History of Anthropology
The History of Anthropology Working Group is an outgrowth of the History of Anthropology Review. Originally called the History of Anthropology Newsletter, HAR has been a nerve center for the history of anthropology for over forty years. In 2014, our editorial collective brought the newsletter into the digital age, redesigning it as an open access website with new sections and features. Over the six years since HAR’s relaunch we’ve seen the field of history of anthropology expand beyond an earlier focus on classic texts and figures to incorporate global traditions of anthropology, approaches from Indigenous Studies, STS and the History of Science, museology, library and information science, and the politics of collecting and displaying cultures. The history of studying the world’s cultures, ways of life, and systems of knowledge is vitally important as a means to address current issues, where increasing global connections do not erase significant differences.
HAR’s editors sought a forum in which to discuss and develop the issues that drive the journal beyond what is there on the site; we’re grateful to CHSTM for providing that space. This Working Group is open to anyone who wants to reflect on the histories of anthropology—anthropologists, historians, interested others.
This year’s series of readings focuses on anthropology’s many connections to race, racism, anti-racism, the anthropology of policing, white supremacy, and authoritarianism. They were chosen as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests and a strong wish to interrogate the field’s past, present, and future. We have sought to combine very contemporary ethnography with more historically-oriented work. The history of anthropology has become a lively object (and target) for reflection on how to confront centuries of imperial violence and racism-- legacies clearly still alive with the open return of white supremacy with the Trump presidency and other resurgent ethno-nationalisms, but also, as many critiques have made clear, built into the fabric of Western societies.
Anthropology’s extreme relevance to these current issues is a result of the field’s intrinsic ambiguities: it has been a tool of colonialism and a key field for the development of scientific racism, as well as the central site for a scientific rebuttal of racism, and a space for romantic and utopian aspirations of all kinds. This year’s discussions, led by members of HAR’s editorial collective and open to all, seek to explore these ambiguities and aim to rethink the past of anthropology in order to contemplate its future.
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There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.
June 2, 2021
Session 7: "Visualization"
This session, led by Abigail Nieves Delgado and Iris Clever, will take a broad view of visualization from the 18th to 20th centuries across a range of traditions. Please find the list of readings below and all readings either hyperlinked or in the zip file.
- Keevak, Michael. 2011. “Taxonomies of Yellow: Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and the Making of a ‘Mongolian’ Race in the Eighteenth Century.” In Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton University Press.
- Qureshi, Sadiah. 2012. "Peopling the landscape: Showmen, displayed peoples and travel illustration in nineteenth-century Britain." Early Popular Visual Culture 10(1): 23-36.
- Evans, Andrew. 2020. “‘Most Unusual’ Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935,” Isis 111(2): 289-309.
- Stinson, Catherine. 2020. “Algorithms Associating Appearance and Criminality Have a Dark Past.” Aeon, May 15, 2020. https://aeon.co/ideas/algorithms-associating-appearance-and-criminality-....
- Sekula, Allan. 1986. “The Body and the Archive.” October 39: 3–64.
May 5, 2021
Session 8: "Data futures"
The discussion will be led by Taylor M. Moore.
- Benjamin, Ruha. 2019. Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. John Wiley & Sons, "Introduction: The New Jim Code," 1-25
- Browne, Simone. 2015. Dark matters: On the surveillance of blackness. Duke University Press,Chapter 3, "Branding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Surveillance of Blackness," 89-129.
- Dryer, Theodora, 2019. "The New Critical History of Surveillance and Human Data." Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2019): 556-565.
- Karen Hao, "We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says." MIT Technology Review, Dec 2, 2020.
- Roberts, Dorothy, interview with "Reimagining Race, Resistance, and Technoscience." In Captivating Technology, pp. 328-348. Duke University Press, 2019 (included)
- Battle-Baptiste, Whitney, and Brit Rusert, eds. 2018. W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America. Hudson, NY: Princeton Architectural Press (included)
- Hanna, Alex, Emily Denton, Andrew Smart, and Jamila Smith-Loud. 2019. “Towards a Critical Race Methodology in Algorithmic Fairness.” , ArXiv:1912.03593 [Cs].
- Lemov, Rebecca. 2017. “Anthropology’s Most Documented Man, Ca. 1947: A Prefiguration of Big Data from the Big Social Science Era.” Osiris 32 (1): 21–42. https://doi.org/10.1086/694171.
