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Boas Franz; Anthropology and Modern Life

SKU: Boas Franz AB040811-134 $34.95
First Edition (not stated) of: Anthropology and Modern Life by Franz Boas Ph.D. published by W.W. Norton & Company Inc. New York in 1928. Black cloth boards with pastedown label. Title author and pub. on printed pastedown label on spine. Dark top stain cut fore-edge and deckled bottom edge. Private bookplate and owners address in ink on front end page. Glue remnants from pastedown label on back end page. 246 off-white pages without foxing spotting tear or loss. No marks or inscriptions. Binding is tight. No dust jacket. Volume measures: 15cm. x 21.7cm. (Octavo). This volume is in as new condition. Franz Boas (pronounced /fr 'nz boES.Az/: July 9 1858 December 21 1942) was a German-American anthropologist a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the ''Father of American Anthropology'' and ''the Father of Modern Anthropology.'' Like many such pioneers he trained in other disciplines: he received his doctorate in physics and did post-doctoral work in geography. He applied the scientific method to the study of human cultures and societies: previously this discipline was based on the formulation of grand theories around anecdotal knowledge. Boas once summed up his approach to anthropology and folklore by saying: ''In the course of time I became convinced that a materialistic point of view for a physicist a very real one was untenable. This gave me a new point of view and I recognized the importance of studying the interaction between the organic and inorganic above all the relation between the life of a people and their physical environment.'' Early life and education Franz Uri Boas was born in Minden Westphalia. Although his grandparents were observant Jews his parents like most people with Jewish ancestry at their place and time embraced Enlightenment values including their assimilation into modern German society. Boas trades parents were educated well-to-do and liberal: they did not like dogma of any kind. Due to this Boas was granted the independence to think for himself and pursue his own interests. Early in life he displayed a penchant for both nature and natural sciences. Boas was sensitive about his Jewish ancestry and while he vocally opposed anti-Semitism and refused to convert to Christianity he did not identify himself as a Jew: indeed according to his biographer''He was an 'ethnic' German preserving and promoting German culture and values in America.'' In an autobiographical sketch Boas wrote: The background of my early thinking was a German home in which the ideals of the revolution of 1848 were a living force. My father liberal but not active in public affairs: my mother idealistic with a lively interest in public matters: the founder about 1854 of the kindergarten in my home town devoted to science. My parents had broken through the shackles of dogma. My father had retained an emotional affection for the ceremonial of his parental home without allowing it to influence his intellectual freedom. From his early experience at the FrAbel kindergarten in Minden to his studies at Gymnasium Boas was exposed to and interested in natural history. Of his work at Gymnasium he was most excited by and proud of his research on the geographic distribution of plants. Nevertheless when Boas attended university '' first at Heidelberg then Bonn where he joined the fraternity Burschenschaft Alemannia zu Bonn in which he stayed for his whole life '' he focused on mathematics and physics (although he also attended a few courses in geography including one taught by Theobald Fischer). He had intended to go to Berlin to study physics but chose to attend the university at Kiel to be closer to his family. Boas had wished to conduct research concerning Gauss's law of the normal distribution of errors but his thesis supervisor Gustav Karsten instructed him to research the optical properties of water instead. Boas received his doctorate in physics from Kiel university in 1881. Boas was not happy with his doctoral thesis and was being intrigued by the problems of perception that had plagued his research. Boas had been interested in Kantian philosophy since taking a course on aesthetics with Kuno Fischer at Heidelberg. Boas also attended Benno Erdmann's seminar at Bonn University another notable Kantian. This interest led Boas to ''psychophysics'' which addressed psychological and epistemological problems in physics. He again considered moving to Berlin to study psychophysics with Hermann von Helmholtz but psychophysics was of dubious status and Boas had no training in psychology. Post-graduate studies Coincidentally Theobald Fischer had moved to Kiel and Boas took up geography as a way to explore his growing interest in the relationship between subjective experience and the objective world. At the time German geographers were divided over the causes of cultural variation. Many argued that the physical environment was the principal determining factor but others (notably Friedrich Ratzel) argued that the diffusion of ideas through human migration is more important. In 1883 Boas went to Baffin Island to conduct geographic research on the impact of the physical environment on native Inuit migrations. The first of many ethnographic field trips Boas culled his notes to write his first monograph titled The Central Eskimo which was published