Iconic as a novelist and popular cultural figure, Zora Neale Hurston remains underappreciated as an anthropologist. Is it inevitable that Hurston’s literary authority should eclipse her anthropological authority? If not, what socio-cultural and institutional values and processes shape the different ways we read her work? Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall considers the polar receptions to Hurston’s two areas of achievement by examining the critical response to her work across both fields. Drawing on a wide range of readings, Freeman Marshall explores Hurston’s popular appeal as iconography, her elevation into the literary canon, her concurrent marginalization in anthropology despite her significant contributions, and her place within constructions of Black feminist literary traditions.
Perceptive and original, Ain’t I an Anthropologist is an overdue reassessment of Zora Neale Hurston’s place in American cultural and intellectual life.