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Rhetoric in American Anthropology

Gender, Genre, and Science

by Risa Applegarth

Publication Year: 2014

In the early twentieth century, the field of anthropology transformed itself from the “welcoming science,” uniquely open to women, people of color, and amateurs, into a professional science of culture. The new field grew in rigor and prestige but excluded practitioners and methods that no longer fit a narrow standard of scientific legitimacy. In Rhetoric in American Anthropology, Risa Applegarth traces the “rhetorical archeology” of this transformation in the writings of early women anthropologists. Applegarth examines the crucial role of ethnographic genres in determining scientific status and recovers the work of marginalized anthropologists who developed alternative forms of scientific writing. Applegarth analyzes scores of ethnographic monographs to demonstrate how early anthropologists intensified the constraints of genre to define their community and limit the aims and methods of their science. But in the 1920s and 1930s, professional researchers sidelined by the academy persisted in challenging the field’s boundaries, developing unique rhetorical practices and experimenting with alternative genres that in turn greatly expanded the epistemology of the field. Applegarth demonstrates how these writers’ folklore collections, ethnographic novels, and autobiographies of fieldwork experiences reopened debates over how scientific knowledge was made: through what human relationships, by what bodies, and for what ends. Linking early anthropologists’ ethnographic strategies to contemporary theories of rhetoric and composition, Rhetoric in American Anthropology provides a fascinating account of the emergence of a new discipline and reveals powerful intersections among gender, genre, and science.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...scholars, mentors, colleagues, and friends who have sustained me throughout this project. First, Jane Danielewicz and Jordynn Jack have provided for years precisely the kind of mentorship I hope to offer my own students, challenging and encouraging me in equal measures, and offering generous support while trusting me to pursue my own interests...

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pp. 14-37

...Mead, the most famous anthropologist of the twentieth century, suggested in 1960 that it was anthropology’s status as a “new science” that made her discipline more welcoming to women and minority groups than other sciences.2 Not only its newness but also its research...

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Ethnographic Monographs: Genre Change and Rhetorical Scarcity

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pp. 38-69

...suggested, who had the capacity for patient observation and careful record keeping. While maintaining that “the anthropologist prosecute[s] his work . . . by the most vigorous and exacting methods,” Mason also assured the all-male membership of the first anthropological society that theirs was “a science in which there is no priesthood and laity, no sacred...

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Field Autobiographies: Rhetorical Recruitment and Embodied Ethnography

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pp. 70-107

...significant changes in anthropologists’ rhetorical practices discussed in chapter 1, many women practitioners found themselves renegotiating their status relative to new disciplinary hierarchies. Whereas the amateur members of the Women’s Anthropological Society had been able, in the 1880s, to justify their papers as “real contributions to knowledge” simply...

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Folklore Collections: Professional Positions and Situated Representations

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pp. 108-148

...American novelist, playwright, and folklorist, highlight the contradictions inherent in the position of being a “native ethnographer,” one who studies as an anthropologist the practices of her home community. As Deloria insists in her letter to her mentor, Columbia Professor of Anthropology Franz Boas, her...

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Ethnographic Novels: Educational Critiques and Rhetorical Trajectories

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pp. 149-187

...audiences primarily consumed. Despite anthropology’s growth as a discipline over the first decades of the twentieth century, Parsons writes, her professional colleagues had not yet extended their scientific expertise into texts aimed at popular consumption. This was...

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Conclusion: Rhetorical Archaeology

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pp. 188-199

...shards, bones, and rock strata” evokes a provocative image of historical genre study. I take up this metaphor of genres as artifacts—specifically, artifacts that are incomplete, foundational, and sequenced—to develop here a vision of historical genre study as a practice of...


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pp. 200-241


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pp. 242-269


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pp. 270-281

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979470
E-ISBN-10: 0822979470
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962953
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962950

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnology -- History.
  • Anthropology -- Philosophy.
  • Anthropologists' writings.
  • Women anthropologists.
  • Feminist anthropology.
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