And Along Came Boas

Continuity and revolution in Americanist anthropology

Author
Regna Darnell | University of Western Ontario
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The advent of Franz Boas on the North American scene irrevocably redirected the course of Americanist anthropology. This volume documents the revolutionary character of the theoretical and methodological standpoint introduced by Boas and his first generation of students, among whom linguist Edward Sapir was among the most distinguished. Virtually all of the classic Boasians were at least part-time linguists alongside their ethnological work. During the crucial transitional period beginning with the founding of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1879, there were as many continuities as discontinuities between the work of Boas and that of John Wesley Powell and his Bureau. Boas shared with Powell a commitment to the study of aboriginal languages, to a symbolic definition of culture, to ethnography based on texts, to historical reconstruction on linguistic grounds, and to mapping the linguistic and cultural diversity of native North America. The obstacle to Boas’s vision of anthropology was not the Bureau but the archaeological and museum establishment centred in Washington, D.C. and in Boston. Moreover, the “scientific revolution” was concluded not when Boas began to teach at Columbia University in New York in 1897 but around 1920 when first generation Boasians cominated the discipline in institutional as well as theoretical terms. The impact of Boas is explored in terms of theoretical positions, interactional networks of scholars, and institutions within which anthropological work was carried out. The volume shows how collaboration of universities and museums gradually gave way to an academic centre for anthropology in North America, in line with the professionalization of American science along German lines during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The author is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Centre for Research and Teaching of Canadian Native Languages at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
[Studies in the History of the Language Sciences, 86]  1998.  xviii, 333 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“It’s a measure of any really good book, ..., that it makes you change your mind. For me, Darnell’s work falls squarely into this category.”
“This is a fascinating and insightful work that makes a major contribution to documenting the history of anthropology.”
“[...] an ‘adequate history’ of American anthropology that successfully brings together theories, institutional structures, and networks of anthropologists and thereby convincingly demonstrates existing continuities across the Powellian and Boasian paradigms. [...] Darnell’s account of the shift from the Powellian to the Boasian paradigm makes fascinating reading and should be obligatory for anybody seriously interested in the history of American anthropology and linguistics.”
“[...] Darnell’s dissertation has been the most important unpublished source for the history of the professionalization of North American anthropology, and it is a great pleasure to see it now become available, strongly updated, appropriately expanded, and compactly argued, to a wider audience.”
“[...] a model of intellectual history [...]

It will become a standard reference for the early years of American anthropology.

“[...] of interest not only to historians but also to anyone in anthropology — especially linguistics anthropology [...]

[...] to anyone who wants to understand more about what occurs at the critical junctures when theories change[...]

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Subjects & Metadata
BIC Subject: CF – Linguistics
BISAC Subject: LAN009000 – LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
ONIX Metadata
ONIX 2.1
ONIX 3.0
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  98028940 | Marc record