in the 6th Annual Report from the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1888. Boas lived and worked closely with the Inuit peoples on Baffin Island and he developed an abiding interest in the way people lived. In the perpetual darkness of the Arctic winter Boas reported he and his traveling companion became lost and were forced to keep sledding for twenty-six hours through ice soft snow and temperatures that dropped below -46 C. Eventually they secured shelter to rest and recuperate from being half frozen and half starved. The following day Boas penciled in his letter diary: I often ask myself what advantages our 'good society possesses over that of the 'savages' and find the more I see of their customs that we have no right to look down upon them. . . We have no right to blame them for their forms and superstitions which may seem ridiculous to us. We 'highly educated people' are much worse relatively speaking. . . Franz Boas to Marie Krackowizer December 23 1883. Franz Boas Baffin Island Letter-Diary 1883-1884 edited by Herbert Cole. Boas went on to explain in the same entry that all service therefore which a man can perform for humanity must serve to promote truth. Boas was forced to depend on various Inuit groups for everything from directions and food to shelter and companionship. It was a difficult year filled with tremendous hardships that included frequent bouts with disease mistrust pestilence and danger. Boas successfully searched for areas not yet surveyed and found unique ethnographic objects but the long winter and the lonely treks across perilous terrain forced him to search his soul to find a direction for his life as a scientist and a citizen. Boas' interest in indigenous communities grew as he worked at the Royal Ethnological Museum in Berlin where he was introduced to members of the NuxAilk Nation of British Columbia which sparked a lifelong relationship with the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. He returned to Berlin to complete his studies. In in 1886 Boas defended (with Helmholtz' support) his habilitation thesis Baffin Land and was named privatdozent in geography. While on Baffin Island he began to develop his interest in studying non-Western cultures (resulting in his book The Central Eskimo published in 1988). Moreover in 1885 Boas went to work with physical anthropologist Rudolf Virchow and ethnologist Adolf Bastian at the Royal Ethnological Museum in Berlin. Boas had studied anatomy with Virchow two years earlier while preparing for the Baffin Island expedition. At the time Virchow was involved in a vociferous debate with his former student Ernst Haeckel over evolution. Haeckel had abandoned his medical practice to study comparative anatomy after reading Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species and vigorously promoted Darwin's ideas in Germany. However like most other natural scientists prior to the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics in 1900 and the development of the modern synthesis Virchow felt that Darwin's theories were weak because they lacked a theory of cellular mutability. Accordingly Virchow favored Lamarckian models of evolution. This debate resonated with debates among geographers. Lamarckians believed that environmental forces could precipitate rapid and enduring changes in organisms that had no inherited source: thus Lamarckians and environmental determinists often found themselves on the same side of debates. But Boas worked more closely with Bastian who was noted for his antipathy to environmental determinism. Instead he argued for the ''psychic unity of mankind:'' a belief that all humans had the same intellectual capacity and that all cultures were based on the same basic mental principles. Variations in custom and belief he argued were the products of historical accidents. This view resonated with Boas's experiences on Baffin Island and drew him towards anthropology. While at the Royal Ethnological Museum Boas became interested in the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and after defending his habilitation thesis he left for a three month trip to British Columbia via New York. In January 1887 he was offered a job as assistant editor of the journal Science in New York. Alienated by growing antisemitism and nationalism as well as the very limited academic opportunities for a geographer in Germany Boas decided to stay in the United States. He may have also been motivated to do so by his romance with Marie Krackowizer whom he married in the same year. Aside from his editorial work at Science Boas secured an appointment as docent in anthropology at Clark University in 1888. Boas was concerned about university president G. Stanley Hall's interference in his research yet in 1889 he was appointed as the head of a newly-created department of anthropology at Clark University. In the early 1890s he went on a series of expeditions which were referred to as the Morris K. Jesup Expedition. The primary goal of these expeditions was to illuminate Asiatic-American relations. In 1892 Boas together with another member of the Clark faculty resigned in protest of the alleged infringement by Hall on academic freedom. He took the post of chief assistant in anthropology to F.W. Putnam at the Chicago World trades Fair. These exhibits later served as the basis for the Field (Columbian) Museum where Boas served as the curator of anthropology and was