An Anthropologist's Arrival: A Memoir
Ruth M. Underhill, Edited by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Stephen E. Nash University of Arizona Press, 2014 Library of Congress GN21.U48A3 2014 | Dewey Decimal 301.092
Ruth M. Underhill (1883–1984) was one of the twentieth century’s legendary anthropologists, forged in the same crucible as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead. After decades of trying to escape her Victorian roots, Underhill took on a new adventure at the age of forty-six, when she entered Columbia University as a doctoral student of anthropology. Celebrated now as one of America’s pioneering anthropologists, Underhill reveals her life’s journey in frank, tender, unvarnished revelations that form the basis of An Anthropologist’s Arrival. This memoir, edited by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Stephen E. Nash, is based on unpublished archives, including an unfinished autobiography and interviews conducted prior to her death, held by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
In brutally honest words, Underhill describes her uneven passage through life, beginning with a searing portrait of the Victorian restraints on women and her struggle to break free from her Quaker family’s privileged but tightly laced control. Tenderly and with humor she describes her transformation from a struggling “sweet girl” to wife and then divorcée. Professionally she became a welfare worker, a novelist, a frustrated bureaucrat at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a professor at the University of Denver, and finally an anthropologist of distinction.
Her witty memoir reveals the creativity and tenacity that pushed the bounds of ethnography, particularly through her focus on the lives of women, for whom she served as a role model, entering a working retirement that lasted until she was nearly 101 years old.
No quotation serves to express Ruth Underhill’s adventurous view better than a line from her own poetry: “Life is not paid for. Life is lived. Now come.”
Elsie Clews Parsons was a pioneering feminist, an eminent anthropologist, and an ardent social critic. In Elsie Clews Parsons, Desley Deacon reconstructs Parsons's efforts to overcome gender biases in both academia and society.
"Wonderfully illuminating. . . . Parsons's work resonates strikingly to current trends in anthropology."—George W. Stocking, Jr., Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"This is the biography of a woman so interesting and effective—a cross between Margaret Mead and Georgia O'Keeffe. . . . A nuanced portrait of this vivid woman."—Tanya Luhrmann, New York Times Book Review
"A marvelous new book about the life of Elsie Clews Parsons. . . . It's as though she is sitting on the next rock, a contemporary struggling with the same issues that confront women today: how to combine work, love and child-rearing into one life."—Abigail Trafford, Washington Post
"Parsons's splendid life and work continue to illuminate current puzzles about acculturation and diversity."—New Yorker
In this pathbreaking study, Micaela di Leonardo reveals the face of power within the mask of cultural difference. From the 1893 World's Fair to Body Shop advertisements, di Leonardo focuses on the intimate and shifting relations between popular portrayals of exotic Others and the practice of anthropology. In so doing, she casts new light on gender, race, and the public sphere in America's past and present.
"An impressive work of scholarship that is mordantly witty, passionately argued, and takes no prisoners."—Lesley Gill, News Politics
"[Micaela] di Leonardo eloquently argues for the importance of empirical, interdisciplinary social science in addressing the tragedy that is urban America at the end of the century."—Jonathan Spencer, Times Literary Supplement
"In her quirky new contribution to the American culture brawl, feminist anthropologist Micaela di Leonardo explains how anthropologists, 'technicians of the sacred,' have distorted American popular debate and social life."—Rachel Mattson, Voice Literary Supplement
"At the end of di Leonardo's analyses one is struck by her rare combination of rigor and passion. Simply, [she] is a marvelous iconoclast."—Matthew T. McGuire, Boston Book Review
Although feminist ethnography is an emerging genre, the question of what the term means remains open. Recent texts that fall under this rubric rely on unexamined notions of "sisterhood" and the recovery of "lost" voices. Writing about her work with women in Southern India, Kamala Visweswaran addresses such troubled questions in the essays that make up Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Blurring distinctions between ethnographic and literary genres, the author employs the narrative strategies of history, fiction, autobiography and biography, deconstruction, and postcolonial discourse to reveal the fictions of ethnography and the ethnography in fiction. In the process of reflecting on the nature of anthropology itself Visweswaran devises an experimental approach to writing feminist ethnography.
