witnesses in legal cases, the essays in the eleventh volume of the History of Anthropology Series reflect on anthropology's always problematic status as centrally peripheral, or peripherally central. 

Finally, George W. Stocking, Jr., in a contribution that is almost a book in its own right, traces the professional trajectory of American anthropologist Robert Gelston Armstrong, who was unceremoniously expelled from his place of privilege because of his communist sympathies in the 1950s. By taking up Armstrong's unfinished business decades later, Stocking engages in an extended meditation on the relationship between center and periphery and offers "a kind of posthumous reparation," a page in the history of the discipline for a distant colleague who might otherwise have remained in the footnotes.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (80.9 KB)
pp. vii

read more

Anthropology on the Periphery of the Center

pdf iconDownload PDF (100.9 KB)
pp. 3-7

Practitioners of a peripheral discipline, anthropologists have long centered their efforts in the conceptual territory stretching between the terms “center” and “periphery.” At the turn of the last century, anthropologists looked outward from their newly secured locations at central institutions (museums, universities, and government bureaus in a few globally dominant nation-states in ...

read more

The Power of Insult: Ethnographic Publication and Emergent Nationalism in the Sixteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (351.8 KB)
pp. 8-40

In 1599 readers of English geographer Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation may well have been astonished to encounter a text in which an Icelandic bishop railed against the poetry of a “German pedlar” in language that was as vituperative as it was irate. Offended by what he took to be ethnic slurs, Bishop Guðbrandur þorláksson ...

read more

Escape from the Andamans: Tracking, Offshore Incarceration, and Ethnology in the Back of Beyond

pdf iconDownload PDF (354.9 KB)
pp. 41-68

They had great hopes for the boy. With his intelligence he might have become a teacher, a translator, a diplomatic envoy. Put differently, in the language of those who sought to colonize him, he might have served as an important source of knowledge about the Jarawas, the last “hostile tribe” of “marauders” in the Andaman Islands, and, upon his release, a lesson in the power and benevolence of the British administration for “his friends” back in the forest. Transported to ...

read more

Where Was Boas during the Renaissance in Harlem? Diffusion, Race, and the Culture Paradigm in the History of Anthropology

pdf iconDownload PDF (279.0 KB)
pp. 69-98

It is something of a reversal of the relationship customarily imagined to exist between anthropology and modernism to find the anthropologist Franz Boas exhibited as an exotic in the culture of the Harlem Renaissance. And yet there can be no question that Boas has become an important point of reference for understanding the vogue for Harlem art and artists in the 1920s and 1930s. ...

read more

Unfinished Business: Robert Gelston Armstrong, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the History of Anthropology at Chicago and in Nigeria

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 99-247

In October 1977, in preparation for the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of a separate Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, I arranged (while on leave at Harvard) to have a questionnaire sent to all those then listed in our department records as having received either the M.A. or Ph.D. degree in order to collect information for an historical account of the department. In addition to fairly standard biobibliographic facts, the one-page ...

read more

Kroeber and the California Claims: Historical Particularism and Cultural Ecology in Court

pdf iconDownload PDF (248.5 KB)
pp. 248-274

In 1946 the U.S. Congress established the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) to address the grievances Indian tribes held against the U.S. government. The commission culminated a sixteen-year political battle over an idea nearly a half-century old (Rosenthal 1990:47–94). Anthropologists played leading roles as experts who supported or opposed Indian claims. Although it was not ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (102.8 KB)
pp. 275-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780299219239
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299219208

Publication Year: 2006