- Müller-Wille, Staffan. 2018. “Making and Unmaking Populations.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48 (5): 604–15. https://doi.org/10/gg4vhs
March 3, 2021
Session 6: "Policing and Applied/Public Anthropology"
- Singer, Merrill. 2000. “Why I Am Not a Public Anthropologist.” Anthropology News 41 (6): 6–7. https://doi.org/10/c74n99.
- Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, “The Jungle Academy: Molding White Supremacy in American Police Recruits,” American Anthropologist 122, no. 1 (2020): 143–56, https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13357.
- Smith, Christen A. 2015. “Blackness, Citizenship, and the Transnational Vertigo of Violence in the Americas.” American Anthropologist 117 (2): 384–87. https://doi.org/10/gg4vhm.
- Ralph, Laurence. 2020. "Black Cargo." HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 10(2): 269-278. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/710167
- Scannell, R. Joshua. 2019. “This Is Not Minority Report: Predictive Policing and Population Racism.” In Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life, edited by Ruha Benjamin, 107–29. Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478004493-007.
- French, Jan Hoffman. 2013. “Rethinking Police Violence in Brazil: Unmasking the Public Secret of Race.” Latin American Politics and Society 55 (4): 161–81. https://doi.org/10/f5mbd8.
- Karpiak, Kevin. 2016. “No Longer Merely ‘Good to Think’: The New Anthropology of Police as a Mode of Critical Thought:” Theoretical Criminology, November. https://doi.org/10/gg4vhk.
- *Mutsaers, Paul, Jennie Simpson, and Kevin Karpiak. 2015. “The Anthropology of Police as Public Anthropology.” American Anthropologist 117 (4): 786–89. https://doi.org/10/gg4vhn.
February 3, 2021
Session 5: "Racism in science"
How does racism shape science? How has anthropology (biological and cultural) contributed to Western/European self-definitions as rational, scientifcally progressive-- and white? How do we reckon withthe fact that biologists have long claimed to recognize the abritrary, constructed nature of race, while racial categories remain central to much biological research, and remain profoundly consequential in everyday life and politics? How do race and racism-- including "eugenic scripts" (Subramaniam)-- continue to inform scientific training, careers, and content, in biology, chemistry, and environmental justice?
In addition to discussing readings by Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Ann Morning, and Michelle Murphy (50 pages total), we want to signal last week's appointment of Alondra Nelson as "STS Czar" (or, officially, Deputy Director of the the Office of Science and Technology Policy for Science and Society) with a news clip on the announcement and brief essays in response to her book, The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome. The discussion will be facilitated by John Tresch.
Main readings (provided in zipfile):
- Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. "Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness." In Global Transformations, pp. 7-28 (New York: Palgrave, 2003).
- Morning, Ann. The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference (California: University of California Press, 2011); Chapter 7, "Conclusion" 219-248.
- Murphy, Michelle. "Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations." Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4 (2017): 494–503.
- Subramaniam, Banu. n.d. Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity-- Introduction, 1-24 (in zipfile).
- Book Forum on Alondra Nelson, The Social Life of DNA, Somatosphere: http://somatosphere.net/2018/book-forum-alondra-nelson.html.
- Benjamin, Ruha. 2017. “Cultura Obscura: Race, Power, and ‘Culture Talk’ in the Health Sciences.” American Journal of Law & Medicine, December. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0098858817723661.
- Manning, Kenneth R. 1983. Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just. New York: Oxford University Press. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/black-apollo-of-science-9780195034981.
- Marks, Jonathan. 2017. Is Science Racist? Malden, MA: Polity Press. https://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9780745689210.
January 6, 2021
Session 4: "Antiblackness and indigeneity"
- Patricia M. E. Lorcin, "Imperialism, Colonial Identity, and Race in Algeria 1830-1870: The Role of the French Medical Corps," Isis 90 no. 4 (1999): 653-79. https://doi.org/10/fspzkm.
- Maile Arvin, Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai`i and Oceania (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019). https://www.dukeupress.edu/possessing-polynesians. Excerpt: Chapter 2, "Conditionally Caucasian: Polynesian Racial Classification in Early Twentieth-Century Eugenics and Physical Anthropology."
- Warwick Anderson and Ricardo Roque, “Introduction: Imagined Laboratories: Colonial and National Racialisations in Island Southeast Asia,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 49, no. 3 (October 2018): 358–71. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022463418000309.
- Yuko Miki, Frontiers of Citizenship: A Black and Indigenous History of Postcolonial Brazil (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018). https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108277778. Excerpt: Chapter 1, "Outside of Society: Slavery and Citizenship."
