OR-02 - Scheper-Hughes - Ishis Brain - Ishi's brain, Ishi's...

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1Ishi's brain, Ishi's ashes: Anthropology and genocide. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy The following essay is a critical reflection by a member of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley in response to demands by Native Californians for the repatriation of ancestral remains and sacred artifacts that are part of the permanent collections kept in the Hearst (formerly Lowie) Museum of Anthropology. After more than ten years under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the US federal law that requires that all Native American human remains and sacred funeral objects be identified and repatriated to appropriately designated indigenous groups, to date only two small material objects have been returned from the vast collections at Berkeley. The tensions between Native Californians and university officials and anthropologists came to a head in the late 1990s when Art Angle, a Maidu Indian activist, asked that the brain of 'Ishi', a famous California Indian, removed during autopsy at the University of California Medical Center in March 1916 (when he was under the special protection of Alfred Kroeber and the Department of Anthropology), be located and returned to Ishi's cultural descendants in the area of Mt. Lassen, along with his ashes which were kept in a Pueblo jar in a cemetery in Oakland, California. When it was discovered that A.L. Kroeber himself had sent the brain to be 'curated' at the Smithsonian Institution, I was asked to chair small departmental committee to review the data and draft a formal statement of response by our department. As I became more involved I began to attend public hearings and to visit leaders of several Indian communities near Ishi country. What follows, then, is not a research report but a foray into engaged or public anthropology, critically applied work by the anthropologist speaking and acting as a citizen rather than as a specialist, though obviously informed by anthropological principles. Its tone reflects the fact that repatriation of ancestral remains is an extremely emotional topic among older northern California Indians.' Invisible genocides
2Modern anthro pology was built up in the face of colonial and post-colonial genocides, ethnocides, population dieouts, and other forms of mass destruction visited on the 'non-Western' peoples whose lives, suffering and deaths provide the raw material for much of our work. Yet despite this history -- and the privileged position of the ethnographer as eye-witness to some of these events -- anthropology has been, until quite recently, relatively mute on the subject. Although predisposed by our training not to see the political or manifest forms of violence that so often ravage the lives of our subjects, anthropologists are somewhat better at analyzing psychological (see Devereux 1961; Edgerton 1992; Scheper-Hughes 2000 [1979]) and symbolic forms of violence (see Bourdieu and Waquant, 1992:111-205) that underlie so many ordinary human institutions and social interactions.

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