Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Friday and Saturday, September 16-17, 2011
Luce Hall Auditorium, 34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, Connecticut
Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund, Departments of Anthropology, English, and History, Committee on Canadian Studies, European Studies Council, Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Center for Comparative Research, Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, Ezra Stiles College, and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Elizabeth Alexander, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Yale, author of "Praise Song for the Day," the inaugural poem for Barack Obama, The Venus Hottentot, Body of Life, Antebellum Dream Book, and American Sublime, will discuss Franz Boas, Zora Neale Hurston, and the origins of interdisciplinary race studies.
Elijah Anderson, William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale, author of The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City (Komarovsky Award), Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (Robert E. Park Award), and A Place on the Corner, will speak about the German influences upon W. E. B. Du Bois and Franz Boas and the role of Philadelphia in the transformation of racial thought.
María Eugenia Cotera, Associate Professor of American culture at the University of Michigan, author of Native Speakers: Ella Cara Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, Jovita González and the Poetics of Culture, will discuss "ethnography from the inside out"--an original reading of Ella Deloria's correspondence with Boas that reveals the tensions of their long collaboration and its ultimate contribution to our collective racial imaginary.
Regna Darnell, Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and First Nations Studies at the University of Western Ontario, author of Invisible Genealogies: A History of Americanist Anthropology, will discuss Boas as a theorist, presenting The Mind of Primitive Man as a comprehensive theory of the individual and society--one that directly influenced Boasian standpoints on the absence of scientific justification for the marginalization of Indians, Jews, and African-Americans, and that continues to afford perspective on the moral compass of American society.
Michael E. Harkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming, editor of Ethnohistory, author of The Heiltsuks: Dialogues of Culture and History on the Northwest Coast, will consider the Pragmatic dimensions of Boasian social thought, presenting Boas as a thinker with unusual sensitivity to the challenges of globalization that we continue to face ten years after 9/11--a new unfolding of the Boasian position that constructs a kind of pragmatic ethics, welcoming and embracing competing cultural and religious communities.
Martha Hodes, Professor of History at N.Y.U., author of White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (Allan Nevins Prize) and The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century, will rediscover the world of Victorian anthropometry, analyzing scientific data to show the moment when Boas, attempting to measure skin color, discovered that there are no fixed physical types and therefore race cannot properly be said to exist.
David A. Hollinger, Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History at Berkeley, President of the Organization of American Historians in 2010-2011, author of Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism and Science, Jews, and Secular Culture, will offer a comparative analysis of the Boasian circle and the Protestant missionary movement, analyzing the role of Enlightenment universalist conceptions in both traditions.
Alice Beck Kehoe, author of The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization and North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Marquette, will draw on her extensive research in the Lucy Kramer Cohen papers at the Beinecke library to reveal the influence of Boas' student Lucy Kramer and her husband, jurist Felix Cohen, on the Indian New Deal.
Kerwin Lee Klein, Associate Professor of History at Berkeley, author of Frontiers of Historical Imagination and articles for Representations and History and Theory, will discuss Boasian anthropology and the linguistic turn in North American life and letters.
Jürgen Langenkämper, news editor of the Mindener Tageblatt, author of "I Fear That We Do Not Understand Each Other: Franz Boas' Correspondence with German Friends and Colleagues, 1932-1933," will discuss the erasure of Boasian anthropology in Germany, the fates of Boas' German protégés Frida Hahn-Husemann and Günter Wagner, and what happened--or did not happen--in Boas' hometown after World War II.
Harry Liebersohn, Professor of European history at the University of Illinois, author of The Return of the Gift: European History of a Global Idea, The Travelers' World: Europe to the Pacific, and Aristocratic Encounters: European Travelers and North American Indians, will compare The Mind of Primitive Man to its European sources in order to discuss the originality of Boas' ideas on race and culture.
Johnny Mack, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Victoria (Faculty of Law), 2011 Trudeau Scholar, author of "Thickening Totems and Thinning Imperialism," a critical analysis of the Maa-nulth Treaty Agreement, will offer a "primitive account" of colonialism, constitutionalism, and Nuu-chah-nulth political imperative.
Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia, author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination (forthcoming, University of Minnesota Press), co-editor of Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life, author of essays and commentary for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe, will examine the ethics of anthropological genetics at the African Burial Ground in downtown Manhattan.
Ryan Nicolson, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Victoria, will discuss the long impact of anthropology on the Northwest Coast--revealing how the Kwak'wala texts created by Franz Boas and George Hunt have found new meaning in the efforts of Kwakwaka'wakw activists to reintroduce practices, revitalize politics, and reevaluate the land claims process in British Columbia.
Stephen J. Pitti, Professor of History at Yale, author of The Devil in Silicon Valley: Race, Mexican Americans, and Northern California, now at work on The World of César Chávez (Yale University Press), will explore Boas' relationship with his student Manuel Gamio and the role of this partnership in the origins of Mexican American studies.
Michael Silverstein, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, of Linguistics, and of Psychology at the University of Chicago, author of Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to 'W', a longtime fieldworker in indigenous communities of the northwestern regions of North America and Australia, will consider The Mind of Primitive Man alongside Boas' introductory essay to the Handbook of American Indian Languages, presenting 1911 as an "annus mirabilis" for social thought.
Audra Simpson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia, author of Mohawk Interruptus (forthcoming, Duke University Press) and articles in Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems, and Wicazo Sa Review, editor of the "New Directions in Iroquois Studies" edition of the Recherches amérindiennes au québec, and of a new edition of Lewis Henry Morgan's League of the Haudenosaunee, will reconsider Boas in the context of European settler colonialist projects to affix indigenous difference.
John Stauffer, chair of the History of American Civilization program at Harvard, author of The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Frederick Douglass Prize, Avery Craven Award) and Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, will juxtapose the experience of slavery and the experience of modernity, positioning Boas as a paramount modernist--one whose modernism emerged from the study of African-American folklore.
James Tully, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Law, Indigenous Governance and Philosophy at the University of Victoria, author of Strange Multiplicity: Constitutionalism in an Age of Diversity and Public Philosophy in a New Key, recipient of the 2010 Killam Prize, will connect the claims of culture to claims for land, revealing how the Boasian intellectual vision can assist in efforts toward democratic revitalization.
Dale A. Turner, Associate Professor of Government and of Native American Studies at Dartmouth, citizen of the Temagami First Nation in northern Ontario, author of This Is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy, will examine the continuing influence of The Mind of Primitive Man upon contemporary indigenous politics--exploring how indigenous leaders and scholars have woven Boas' ideas about cultural relativism within their legal and political arguments.
Isaiah Wilner, author of The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal, and the Creation of Time Magazine, will offer a micro-history of The Mind of Primitive Man, revealing four moments of international encounter that reshaped Boas' ideas about race and contributed to the making of American modernity.