History of Anthropology

Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user

Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • March 2, 2022

    A discussion with Anand Pandian, Professor and Department Chair of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, on relations between current anthropological practice and the discipline's history.
    -Anand Pandian, "A Method of Experience: Reading, Writing, Teaching, Fieldwork," pp.44-76, in A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times (Duke, 2019). Attached below.
    -Claude Levi-Strauss, from Tristes Tropiques (John and Doreen Weightman, trans., NY, Atheneum, 1975): "The Quest for Power" (37-45); and "The Making of an Anthropologist" (51-61), Scanned in zip file below; full text of Tristes Tropiques is available here for borrowing.
    NOTE: this session will end fifteen minutes earlier than usual (1:15 pm EST) to allow for Professor Pandian's teaching schedule.

  • February 2, 2022

    Multi-Species Anthropology: An Open Discussion
    This session will discuss excerpts from two recent works of "multispecies anthropology": Anna Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015), and Radhika Govindrajan's Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India's Central Himalayas (2018).
    These books have been much discussed among anthropologists and historians of science (and "the human" sciences); they mark an intriguing turn in anthropology toward ethnography beyond the human.
    In our planning for this session, other candidates were raised for discussion--  including Donna Haraway on primates and companions, Gergory Bateson on cats, wolves, and octopi, Japanese primatology, Konrad Lorenz, Marisol de la Cadena, Stefan Helmreich, Tim Ingold,Geof Bil and Harold Conklin on Ethnobotany,  Marcy Norton on chickens and Quetzal, Rousseau on orangoutans-- and many more.
    We look forward to discussing these two texts informally, while asking how to situate multispecies ethnography within the longer history of anthropology.
    Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World:On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015), vii-9
    Radhika Govindrajan's Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India's Central Himalayas (2018), Chapter 2, 31-61; (and optional: Chapt 3, 91-118; Chapt 5, 119-145).
    Looking forward to seeing you there.

  • December 1, 2021

    This month's session will not have any readings. Instead, we will be hearing and discussing the work of some of the editors of the History of Anthropology Review who presented papers at the 2021 American Anthropological Association (AAA) and History of Science Society (HSS) conferences taking place this month.
    They'll have the chance to share their work, discuss the conference reactions, and reflect on the state of History of Anthropology as shown in these two (zoom-heavy) conferences.
    We will hear from Patricia Martins Marcos, Tracie Canada, Nick Barron, and Cameron Brinitzer, members of our editorial board and longstanding participants in the working group. Titles will be added soon.
    Patricia Martins Marcos: Racialized Knowledges: Manipulating Nature, Blackness, and Epistemic Disciplining in the Portuguese Inquisition.
    Tracie Canada: From panel: Vindication, Imagination, and Decolonization: African Americans and the Experience of Anthropology (George W. Stocking, Jr. Symposium)
    Nick Barron: Cultural Islands: The Pluralistic Politics of Anthropology
    Cameron Brinitzer : Social Learning Mechanisms: The Evolution of Culture and Its Sciences.
    Others TBA
    Please join us December 1st for a lively and multi-faceted conversation!

  • November 3, 2021

    This session, led by Elizabeth Ferry and Les Field, will consider past and present perspectives in the anthropology of value with special attention paid to the study of gold. Please find the list of readings below and all readings either hyperlinked or in the zip file. 
    Main Readings: 

  • 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.
    Main Readings:

    • 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-....

    Additional Readings

    • 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.
    Main Readings

    • 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.

    Additional Readings

    • 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"
    Main Readings

    Additional Readings

    • 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.
    • https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/biden-picks-alondra-nelson-deputy-science-policy-chief-75299191

    Additional readings:

  • January 6, 2021

    Session 4: "Antiblackness and indigeneity"
    Main readings:

    • 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."

    Additional readings:

    • 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:

    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


    • 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.
    Additional readings:


Group Conveners

  • nmbarron's picture

    Nicholas Barron

    Nicholas Barron is an Assitant Professor (Faculty-in-Residence) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research interests include the history of applied anthropology and Indigenous political formations in North America. He is a managing editor with the History of Anthropology Review and the book reviews editor for Anthropology and Humanism. 


  • rdent's picture

    Rosanna Dent

    Rosanna Dent is an assistant professor at NJIT, where she teaches courses on the history of science, medicine, and technology, with an emphasis on the global South. She is currently working on a book manuscript on the history of twentieth century research in A'uwe (Xavante, Indigenous) communities in Central Brazil. The book examines how a half-century of iterative interactions of scholars and community members have shaped knowledge production as well as the political and social realities of both subjects and scholars. 


  • t.moore36's picture

    Taylor M. Moore

    Taylor M. Moore is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on the history of magic, medicine, and museums in 19th and 20th century Egypt. She is currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. 


  • brigidp's picture

    Brigid Prial

    Brigid Prial is a PhD student in the History and Sociology of Science department at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation explores how chimpanzees became lab animals in the 20th century U.S. She examines how chimpanzees transformed from a promising research animal to an inappropriate one and what forms of knowledge, experience, and relations matter in high-stakes decisions about animal lives.


234 Members