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Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology

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Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology

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The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games

Sport, Race, and American Imperialism

Susan Brownell

One of the more problematic sport spectacles in American history took place at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which included the third modern Olympic Games. Associated with the Games was a curious event known as Anthropology Days organized by William J. McGee and James Sullivan, at that time the leading figures in American anthropology and sports, respectively. McGee recruited Natives who were participating in the fair’s ethnic displays to compete in sports events, with the “scientific” goal of measuring the physical prowess of “savages” as compared with “civilized men.” This interdisciplinary collection of essays assesses the ideas about race, imperialism, and Western civilization manifested in the 1904 World’s Fair and Olympic Games and shows how they are still relevant.

A turning point in both the history of the Olympics and the development of modern anthropology, these games expressed the conflict between the Old World emphasis on culture and New World emphasis on utilitarianism. Marked by Franz Boas’s paper at the Scientific Congress, the events in St. Louis witnessed the beginning of the shift in anthropological research from nineteenth-century evolutionary racial models to the cultural relativist paradigm that is now a cornerstone of modern American anthropology. Racist pseudoscience nonetheless reappears to this day in the realm of sports.

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American Anthropology and Company

Historical Explorations

Stephen O. Murray

In American Anthropology and Company, linguist and sociologist Stephen O. Murray explores the connections between anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and history, in broad-ranging essays on the history of anthropology and allied disciplines. On subjects ranging from Native American linguistics to the pitfalls of American, Latin American, and East Asian fieldwork, among other topics, American Anthropology and Company presents the views of a historian of anthropology interested in the theoretical and institutional connections between disciplines that have always been in conversation with anthropology. Recurring characters include Edward Sapir, Alfred Kroeber, Robert Redfield, W. I. and Dorothy Thomas, and William Ogburn.

While histories of anthropology rarely cross disciplinary boundaries, Murray moves in essay after essay toward an examination of the institutions, theories, and social networks of scholars as never before, maintaining a healthy skepticism toward anthropologists’ views of their own methods and theories.

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American Antiquities

Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology

Terry A. Barnhart

Writing the history of American archaeology, especially concerning eighteenth and nineteenth-century arguments, is not always as straightforward or simple as it might seem.  Archaeology’s trajectory from an avocation, to a semi-profession, to a specialized, self-conscious profession was anything but a linear progression. The development of American archaeology was an organic and untidy process, which emerged from the intellectual tradition of antiquarianism and closely allied itself with the natural sciences throughout the nineteenth century—especially geology and the debate about the origins and identity of indigenous mound-building cultures of the eastern United States.

 

Terry A. Barnhart examines how American archaeology developed within an eclectic set of interests and equally varied settings.  He argues that fundamental problems are deeply embedded in secondary literature relating to the nineteenth-century debate about “Mound Builders” and “American Indians.”  Some issues are perceptual, others contextual, and still others basic errors of fact.  Adding to the problem are semantic and contextual considerations arising from the accommodating, indiscriminate, and problematic use of the term “race” as a synonym for tribe, nation, and race proper—a concept and construct that does not, in all instances, translate into current understandings and usages.  American Antiquities uses this early discourse on the mounds to frame perennial anthropological problems relating to human origins and antiquity in North America.

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Anthropology Goes to the Fair

The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

Nancy J. Parezo

World’s fairs and industrial expositions constituted a phenomenally successful popular culture movement during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition to the newest technological innovations, each exposition showcased commercial and cultural exhibits, entertainment concessions, national and corporate displays of wealth, and indigenous peoples from the colonial empires of the host country.
 
As scientists claiming specialized knowledge about indigenous peoples, especially American Indians, anthropologists used expositions to promote their quest for professional status and authority. Anthropology Goes to the Fair takes readers through the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition to see how anthropology, as conceptualized by W J McGee, the first president of the American Anthropological Association, showcased itself through programs, static displays, and living exhibits for millions of people  “to show each half of the world how the other half lives.” More than two thousand Native peoples negotiated and portrayed their own agendas on this world stage. The reader will see how anthropology itself was changed in the process.

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An Asian Frontier

American Anthropology and Korea, 1882–1945

Robert Oppenheim

In the nineteenth century the predominant focus of American anthropology centered on the native peoples of North America, and most anthropologists would argue that Korea during this period was hardly a cultural area of great anthropological interest. However, this perspective underestimates Korea as a significant object of concern for American anthropology during the period from 1882 to 1945—otherwise a turbulent, transitional period in Korea’s history. An Asian Frontier focuses on the dialogue between the American anthropological tradition and Korea, from Korea’s first treaty with the United States to the end of World War II, with the goal of rereading anthropology’s history and theoretical development through its Pacific frontier.
 
               Drawing on notebooks and personal correspondence as well as the publications of anthropologists of the day, Robert Oppenheim shows how and why Korea became an important object of study—with, for instance, more published about Korea in the pages of American Anthropologist before 1900 than would be seen for decades after. Oppenheim chronicles the actions of American collectors, Korean mediators, and metropolitan curators who first created Korean anthropological exhibitions for the public. He moves on to examine anthropologists—such as Aleš Hrdlicka, Walter Hough, Stewart Culin, Frederick Starr, and Frank Hamilton Cushing—who fit Korea into frameworks of evolution, culture, and race even as they engaged questions of imperialism that were raised by Japan’s colonization of the country. In tracing the development of American anthropology’s understanding of Korea, Oppenheim discloses the legacy present in our ongoing understanding of Korea and of anthropology’s past.
 

