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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: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/673385
Page Count: 11
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Abstract

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.

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