Stocking, George W. (ed.)
2003 American Anthropology 1921-1945: Papers from the American Anthropologist. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Notes: Reprint of selected papers from the American Anthropologist, 1888-1920.
Reviewed 01 Sep 2008 by:
Christina B. Rieth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
New York State Museum, Albany, New York, USA
Medium: Written Literature Subject
Anthropology - United States - History - 20th century
Anthropologists' writings, American
ABSTRACT: This volume highlights important papers published in the journal between 1921 and 1945, a dynamic period in American anthropology in which key figures, including Franz Boas, Alfred Kroeber, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Julian Stewart, and Leslie White, transformed the discipline with their attention to the role of the individual and their role in developing and maintaining the cultural norms of society.
Throughout the twentieth century, the journal American Anthropologist has been arguably the leading journal of practicing anthropologists in the United States. The journal has represented the views and attitudes of the discipline for more than a century. The period dating between 1921 and 1945 can be distinguished as a dynamic period in American anthropology in which key figures, including Franz Boas, Alfred Kroeber, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Julian Stewart, and Leslie White, transformed the discipline into what it is today. Their attention to the role of the individual and their role in developing and maintaining the cultural norms of the society was a fundamental characteristic of this time period.
In this volume, George Stocking highlights the important papers published in the journal during this period and provides a representative sample of articles. The volume contains five sections representing the prevailing periods and themes . The first section is entitled "The Twenties" and consists of articles by anthropologists that highlight the important role of the diffusion of culture traits in society and the important role that they played in early Boasian thought. Articles by Alfred Kroeber, Ralph Linton, Leslie Spier, and Robert Lowie, all students of Franz Boas, highlight these ideas and discuss how these traits manifest themselves in the social and linguistic characteristics of society. North and South American case studies are provided and document groups whose cultural features would subsequently disappear with the advent of modern invention civilization (?).
The second section, "Innovations", contains articles by Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Julian Steward, Robert Redfield, and A. I. Hallowell. These articles discuss the incorporation of new ideas into a society and the processes that such societies go through to adapt to these changes. Radcliffe-Brown’s structural-functional approach and Julian Stewart’s environmental approach highlight the competing viewpoints of the time. Unlike the earlier diffusionist approaches proposed by Boas, Radcliffe-Brown and Stewart sought to understand how outside influences effected the development of culture while Mead and Benedict sought to understand the role that individual personality played in culture.
The third section is titled "Subdisciplines" and highlights the four-field approach to anthropology that characterized the first half of the twentieth century. During that period, archaeology, ethnology, physical anthropology, and linguistics were important components of anthropology – they provided a means of understanding the human experience in its totality. Articles by W. D. Strong, Edgar Howard, B. Whorf, Edward Sapir, C. F. Voegelin, Morris Swadesh, W. Howells, Leland Wyman and William Boyd are provided and highlight the various approaches to the sub-disciplines.
By the end of the period, many of these sub-disciplines would come into their own with the development of their own anthropological societies. One of their common challenges was the incorporation of both amateur and professionals into the same society. The development of professional codes of practice were a partial solution, and , alongside Educational criteria for anthropologists working in universities, museums, and in government agencies , were lasting contributions of this period.
The fourth section of the book is "Reconsiderations". It highlights changes that were occurring in the discipline by the end of the Second World War. Among these changes were a reconsideration of the role of culture in society and the direction that anthropology should take in the future. The growing nature of the discipline allowed for the incorporation of new ideas and new methods for collecting data. Articles by Leslie White critiquing kinship terminology and David Bidney discussing cultural fallacies of the time provide representative examples of the reevaluation of the discipline. During the second half of the twentieth century, many of these ideas would take shape in the form of environmental and evolutionary approaches to anthropology.
The final section is entitled "Applications", and addresses the applied approach to anthropology that was prevalent during the first half of the twentieth century. Applied approaches to the study of non-Western societies and the defense of less desirable groups, such as Jews and African-Americans, were important to anthropologists. Franz Boas was among the most vocal proponents of this view and instilled it into his influential students. The extent of support for this approach is exemplified by the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association nearly being cancelled due to the venue’s policy against permitting African-Americans. Articles, including the society’s resolution on racial theories, are contained in this volume.
This volume makes a significant contribution to the discipline and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the anthropology of this time period.