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Before Boas

The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment

Han F. Vermeulen

The history of anthropology has been written from multiple viewpoints, often from perspectives of gender, nationality, theory, or politics. Before Boas delves deeper into issues concerning anthropology’s academic origins to present a groundbreaking study that reveals how ethnology and ethnography originated during the eighteenth rather than the nineteenth century, developing parallel to anthropology, or the “natural history of man.”


Han F. Vermeulen explores primary and secondary sources from Russia, Germany, Austria, the United States, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Great Britain in tracing how “ethnography” was begun as field research by German-speaking historians and naturalists in Siberia (Russia) during the 1730s and 1740s, was generalized as “ethnology” by scholars in Göttingen (Germany) and Vienna (Austria) during the 1770s and 1780s, and was subsequently adopted by researchers in other countries.


Before Boas argues that anthropology and ethnology were separate sciences during the Age of Reason, studying racial and ethnic diversity, respectively. Ethnography and ethnology focused not on “other” cultures but on all peoples of all eras. Following G. W. Leibniz, researchers in these fields categorized peoples primarily according to their languages. Franz Boas professionalized the holistic study of anthropology from the 1880s into the twentieth century. 
 

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Cora Du Bois

Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent

Susan C. Seymour

Although Cora Du Bois began her life in the early twentieth century as a lonely and awkward girl, her intellect and curiosity propelled her into a remarkable life as an anthropologist and diplomat in the vanguard of social and academic change.

Du Bois studied with Franz Boas, a founder of American anthropology, and with some of his most eminent students: Ruth Benedict, Alfred Kroeber, and Robert Lowie. During World War II, she served as a high-ranking officer for the Office of Strategic Services as the only woman to head one of the OSS branches of intelligence, Research and Analysis in Southeast Asia. After the war she joined the State Department as chief of the Southeast Asia Branch of the Division of Research for the Far East. She was also the first female full professor, with tenure, appointed at Harvard University and became president of the American Anthropological Association.

Du Bois worked to keep her public and private lives separate, especially while facing the FBI’s harassment as an opponent of U.S. engagements in Vietnam and as a “liberal” lesbian during the McCarthy era. Susan C. Seymour’s biography weaves together Du Bois’s personal and professional lives to illustrate this exceptional “first woman” and the complexities of the twentieth century that she both experienced and influenced.

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Cultural Negotiations

The Role of Women in the Founding of Americanist Archaeology

David L. Browman

This meticulously researched reference work documents the role of women who contributed to the development of Americanist archaeology from 1865 to 1940. Between the Civil War and World War II, many women went into anthropology and archaeology, fields that, at the beginning of this period, welcomed and made room for amateurs of both genders. But over time, the increasingly professional structure of these fields diminished or even obscured the contributions of women due to their lack of access to prestigious academic employment and publishing opportunities. As a result, a woman archaeologist during this period often published her research under her husband’s name or as a junior author with her husband.

In Cultural Negotiations archaeologist David L. Browman has scoured the archaeological literature and archival records of several institutions to bring the stories of more than two hundred women in Americanist archaeology to light through detailed biographies that discuss their contributions and publications. This work highlights how the social and cultural construction of archaeology as a field marginalized women and will serve as an invaluable reference to those researchers who continue to uncover the history of women in the sciences.

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Ephraim George Squier and the Development of American Anthropology

Terry A. Barnhart

Ephraim George Squier and the Development of American Anthropology is an intellectual biography of Ephraim Squier (1821–88) and his contributions to the development of the nascent disciplines of archaeology and anthropology. During his career, which spanned the years 1845–77, Squier consistently articulated the need for a more holistic and integrated approach to the study of humankind.
 
Although Squier is best known today for the classic book he coauthored with Edwin H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, Terry A. Barnhart shows that Squier’s fieldwork and interpretive contributions to archaeology and anthropology continued over the next three decades. He turned his attention to comparative studies and to fieldwork in Central America and Peru. He became a diplomat and an entrepreneur yet still found time to conduct archaeological investigations in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Peru and to gather ethnographic information on contemporary indigenous peoples in those countries. He published an important and still not fully appreciated comparative study, The Serpent Symbol, and the Worship of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature in America, which attempted to systematically account for parallel cultural developments that he attributed to the psychic unity of humankind.
 
A wealth of unpublished sources illuminate Squier’s wide-ranging interests and controversial career, his intellectual circle, and the public interests of an energetic and expansive American nation. Terry A. Barnhart offers us the first intellectual biography that explores the personal and professional life of a remarkable and significant figure in the history of American anthropology.

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Irregular Connections

A History of Anthropology and Sexuality

Andrew P. Lyons

Irregular Connections traces the anthropological study of sex from the eighteenth century to the present, focusing primarily on social and cultural anthropology and the work done by researchers in North America and Great Britain. Andrew P. and Harriet D. Lyons argue that the sexuality of those whom anthropologists studied has been conscripted into Western discourses about sex, including debates about prostitution, homosexuality, divorce, premarital relations, and hierarchies of gender, class, and race.
 
Because sex is the most private of activities and often carries a high emotional charge, it is peculiarly difficult to investigate. At times, such as the late 1920s and the last decade of the twentieth century, sexuality has been a central concern of anthropologists and focal in their theoretical formulations. At other times the study of sexuality has been marginalized. The anthropology of sex has sometimes been one of the main faces that anthropology presented to the public, often causing resentment within the discipline.
 
Irregular Connections discusses several individuals who have played a significant role in the anthropological study of sexuality, including Sir Richard Burton, Havelock Ellis, Edward Westermarck, Bronislaw Malinowski, Margaret Mead, George Devereux, Robert Levy, Gilbert Herdt, Stephen O. Murray, and Esther Newton. Synthesizing a wealth of information from different anthropological traditions, the authors offer a seamless history of the anthropology of sex as it has been practiced and conceptualized in North America and Great Britain.

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