Boas - ners may still be mystically joined (Beidelman...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: ners may still be mystically joined (Beidelman 1963). Blood pacts were usu- ally concluded between status equals (Evans-Pritchard 1933), although occa~ sionally they were concluded between roy— als and commoners. Often, as with the Nyoro and the Kaguru, blood pacts were done with strangers in a distant land, as a means of gaining a permanent ally while traveling (Beidelman 1963). Among the Soninke of Niger, a man might offer to become a grim, or praise-singer, for another man — in effect, voluntarily enslaving him- self — and this arrangement was concluded via a blood pact (Paulme 1973). In general, the pacts were usually concluded between two men, but occasionally they may have been made between a man and a woman, as among some married Azande couples (Evans-Pritchard 1933). AG Boas, Franz (1858-1942) was born to middle-class parents in the Westphalian town of Minden in 1858. His early studies focused on science and mathematics, and his doctorate from the University of Kiel was in the field of physics. After completing the doctorate in 1881, he took up a position in geography at the University of Berlin. In 1883—4, Boas undertook an expedition to Baffin Land, where he intended to demon— strate the effects of the Arctic environment on Eskimo culture. His experiences there, however, turned his interests toward the study of culture itself. In 1886 he mounted a purely ethnographic expedition to British Columbia, where he studied the natives of the Northwest Coast, and he soon became a leading figure in anthropology. Boas did not return to Germany after the trip; he settled briefly in New York, where he married Marie Krackowizer and worked as an editor for Science. After a teaching position at Clark University from 1888 to 1892, Boas became Chief Assistant in an- thropology at the World's Columbian Ex- position in Chicago. His work helped make the Columbian a landmark in the history of American anthropology, and he served briefly afterward as Curator of Anthropol- ogy at the Field Museum. Finally, in 1895, Boas returned to New York to work at the American Museum of Natural History and at Columbia University. He became a pro- Boas 43 fessor of anthropology at Columbia in 1899, and he remained there for the rest of his career. During his tenure at Columbia, Boas achieved virtually every scientific recogni- tion available, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the presi— dency of the American Anthropological Association, and the presidency of the American Association for the Advance- ment of Science. He also achieved con- siderable notoriety for his statements on political issues, some of which were per— ceived as unpatriotic during World War I, and for which he was briefly censured by the American Anthropological Association in 1917. He was a prodigious author and fieldworker, publishing six books and over 700 monographs and articles. He retired in 1936, but remained active as an anthro— pologist until the very moment of his death in 1942. He was survived by three children and two grandchildren, and at his death was widely regarded as the world’s leading anthropologist. Work When Boas began his ethnography in 1883, anthropology had neither a solid base of data nor a scientific theoretical approach. Anthropologists relied on travelers’ ac- counts, missionary reports, and popular stereotypes for their information about non-Western peoples. Out of these dubious materials, they constructed elaborate theo— ries of evolution, racial types, and the primitive mind. With a missionary’s zeal, Boas fought to replace such practices with reliable information and careful theorizing. To the extent that anthropology became a science in the early twentieth century, it was due to Boas’s work. Gathering the data for this science was one of his primal}r concerns. As a physical anthropologist, Boas developed systematic methods for measuring human growth, de- velopment, and physical change. As a lin— guist, he established the recording and analysis of indigenous languages as a cen- tral task of ethnography. As a cultural an- thropologist, he carried out extensive field research on the Northwest Coast, and dis- patched graduate students all over the Americas and the Pacific. He pursued these proiects with a desperate intensity, anxious 44 3013‘:r to record as much as possible about non- Westem cultures before the spread of European COLONIALISM destroyed them. His efforts generated an unprecedented wealth of systematically gathered informa- tion, and set anthropology for the first time on a sound empirical foundation. This new information, he argued, ex— posed the weakness of the grand theories of RACE, EVOLUTION, and CULTURE that dominated nineteenth-century anthropol- ogy. Boas regarded generalization as inher- ently dangerous; cultures were so complex, and the histoncal processes that generated them so convoluted, that broad schemes explaining the “laws” of culture were sel— dom possible. The diverse developmental histories of the cultures he studied, for example, discredited popular orthogenic theories of cultural evolution. Likewise, theories of GEOGRAPHIC DETERMINE.“ C01- lapsed in the face of the tremendous variety of solutions that his subjects found for the challenges of their environments. The road to understanding human beings lay not in the lofty realms of grand theory, but through limited studies of specific prob- lems, set in the contexts of the cultures in which they occurred. This approach implied a radical au- tonomy for culture. Most earlier theory had reduced culture to an expression of some deeper force, such as racial character, in— stinct, intellectual struggle, or a sort of evolutionary manifest destiny. For Boas, culture was itself an actor, shaping the ma- terial and psychological world of those within it. While any particular culture could be explained as a result of a specific history, none was reducible to a simple an— tecedent cause, and each could be under- stood only on its own terms. Legacy Boas has never been identified with a par- ticular theory, and he founded no “Boasian school” of anthropology. His legacy was rather in the approach he fostered, the data he gathered, and the students he taught. In these areas, his influence on the discipline was profound. Boas effecrively demolished race and orthogenic evolution as paradigms for anthropological thought; he established the methods and standards for field re- search that cor. tinue to guide the discipline; he established CULTURAL RELATIVISM as a governing viewpoint within anthropology. His students dominated American anthro- pology for more than half a century. They included Alfred KROEBER, Margaret MEAD, Ruth BENEDICT, Edward SAPIR, Melville HERSKOVITS, Robert Loans, A. Irving Hallowell, Ashley Montagu, Ruth Bunzel, Paul Radin, Leslie Spier, and many others. Boas also established the relevance of anthropology for the larger world, argu~ ing that their knowledge of human culture gave anthropologists an abilityr and a duty to critique the cultures in which they lived. His own fiery attacks on RACISM and unthinking NATIONALISM paved the way for Margaret Mead and others to make anthropology among the most visible and progressive of the human sciences. AB See aa’w ANTHROPOLOGY, CULTURAL AND SOCIAL, HISTORICAL PARTICULARISM, HISTORY AND ANTHROPOLOGY further reading Boas 1911, Goldschmidt 1959; Stocking 1974 1 940; body See anowscsnca, soov DECORA- TION, DEATH, ruarrvlroLLU'noN, REIN- CARNATION, SPIRIT body decoration A rather special kind of ART involves the decoration of the hu- man body. Among the peoples of the cen- tral highlands of New Guinea, this is the most important type of art, since these people do little carving, painting, or mask making. In these societies, the decorations people wear and the painting of the body at ritual performances and exchange ceremo- nies convey messages about social and religious values and also demonstrate rela- tionships to clan ancestral spirits. The Melpa of the central highlands of Papua New Guinea use particular colors in body painting and certain combinations of colors in feathers, shells, and beads that convey abstract qualities like health and vitality (A. Strathern 8.: Strathern 1971). The Wahgi, who live near the Melpa, also express their aesthetic impulses through the decoration and adornment of the human body. Feather adomments and painting of the face and body during dances carried out at the Wahgi pig festivals serve to communi- ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 2

Boas - ners may still be mystically joined (Beidelman...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online