What sets this work apart from other self-reflexive feminist ethnographies is its rigorous engagement with the concrete inequalities, refusals, and misunderstandings between the author and the women she worked with in India. In each essay, she takes up the specific ellipses of power differentials in her field research and works out their epistemological consequences. The result is a series of contextualizations of the politics of identity in the field, at "home," and within the lives of women who particpated in the Indian nationalist movement. We learn in lucid detail about the partiality of knowledge and the inevitable difficulties and violations involved in representing the lives of women, both inside and outside the United States. Clearly and forcefully written, this book should be of interest not only to anthropologists but also to cultural theorists and critics, feminist scholars and writers, and other social scientists who grapple with epistemological and political issues in their fields.
"Fictions of Feminist Ethnography is an ambitious, experimental, comprehensive and learned book directed at a professional (anthropological) audience. I find the book thought-provoking and highly recommendable because of the sensitive, critical and sometimes even surprisingly innovative handling of 'data'. In addition to the sharp analyses, it succeeds in elegantly combining form and content, and in mastering the unification of literary criticism with identity politics and a sophisticated feminism." Folk - Journal of Danish Ethnographic Society
"The text provides an excellent resource for thinking about what constitutes 'reading,' 'writing,' and 'researching' from a feminist ethnographic positioning." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography
"In reaching beyond traditional ethnographic form, Kamala Visweswaran places her own style of feminist ethnography at the nexus of feminist anthropology and literature-in the forms of autobiography, personal narrative, fable and fiction. By working through these 'experimental' forms Kamala Visweswaran puts her own theories of feminist ethnography into practice, calling traditional positivist ethnographic form into question, as well as the rather limited definitions of current experimental ethnography." Cross Cultural Poetics
Kamala Visweswaran is an assistant professor of anthropology in the graduate faculty at the New School for Social Research.
Elizabeth A. Povinelli Duke University Press, 2021 Library of Congress GN21.P685A3 2021
Elizabeth A. Povinelli’s inheritance was passed down not through blood or soil but through a framed map of Trentino, Alto Adige—the region where family's ancestral alpine village is found. Far more than a map hanging above the family television, the image featured colors and lines that held in place the memories and values fueling the Povinelli family's fraught relationships with the village and with each other. In her graphic memoir The Inheritance, Povinelli explores the events, traumas, and powers that divide and define our individual and collective pasts and futures. Weaving together stories of her grandparents' flight from their village in the early twentieth century to the fortunes of their knife-grinding business in Buffalo, New York, and her own Catholic childhood in a shrinking Louisiana woodlands of the 1960s and 1970s, Povinelli describes the serial patterns of violence, dislocation, racism and structural inequality that have shaped not only her life but the American story. Plumbing the messy relationships among nationality, ethnicity, kinship, religion, and belonging, The Inheritance takes us into the gulf between the facts of history and the stories we tell ourselves to survive and justify them.
This prodigious volume represents a landmark assemblage of the significant work of the legendary anthropologist and Native American intellectual Beatrice Medicine.
For half a century, Dr. Medicine has defied stereotypes, racism, and sexism in her life and work while combating the reductive, patronizing views of Native Americans perpetuated by mainstream anthropologists. This retrospective collection reflects her unswerving commitment to furthering Native Americans' ability to speak for themselves and deal with the problems of contemporary life.
Learning to Be an Anthropologist and Remaining "Native" includes Medicine's clear-eyed views of assimilation, bilingual education, and the adaptive strategies by which Native Americans have conserved and preserved their ancestral languages. Her discussions of sex roles in contemporary Native American societies encompass homosexual orientation among males and females and the "warrior woman" role among Plains Indians as one of several culturally accepted positions according power and prestige to women. The volume also includes Medicine's thoughtful assessments of kinship and family structures, alcoholism and sobriety, the activism implicit in the religious ritual of the Lakota Sioux Sun Dance, and the ceremonial uses of Lakota star quilts.
"The Native American is possibly the least understood ethnic minority in contemporary American society," Medicine observes. Her decades of deliberate, generous, dedicated work have done much to reveal the workings of Native culture while illuminating the effects of racism and oppression on Indian families, kinship units, and social and cultural practices.
