You are not currently logged in.

Access JSTOR through your library or other institution:


Log in through your institution.

Journal Article

Four-Field Anthropology: Charter Myths and Time Warps from St. Louis to Oxford

Dan Hicks
Current Anthropology
Vol. 54, No. 6 (December 2013), pp. 753-763
DOI: 10.1086/673385
Stable URL:
Page Count: 11
  • Download PDF
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.


The four-field model of anthropology is conventionally understood to have begun with a paper read by Franz Boas in St. Louis in 1904. Publishing for the first time a drawing made by Augustus Pitt-Rivers in England in 1882, this paper rethinks this proposition by making two arguments. First, the paper explores the role of the classificatory anthropology of the 1870s and 1880s on both sides of the Atlantic in the emergence of the idea of organizing anthropological knowledge. It suggests that this emergence was bound up with the problem of classifying anthropological knowledge in material form in European and North American museums. Second, the paper considers how our knowledge of the discipline's past can develop from the study of objects and documents (rather than only through rereading anthropologists' published texts), in a manner akin to documentary archaeology. In this respect, the anthropological problem of organizing knowledge in material form is still with us, but with a new challenge: How adequate are our current forms of disciplinary historiography for the use of material evidence? Rather than proposing a new set of “charter myths,” the paper explores writing the history of four-field anthropology as a form of material culture studies or historical archaeology (in other words, as a subfield of anthropology), working with the “time warps” created by museums and archives in which disciplinary history is not always already written.

Notes and References

This item contains 80 references.

