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Glimpses into My Own Black Box

An Exercise in Self-Deconstruction

George W. Stocking

Publication Year: 2010

George W. Stocking, Jr., has spent a professional lifetime exploring the history of anthropology, and his findings have shaped anthropologists’ understanding of their field for two generations. Through his meticulous research, Stocking has shown how such forces as politics, race, institutional affiliations, and personal relationships have influenced the discipline from its beginnings. In this autobiography, he turns his attention to a subject closer to home but no less challenging. Looking into his own “black box,” he dissects his upbringing, his politics, even his motivations in writing about himself. The result is a book systematically, at times brutally, self-questioning.
    An interesting question, Stocking says, is one that arouses just the right amount of anxiety. But that very anxiety may be the ultimate source of Stocking’s remarkable intellectual energy and output. In the first two sections of the book, he traces the intersecting vectors of his professional and personal lives. The book concludes with a coda, “Octogenarian Afterthoughts,” that offers glimpses of his life after retirement, when advancing age, cancer, and depression changed the tenor of his reflections about both his life and his work.
    This book is the twelfth and final volume of the influential History of Anthropology series.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-22

For seven years during the McCarthy era, from 1949 to 1956, I was amember of the Communist Party—roughly, from the time its leaders were indicted under the Smith Act, through the period when it was semi-legal and eventually outlawed, until it began to fall apart in theaftermath of the Khrushchev “revelations.” It was not a propitious time...

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One: Autobiographical Recollections

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pp. 23-142

Thus, if memory serves, ran the opening of the “Victory Cantata” (composed by two of my classmates) in which our voices joined at the graduation ceremony of the Horace Mann–Lincoln School in May of 1945. Victory in Europe had just been won, and the United Nations was in the process of formation in San Francisco. Although the sorrow over...

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Two: Historiographical Reflections

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pp. 143-178

Early in my career, while teaching History 101 at Berkeley, I was muchaffected by Marc Bloch’s comment, in The Historian’s Craft, about “the curious modesty which, as soon as we are outside the study, seems to forbid us to expose the honest groping of our methods before a profane public” (1953:87). In that spirit, I once imagined a case study in which...

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Three: Octogenarian Afterthoughts

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pp. 179-204

Although the last several pages were drafted during the copyediting phase in 2010, the preceding section (“Doing ‘Good Work’”) was first drafted some time in 2000. Since then, there have been significant changes in my life and work situation—changes I have experienced not as steady decline, but as steps down a pyramid of deterioration. A very...

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pp. 205-216

Although Carol has served (along with the Internet) as a substitute for passage I have read aloud to her, by her own choice she has never actually read the “Black Box” essay. She has, however, commented on the process of its composition. This, by reference to Homer’s Penelope, who during Odysseus’s twenty-year absence kept would-be suitors at...

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pp. 217-218

In the course of writing this book I have accumulated many debts to institutions and individuals which I would like here to acknowledge—as well as others along the way whose names are lost in failing memory or disorganized notes.The original sixty-page version of the “Black Box” essay/monograph was draftedin the early months of 1998, while I was at the Dibner Institute for the History of...

References Cited

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pp. 219-224


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pp. 225-232

History of Anthropology

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pp. 233-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780299249830
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299249847

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010