succeeded by Wm. H. Homes. In 1896 Boas was named the assistant curator at the American Museum of Natural History again under Putnam. Fin de SiA¨cle debates Science versus history Some scholars like Boas's student Alfred Kroeber believed that Boas used his research in physics as a model for his work in anthropology. Many others however '' including Boas's student Alexander Lesser and later researchers such as Marian W. Smith Herbert S. Lewis and Matti Bunzl '' have pointed out that Boas explicitly rejected physics in favor of history as a model for his anthropological research. This distinction between science and history has its origins in 19th century German academe which distinguished between Naturwissenschaften (the sciences) and Geisteswissenschaften (the humanities) or between Gesetzwissenschaften (the law-giving sciences) and Geschichtswissenschaften (the historical sciences). Generally the first term in either binary refers to the study of phenomena that are governed by objective natural laws: the second term refers to those phenomena that have meaning only in terms of human perception or experience. In 1884 Kantian philosopher Wilhelm Windelband coined the terms nomothetic and idiographic to describe these two divergent approaches. He observed that most scientists employ some mix of both but in differing proportions: he considered physics a perfect example of a nomothetic science and history an idiographic science. Moreover he argued that each approach has its origin in one of the two ''interests'' of reason Kant had identified in the Critique of Judgement '' one ''generalizing'' the other ''specifying.'' (Winkelband's student Heinrich Rickert elaborated on this distinction in The Limits of Concept Formation in Natural Science : A Logical Introduction to the Historical Sciences: Boas's students Alfred Kroeber and Edward Sapir relied extensively on this work in defining their own approach to anthropology.) Although Kant considered these two interests of reason to be objective and universal the distinction between the natural and human sciences was institutionalized in Germany through the organization of scholarly research and teaching following the Enlightenment. In Germany the Enlightenment was dominated by Kant himself who sought to establish principles based on universal rationality. In reaction to Kant German scholars such as Johann Gottfried Herder argued that human creativity which necessarily takes unpredictable and highly diverse forms is as important as human rationality. In 1795 the great linguist and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt called for an anthropology that would synthesize Kant's and Herder's interests. Humboldt founded the University of Berlin in 1809 and his work in geography history and psychology provided the milieu in which Boas's intellectual orientation matured. Historians working in the Humboldtian tradition developed ideas that would become central in Boasian anthropology. Leopold von Ranke defined the task of the historian as ''merely to show as it actually was'' which is a cornerstone of Boas's empiricism. Wilhelm Dilthey emphasized the centrality of ''understanding'' to human knowledge and that the lived experience of an historian could provide a basis for an empathic understanding of the situation of an historical actor. For Boas both values were well-expressed in a quote from Goethe: ''A single action or event is interesting not because it is explainable but because it is true.'' The influence of these ideas on Boas is apparent in his 1887 essay''The Study of Geography'' in which he distinguished between physical science which seeks to discover the laws governing phenomena and historical science which seeks a thorough understanding of phenomena on their own terms. Boas argued that geography is and must be historical in this sense. In 1887 after his Baffin Island expedition Boas wrote ''The Principles of Ethnological Classification'' in which he developed this argument in application to anthropology: Ethnological phenomena are the result of the physical and psychical character of men and of its development under the influence of the surroundings...'Surroundings' are the physical conditions of the country and the sociological phenomena i.e. the relation of man to man. Furthermore the study of the present surroundings is insufficient: the history of the people the influence of the regions through which it has passed on its migrations and the people with whom it came into contact must be considered. This formulation echoes Ratzel's focus on historical processes of human migration and culture contact and Bastian's rejection of environmental determinism. It also emphasizes culture as a context (''surroundings'') and the importance of history. These are the hallmarks of Boasian anthropology (which Marvin Harris would later call ''historical-particularism'') would guide Boas's research over the next decade as well as his instructions to future students. Although context and history were essential elements to Boas's understanding of anthropology as Geisteswissenschaften and Geschichtswissenschaften there is one essential element that Boasian anthropology shares with Naturwissenschaften: empiricism. In 1949 Boas's student Alfred Kroeber summed up the principles of empiricism that define Boasian anthropology as a science: 1. The method of science is to begin with questions not with answers least of all with value judgements. 