References Cited
  • ['Anthropological Society of Washington. 1882. Historical notice. Transaction of the Anthropological Society of Washington 1:5–7.']
  • ['Ardener, E. 1971. Social anthropology and the historicity of historical linguistics. In Social anthropology and language. E. Ardener, ed. Pp. 209–242. Association of Social Anthropologists Monograph 10. London: Tavistock .']
  • ['———. 1987 (1985). Social anthropology and the decline of modernism. In The voice of prophecy and other essays. Pp. 191–210. Oxford: Blackwell.']
  • ['BAAS (British Association for the Advancement of Science). 1874. Notes and queries on anthropology for the use of travellers and residents in uncivilized lands. London: British Association for the Advancement of Science.']
  • ['Boas, F. 1896. The limitations of the comparative method of anthropology. Science 4(103):901–908.']
  • ['———. 1898. Introduction. In Traditions of the Thompson River Indians of British Columbia, collected and annotated by James Teit. Pp. 1–18. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin.']
  • ['———. 1904. The history of anthropology. Science 20(512):513–524.']
  • ['Borofsky, R. 2002. The four subfields: anthropologists as mythmakers. American Anthropologist 104(2):463–480.']
  • ['Brinton, D. G. 1892a. Anthropology as a science and as a branch of university education. Philadelphia: [Privately printed].']
  • ['———. 1892b. The nomenclature and teaching of anthropology. American Anthropologist 5:263–266.']
  • ['———. 1892c. Proposed classification and international nomenclature of the anthropological sciences. In Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the 41st Meeting Held at Rochester, NY. F. W. Putnam, ed. Pp. 257–258. Salem, MA: Salem Press.']
  • ['———. 1896. The aims of anthropology. In Proceedings of the 44th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Springfield, Massachusetts. F. W. Putnam, ed. Pp. 1–17. Salem, MA: Salem Press.']
  • ['Bruner, E. M. 2010. Revisiting the four fields, again. Anthropology Newsletter 51(1):4.']
  • ['Castañeda, Q. E. 2003. Stocking’s historiography of influence: the “story” of Boas, Gamio and Redfield at the cross-“road to light.” Critique of Anthropology 23(3):235–263.']
  • ['Clarke, D. L. 1972. Models in archaeology. London: Methuen.']
  • ['Cohn, B. S. 1980. History and anthropology: the state of play. Comparative Studies in Society and History 22(2):198–221.']
  • ['Coon, C. 1940. Review of “Akiga’s Story”: the Tiv Tribe as seen by one of its Members. American Anthropologist 42:511–512.']
  • ['Darnell, R. 1998. And along came Boas: continuity and revolution in Americanist anthropology. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science. Amsterdam: John Betjamins.']
  • ['De Laguna, F. 1960. The development of anthropology. In American anthropology, 1888–1920. Pp. 101–114. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson and Co. for the American Anthropological Association.']
  • ['Durkheim, E. 1915. The elementary forms of religious life. J. W. Swain, trans. London: Allen & Unwin.']
  • ['Evans, Chris. 2013. Pitt-Rivers in Canada (and America): the Filmer album and Notman Studio Lane Fox portraits, and the John Wimburn Laurie diary entries,”']
  • ['Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1939. Nuer time-reckoning. Africa 12:189–216.']
  • ['———. 1950. Social anthropology: past and present. Man 50:118–124.']
  • ['Fabian, J. 1983. Time and the other: how anthropology makes its object. New York: Columbia University Press.']
  • ['Gell, A. 1992. The anthropology of time. Oxford: Berg.']
  • ['Gilbert, J. 2009. Whose fair? Experience, memory and the history of the great St. Louis Exposition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.']
  • ['Gosden, C., and F. Larson. 2007. Knowing things: exploring the collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, 1884–1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press.']
  • ['Haddon, A. C. 1898. The study of man. New York: Putnam’s Sons.']
  • ['———. 1903. President’s address: anthropology, its position and needs. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 33:11–23.']
  • ['———. 1906. Ethnology: its scope and problems. In International Congress of Arts and Science, Volume X: anthropology and mental science. H. J. Rogers, ed. Pp. 549–570. New York: University Alliance.']
  • ['———. 1910. History of anthropology. New York: Putnam’s Sons.']
  • ['Harris, M. 1968. The rise of anthropological theory: a history of theories of culture. New York: Crowell.']
  • ['Hicks, D. 2010. The material-cultural turn: event and effect. In The Oxford handbook of material culture studies. D. Hicks and M. C. Beaudry, eds. Pp. 25–98. Oxford: Oxford University Press.']
  • ['Hicks, D., and M. C. Beaudry. 2006. Introduction: the place of historical archaeology. In The Cambridge companion to historical archaeology. D. Hicks and M. C. Beaudry, eds. Pp. 1–9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.']
  • ['Hicks, D., and M. Petraglia. 2013. North America. In World archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. D. Hicks and A. Stevenson, eds. Pp. 409–454. Oxford: Archaeopress.']
  • ['Hodder, I. 2005. An archaeology of the four-field approach in anthropology in the United States. In Unwrapping the sacred bundle: reflections on the disciplining of anthropology. D. A. Segal and S. J. Yanagisako, eds. Pp. 126–140. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.']
  • ['Hymes, Dell. 1962. On studying the history of anthropology. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 26:81–86.']
  • ['Ingold, T. 1996. “The concept of society is theoretically obsolete”: introduction. In Key debates in anthropology. T. Ingold, ed. Pp. 57–59. London: Routledge.']
  • ['Kroeber, A. L. 1935. History and science in anthropology. American Anthropology 37(4):539–569.']