My Family and Other Saints
Kirin Narayan University of Chicago Press, 2007 Library of Congress GN21.N37A3 2007 | Dewey Decimal 306.850954792092
In 1969, young Kirin Narayan’s older brother, Rahoul, announced that he was quitting school and leaving home to seek enlightenment with a guru. From boyhood, his restless creativity had continually surprised his family, but his departure shook up everyone— especially Kirin, who adored her high-spirited, charismatic brother.
A touching, funny, and always affectionate memoir, My Family and Other Saints traces the reverberations of Rahoul's spiritual journey through the entire family. As their beachside Bombay home becomes a crossroads for Westerners seeking Eastern enlightenment, Kirin’s sari-wearing American mother wholeheartedly embraces ashrams and gurus, adopting her son’s spiritual quest as her own. Her Indian father, however, coins the term “urug”—guru spelled backward—to mock these seekers, while young Kirin, surrounded by radiant holy men, parents drifting apart, and a motley of young, often eccentric Westerners, is left to find her own answers. Deftly recreating the turbulent emotional world of her bicultural adolescence, but overlaying it with the hard-won understanding of adulthood, Narayan presents a large, rambunctious cast of quirky characters. Throughout, she brings to life not just a family but also a time when just about everyone, it seemed, was consumed by some sort of spiritual quest.
“A lovely book about the author's youth in Bombay, India. . . . The family home becomes a magnet for truth-seekers, and Narayan is there to affectionately document all of it.”—Body + Soul
“Gods, gurus and eccentric relatives compete for primacy in Kirin Narayan's enchanting memoir of her childhood in Bombay.”—William Grimes, New York Times
In the early twentieth century, the field of anthropology transformed itself from the “welcoming science,” uniquely open to women, people of color, and amateurs, into a professional science of culture. The new field grew in rigor and prestige but excluded practitioners and methods that no longer fit a narrow standard of scientific legitimacy. In Rhetoric in American Anthropology, Risa Applegarth traces the “rhetorical archeology” of this transformation in the writings of early women anthropologists. Applegarth examines the crucial role of ethnographic genres in determining scientific status and recovers the work of marginalized anthropologists who developed alternative forms of scientific writing.
Applegarth analyzes scores of ethnographic monographs to demonstrate how early anthropologists intensified the constraints of genre to define their community and limit the aims and methods of their science. But in the 1920s and 1930s, professional researchers sidelined by the academy persisted in challenging the field’s boundaries, developing unique rhetorical practices and experimenting with alternative genres that in turn greatly expanded the epistemology of the field. Applegarth demonstrates how these writers’ folklore collections, ethnographic novels, and autobiographies of fieldwork experiences reopened debates over how scientific knowledge was made: through what human relationships, by what bodies, and for what ends. Linking early anthropologists’ ethnographic strategies to contemporary theories of rhetoric and composition, Rhetoric in American Anthropology provides a fascinating account of the emergence of a new discipline and reveals powerful intersections among gender, genre, and science.
Anthropology is by definition about "others," but in this volume the phrase refers not to members of observed cultures, but to "significant others"—spouses, lovers, and others with whom anthropologists have deep relationships that are both personal and professional. The essays in this volume look at the roles of these spouses and partners of anthropologists over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially their work as they accompanied the anthropologists in the field. Other relationships discussed include those between anthropologists and informants, mentors and students, cohorts and partners, and parents and children. The book closes with a look at gender roles in the field, demonstrated by the "marriage" in the late nineteenth century of the male Anthropological Society of Washington to the Women’s Anthropological Society of America. Revealing relationships that were simultaneously deeply personal and professionally important, these essays bring a new depth of insight to the history of anthropology as a social science and human endeavor.
Spanning more than one hundred years of women’s careers and lives, this collection illuminates what it was and is to be a female archaeologist. These personal accounts of researchers, ethnographers, and field archaeologists in the private, public, and academic sectors highlight the unique role women have played in the development of American and Great Basin archaeology. Written by women trained or working in the Great Basin, these accounts reflect the broader landscape of American archaeology, offering a glimpse into a larger narrative about making one’s way in a historically male field. By sharing their stories, the authors highlight the positive aspects of the field, recognize the challenges that still exist, and encourage conversations about inclusion, diversity, and the future of archaeology in the Great Basin and beyond. Their authentic and intimate narratives inspire us to look at challenges not as roadblocks, but as opportunities for lifelong growth and success.