2. Science is dispassionate inquiry and therefore cannot take over outright any ideologies ''already formulated in everyday life'' since these are themselves inevitably traditional and normally tinged with emotional prejudice. 3. Sweeping all-or-none black-and-white judgements are characteristic of categorical attitudes and have no place in science whose very nature is inferential and judicious. Orthogenetic versus Darwinian evolution One of the greatest accomplishments of Boas and his students was their critique of theories of physical social and cultural evolution current at that time. This critique is central to Boas's work in museums as well as his work in all four fields of anthropology. For this reason some people (notably Derek Freeman) have argued that Boasian anthropology is at odds with Darwin's theory of Evolution. As historian George Stocking noted however Boas's main project was to distinguish between biological and cultural heredity and to focus on the cultural processes that he believed had the greatest influence over social life. In fact Boas supported Darwinian theory although he did not assume that it automatically applied to cultural and historical phenomena (and indeed was a life-long opponont of 19th century theories of cultural evolution such as those of L. H. Morgan and E. B. Tylor). The notion of evolution that the Boasians ridiculed and rejected was the then dominant belief in orthogenesis a determinate or teleological process of evolution in which change occurs progressively regardless of natural selection. Boas rejected the prevalent theories of social evolution developed by Edward Burnett Tylor Lewis Henry Morgan and Herbert Spencer not because he rejected the notion of ''evolution'' per se but because he rejected orthogenetic notions of evolution in favor of Darwinian evolution. The difference between these prevailing theories of cultural evolution and Darwinian theory cannot be overstated: these theorists argued that all societies progress through the same stages in the same sequence. Thus although the Inuit with whom Boas worked at Baffin Island and the Germans with whom he studied as a graduate student were contemporaries of one another evolutionists argued that the Inuit were at an earlier stage in their evolution and Germans at a later stage. This echoed a popular misreading of Darwin that suggested that human beings are descended from chimpanzees. In fact Darwin argued that chimpanzees and humans are equally evolved. What characterizes Darwinian theory is its attention to the processes by which one species transforms into another: ''adaptation'' as a key principle in explaining the relationship between a species and its environment: and ''natural selection'' as a mechanism of change. In contrast Morgan Spencer and Tylor had little to say about the process and mechanics of change. Furthermore Darwin built up his theory through a careful examination of considerable empirical data. Boasian research revealed that virtually every claim made by cultural evolutionists was contradicted by the data or reflected a profound misinterpretation of the data. As Boas's student Robert Lowie remarked''Contrary to some misleading statements on the subject there have been no responsible opponents of evolution as scientifically proved though there has been determined hostility to an evolutionary metaphysics that falsifies the established facts.'' In an unpublished lecture Boas characterized his debt to Darwin thus: Although the idea does not appear quite definitely expressed in Darwin's discussion of the development of mental powers it seems quite clear that his main object has been to express his conviction that the mental faculties developed essentially without a purposive end but they originated as variations and were continued by natural selection. This idea was also brought out very clearly by Wallace who emphasized that apparently reasonable activities of man might very well have developed without an actual application of reasoning Thus Boas suggested that what appear to be patterns or structures in a culture were not a product of conscious design but rather the outcome of diverse mechanisms that produce cultural variation (such as diffusion and independent invention) shaped by the social environment in which people live and act. Boas concluded his lecture by acknowledging the importance of Darwin's work: I hope I may have succeeded in presenting to you however imperfectly the currents of thought due to the work of the immortal Darwin which have helped to make anthropology what it is at the present time. (Boas 1909 lecture: see Lewis 2001b.) Early career: museum studies In the late 19th century anthropology in the United States was dominated by the Bureau of American Ethnology directed by John Wesley Powell a geologist who favored Lewis Henry Morgan's theory of cultural evolution. The BAE was housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the Smithsonian's curator for ethnology Otis T. Mason shared Powell's commitment to cultural evolution. (The Peabody Museum at Harvard University was an important though lesser center of anthropological research). It was while working on museum collections and exhibitions that Boas formulated his basic approach to culture which led him to break with museums and seek to establish anthropology as an academic discipline. During this period Boas made five more trips to the