History of Anthropology

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • 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:


  • 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.
    Main readings:

    Additional readings:


  • 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."
    Main 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.

    Additional readings:

    • 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.

Group Conveners

  • nmbarron's picture

    Nicholas Barron

    Nicholas Barron is an Assistant 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. 


  • JudithRHKaplan's picture

    Judy Kaplan

    Judy Kaplan is a cultural and intellectual historian of the human sciences with a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century linguistic research. She has published widely on subjects from orientalism to sound studies and is currently working on a new project that unravels histories of research on language universals. She is the NSF Fellow in Residence at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.


  • Paula's picture

    Paula Lopez

    Paula López Caballero is a historian and anthropologist working at the National University in Mexico. The transversal question of her research is to critically examine indigeneity as a historical variable where the State, knowledge production, and ethnographic mediation are deeply intertwined. Her current project examines the first long-term anthropological expeditions in Mexico by Mexican- and U.S.-based social scientists from 1940 to 1960, as a privileged site to document how the daily, routine and systematic encounter with native inhabitants during fieldwork implied new standards of scientific objectification and representation.


  • Ramah Mckay


  • 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.


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