  • ['Kuhn, T. 1970. The structure of scientific revolutions, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.']
  • ['Lamb, D. S. 1906. The story of the Anthropological Society of Washington. American Anthropologist 8:564–579.']
  • ['Lane Fox, A. H. [Pitt-Rivers]. 1872. Report on anthropology, at the Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1872 at Brighton. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 2:350–362.']
  • ['Larson, F. 2008. Anthropological landscaping: General Pitt Rivers, the Ashmolean, the University Museum and the shaping of an Oxford discipline. Journal of the History of Collections 20(1):85–100.']
  • ['Leach, E. 1973. Structuralism in social anthropology. In Structuralism: an introduction. D. Robey, ed. Pp. 37–57. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['Liss, J. E. 1995. Patterns of strangeness: Franz Boas, modernism and the origins of anthropology. In Prehistories of the future: the primitivist project and the culture of modernism. E. Barkan and R. Bush, eds. Pp. 114–131. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.']
  • ['Lowie, R. 1937. The history of ethnological theory. New York: Rinehart.']
  • ['Malinowski, B. 1922. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge & Sons.']
  • ['———. 1926. Myth in primitive psychology. London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Taubner.']
  • ['———. 1944. A scientific theory of culture, and other essays. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.']
  • ['Marett, R. R. 1936. Tylor. London: Chapman & Hall.']
  • ['McGee, W. J. 1906. Anthropology and its larger problems. In International Congress of Arts and Science, Volume X: anthropology and mental science. H. J. Rogers, ed. Pp. 449–467. New York: University Alliance.']
  • ['Moses, Y. T. 1997. Are four fields in our future? Anthropology Newsletter 38(9):8–11.']
  • ['Oxford University. 1872a. Notice by the Board of Studies for the Natural Science School of the University of Oxford. Oxford: Oxford University.']
  • ['———. 1872b. Oxford University examination statutes, June 1872. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['———. 1886. Oxford University examination statutes revised to Trinity term 1886. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['———. 1906. Oxford University examination statutes for the examination year 1906–1907. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['———. 1914. Oxford University examination statutes for the examination year 1914. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['Parezo, N. J. and D. D. Fowler. 2007. Anthropology goes to the fair: the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.']
  • ['Pitt-Rivers, A. H. L. F. 1882. Anniversary address to the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 11:487–509.']
  • ['Pocock, D. F. 1961. Social anthropology. London: Sheed & Ward.']
  • ['Powell, J. W. 1892. Remarks on Brinton’s “The nomenclature and teaching of anthropology.” American Anthropologist 5:266–271.']
  • ['Preucel, R. W., and S. Mrozowski. 2010. The new pragmatism. In Contemporary archaeology in theory: the new pragmatism. Pp. 1–50. New York: Wiley.']
  • ['Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. 1940. On social structure. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 70(1):1–12.']
  • ['———. 1941. The study of kinship systems. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland 71(1–2):1–18.']
  • ['Riviere, P., ed. 2007. A history of Oxford anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn.']
  • ['Rogers, H. J., ed. 1906. International Congress of Arts and Science, Volume X: anthropology and mental science. New York: University Alliance.']
  • ['Rolleston, G. 1884. Scientific papers and addresses, vol. 2. W. Turner. Oxford: Clarendon.']
  • ['Stocking, G. W. 1960a. American social scientists and race theory: 1890–1915. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.']
  • ['———. 1960b. Franz Boas and the founding of the American Anthropological Association. American Anthropologist 62:1–17.']
  • ['———. 1966. Franz Boas and the culture concept in historical perspective. American Anthropologist 68(4):867–882.']
  • ['———. 1974. The background of Boas’ anthropology. In The shaping of American anthropology, 1833–1911: a Franz Boas reader. G. Stocking, ed. Pp. 21–23. New York: Basic.']
  • ['———. 1988. Guardians of the sacred bundle: the American Anthropological Association and the representation of holistic anthropology. In Learned societies and the evolution of the disciplines. ACLS Occasional Paper no. 5. S. B. Cohen, D. Bromwich, and G. W. Stocking, eds. Pp. 17–25. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.']
  • ['———. 1992. The ethnographer’s magic and other essays in the history of anthropology. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.']
  • ['———. 1995. After Tylor: British social anthropology, 1888–1951. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.']
  • ['Sturtevant, W. C. 1969. Does anthropology need museums? Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 82:619–649.']
  • ['Topinard, P. 1878. Anthropology. R. T. H. Bartley, trans. London: Chapman & Hall.']
  • ['Tylor, E. B. 1885. Presidential address to the Anthropology Section. In Report of the fifty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Montreal in August and September 1884. Pp. 899–910. London: John Murray.']
  • ['Vansina, J. 1970. Cultures through time. In A handbook of method in cultural anthropology. R. Naroll and R. Cohen, eds. Pp. 165–179. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press.']
  • ['Voegelin, E. W. 1950. Anthropology in American universities. American Anthropologist 52:350–391.']
  • ['Wolf, E. 1982. Europe and the people without history. Berkeley: University of California Press.']