Pacific Northwest. His continuing field research led him to think of culture as a local context for human action. His emphasis on local context and history led him to oppose the dominant model at the time Cultural evolution. Boas initially broke with evolutionary theory over the issue of kinship. Lewis Henry Morgan had argued that all human societies move from an initial form of matrilineal organization to patrilineal organization. First Nations groups on the northern coast of British Columbia like the Tsimshian and Tlingit were organized into matrilineal clans. First Nations on the southern coast like the Nootka and the Salish however were organized into patrilineal groups. Boas focused on the Kwakiutl who lived between the two clusters. The Kwakiutl seemed to have a mix of features. Prior to marriage a man would assume his wife's father's name and crest. His children took on these names and crests as well although his sons would lose them when they got married. Names and crests thus stayed in the mother's line. At first Boas '' like Morgan before him '' suggested that the Kwakiutl had been matrilineal like their neighbors to the north but that they were beginning to evolve patrilineal groups. In 1897 however he repudiated himself and argued that the Kwakiutl were changing from a prior patrilineal organization to a matrilineal one as they learned about matrilineal principles from their northern neighbors. Boas's rejection of Morgan's theories led him in an 1887 article to challenge Mason's principles of museum display. At stake however were more basic issues of causality and classification. The evolutionary approach to material culture led museum curators to organize objects on display according to function or level of technological development. Curators assumed that changes in the forms of artefacts reflect some natural process of progressive evolution. Boas however felt that the form an artefact took reflected the circumstances under which it was produced and used. Arguing that ''though like causes have like effects like effects have not like causes'' Boas realized that even artefacts that were similar in form might have developed in very different contexts for different reasons. Mason's museum displays organized along evolutionary lines mistakenly juxtapose like effects: those organized along contextual lines would reveal like causes. Boas had a chance to apply his approach to exhibits when he was hired to assist Frederic Ward Putnam director and curator of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University who had been appointed as head of the Department of Ethnology and Archeology for the Chicago Fair in 1892. Boas arranged for fourteen Kwakiutl aboriginals from British Columbia to come and reside in a mock Kwakiutl village where they could perform their daily tasks in context. After the Exposition Boas worked at the newly-created Field Museum in Chicago until 1894 when he was replaced (against his will) by BAE archeologist William Henry Holmes. In 1896 Boas was appointed Assistant Curator of Ethnology and Somatology of the American Museum of Natural History. In 1897 he organized the Jesup North Pacific Expedition a five-year long field-study of the natives of the Pacific Northwest whose ancestors had migrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia. He attempted to organize exhibits along contextual rather than evolutionary lines. He also developed a research program in line with his curatorial goals: describing his instructions to his students in terms of widening contexts of interpretation within a society he explained that ''...they get the specimens: they get explanations of the specimens: they get connected texts that partly refer to the specimens and partly to abstract things concerning the people: and they get grammatical information.'' These widening contexts of interpretation were abstracted into one context the context in which the specimens or assemblages of specimens would be displayed: ''...we want a collection arranged according to tribes in order to teach the particular style of each group.'' His approach however brought him into conflict with the President of the Museum Morris Jesup and its Director Hermon Bumpus. He resigned in 1905 never to work for a museum again. Later career: academic anthropology Boas was appointed lecturer in physical anthropology at Columbia University in 1896 and promoted to professor of anthropology in 1899. However the various anthropologists teaching at Columbia had been assigned to different departments. When Boas left the Museum of Natural History he negotiated with Columbia University to consolidate the various professors into one department of which Boas would take charge. Boas's program at Columbia became the first Ph.D. program in anthropology in America. During this time Boas played a key role in organizing the American Anthropological Association as an umbrella organization for the emerging field. Boas originally wanted the AAA to be limited to professional anthropologists but W.J. McGee (another geologist who had joined the BAE under Powell's leadership) argued that the organization should have an open membership. McGee's position prevailed and he was elected the organization's first president in 1902: Boas was elected a vice-president along with Putnam Powell and Holmes. At both Columbia and the AAA Boas encouraged the ''four field'' concept of anthropology: he personally