December 2, 2020
Session 3: "Race, slavery, ethnography"
This session considers two very different texts—one ethnographic, one historical—that consider racism, race science, and slavery as central structures of "enlightened" industrial modernity:
- Deborah A. Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair (Duke University Press, 2019).
- Andrew S. Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).
Below are suggested excerpts for a short, medium, and longer reading, depending on the time readers have available (all readings/excerpts are available in the zip file below if you are logged into your CHSTM account):
SHORT VERSION: 56 pp
- Thomas: introduction excerpts pp. 1-7, 14-19; chapter 1 excerpts pp. 22-32, 52-60
- Curran: chapter 4 excerpts pp. 167-86, 190-94, 199-204
MEDIUM VERSION: 78 pp
- Thomas: add preface pp. xi-xv
- Curran: add preface pp. ix-xi and introduction excerpt pp. 1-15
LONG VERSION: 150 pp
- Thomas: read full preface + introduction + chapter 1
- Curran: read full preface + introduction + chapter 4
For those interested in hearing the oral testimony of Tivoli Gardens community members captured by Thomas (in ch 1 excerpts), see also: https://www.tivolistories.com/bearing-witness.html.
- David Graeber, “Turning Modes of Production inside out: Or, Why Capitalism Is a Transformation of Slavery,” Critique of Anthropology 26, no. 1 (2006): 61–85.
- Terence D. Keel, “Religion, Polygenism and the Early Science of Human Origins,” History of the Human Sciences 26, no. 2 (2013): 3–32.
- Kavita Philip, Civilizing Natures: Race, Resources, and Modernity in Colonial South India (Rutgers University Press, 2004). [Excerpt: introduction]
November 4, 2020
Session 2: "Race in American anthropology"
This session focuses on work by Lee D. Baker to explore the history of American anthropology and its role in creating, reinforcing, and challenging racial categories. We selected a forthcoming piece from Baker to capture a picture of American anthropology that is wider than its predominant figure, Franz Boas (around which many histories have been narrated). However, recognizing the continuing importance of Boas studies, we will also read an essay by Geoff Bil that reviews 3 major recent works on Boas and offers a critical evaluation of the direction Boas histories are going.
- Lee D. Baker, "W.E.B. Du Bois & Anthropology." (forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of W.E.B. Du Bois)
- Geoff Bil, “Boas in the Age of BLM and Idle No More: Re-Evaluting the Boasian Legacy,” History of Anthropology Review 44 (September 14, 2020).
- Ira Bashkow, “The Boas Circle vs. White Supremacy,” History of Anthropology Review 44 (June 15, 2020), http://histanthro.org/reviews/the-boas-circle-vs-white-supremacy/.
- Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520211681/from-savage-to-negro. [Introduction and chapter 5, "Rethinking Race at the Turn of the Century: W.E.B. Du Bois and Franz Boas," provided below.]
October 7, 2020
Please use pass code 989255 to join the meeting
Session 1: "Anthropology and the universal liberal human"
In this first session, led by Rosanna Dent (NJIT), we will read pieces by Ryan Cecil Jobson and Sylvia Wynter that consider how anthropology is mired by problems of the (so-called) universal liberal human. Readings for this opening session are longer than we anticipate future sessions will be (normally we aim for ~50pp max). Given the length of Wynter's piece, we have provided Elisabeth Paquette's encyclopedia article for a guide to Wynter's work. PDFs of all readings (main and additional) are provided in the "Session 1 Readings."
- Ryan Cecil Jobson, “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019,” American Anthropologist 122, no. 2 (2020): 259–71, https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13398.
- Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation--An Argument,” CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 3 (2003): 257–337, https://doi.org/10/d2js45.
- Elisabeth Paquette, “Wynter and Decolonization,” in Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, ed. Michael A. Peters (Singapore: Springer, 2017), https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_476-1.
- Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús and Jemima Pierre, “Special Section: Anthropology of White Supremacy (introduction),” American Anthropologist 122, no. 1 (2020): 65–75, https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13351.
Tracie Canada is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. She has research and teaching interests in race, sport, kinship, and the performing body.
Allegra Giovine is an independent scholar and editor of HAR and H-SEAsia. She has a background in linguistics, history of science, digital libraries, and Southeast Asia studies, with research focusing on colonial Burma and the history of economics.
Patrícia Martins Marcos
Patrícia Martins Marcos is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History and Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego.
John Tresch is Professor and Mellon Chair in History of Art, Science, and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute in the University of London. He is author of The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon and editor-in-chief of the History of Anthropology Review.