contributed to physical anthropology linguistics archaeology as well as cultural anthropology. His work in these fields was pioneering: in physical anthropology he led scholars away from static taxonomical classifications of race to an emphasis on human biology and evolution: in linguistics he broke through the limitations of classic philology and established some of the central problems in modern linguistics and cognitive anthropology: in cultural anthropology he (along with Polish-English anthropologist BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski) established the contextualist approach to culture cultural relativism and the participant-observation method of fieldwork. The four-field approach understood not merely as bringing together different kinds of anthropologists into one department but as reconceiving anthropology through the integration of different objects of anthropological research into one over-arching object was one of Boas's fundamental contributions to the discipline and came to characterize American anthropology against that of England France or Germany. This approach defines as its object the human species as a totality. This focus did not lead Boas to seek to reduce all forms of humanity and human activity to some lowest common denominator: rather he understood the essence of the human species to be the tremendous variation in human form and activity (an approach that parallels Charles Darwin's approach to species in general). In his 1907 essay''Anthropology'' Boas identified two basic questions for anthropologists: ''Why are the tribes and nations of the world different and how have the present differences developed?'' Amplifying these questions he explained the object of anthropological study thus: We do not discuss the anatomical physiological and mental characteristics of man considered as an individual: but we are interested in the diversity of these traits in groups of men found in different geographical areas and in different social classes. It is our task to inquire into the causes that have brought about the observed differentiation and to investigate the sequence of events that have led to the establishment of the multifarious forms of human life. In other words we are interested in the anatomical and mental characteristics of men living under the same biological geographical and social environment and as determined by their past. These questions signal a marked break from then-current ideas about human diversity which assumed that some people have a history evident in a historical (or written) record while other people lacking writing also lack history. For some this distinction between two different kinds of societies explained the difference between history sociology economics and other disciplines that focus on people with writing and anthropology which was supposed to focus on people without writing. Boas rejected this distinction between kinds of societies and this division of labor in the academy. He understood all societies to have a history and all societies to be proper objects of anthropological society. In order to approach literate and non-literate societies the same way he emphasized the importance on studying human history through the analysis of other things besides written texts. Thus in his 1904 article''The History of Anthropology'' Boas wrote that The historical development of the work of anthropologists seems to single out clearly a domain of knowledge that heretofore has not been treated by any other science. It is the biological history of mankind in all its varieties: linguistics applied to people without written languages: the ethnology of people without historic records: and prehistoric archeology. Historians and social theorists in the 18th and 19th centuries had speculated as to the causes of this differentiation but Boas dismissed these theories especially the dominant theories of social evolution and cultural evolution as speculative. He endeavored to establish a discipline that would base its claims on rigorous empirical study. One of Boas's most important books The Mind of Primitive Man (published in 1911) integrated his theories concerning the history and development of cultures and established a program that would dominate American anthropology for the next fifteen years. In this study he established that in any given population biology language material and symbolic culture are autonomous: that each is an equally important dimension of human nature but that no one of these dimensions is reducible to another. In other words he established that culture does not depend on any independent variables. He emphasized that the biological linguistic and cultural traits of any group of people are the product of historical developments involving both cultural and non-cultural forces. He established that cultural plurality is a fundamental feature of humankind and that the specific cultural environment structures much individual behavior. Boas also presented himself as a role-model for the citizen-scientist who understand that even were the truth pursued as its own end all knowledge has moral consequences. The Mind of Primitive Man ends with an appeal to humanism: I hope the discussions outlined in these pages have shown that the data of anthropology teach us a greater tolerance of forms of civilization different from our own that we should learn to look on foreign races with greater sympa