Asking Questions About Humanity

This was the comment page for the chapter on “Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity” in Cultural Anthropology: A Concise Introduction. Hartwick College students in Cultural Anthropology 2016 read this together with Anthropology and the Savage Slot.

The discussion began with “Anthropology and the Savage Slot,” then proceeded to “Asking Questions About Humanity.” Rough notes:

Chapter One as Missed Opportunity

1. Should begin with Colonialism and properly periodize & define it
2. Should then discuss Industrialization in the context of the Caribbean
3. Then Evolution makes sense as way to explain & justify #1 & #2

The language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. . . . We have no reason to believe that they perform any sort of religious worship. . . . The different tribes have no government or chief. . . . They cannot know the feeling of having a home, and still less that of domestic affection. . . . Their skill in some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals, for it is not improved by experience. (Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle 1831-1836, [2001:183, 191-2])

[Here my argument echoes what I wrote in How Did Anthropology Begin? about the longer textbook version of Welsch & Vivanco]

Recapitulate standard story of institutionalization of social science disciplines

Institutionalized in the 19th-century
Correspond to boundaries of emerging nation-states
French History, the Economy of France, French Politics, Sociology
Standard Story: Founded, now perfected, Bigger & Better
Product of the Enlightenment

Such stories end up in fundamentally strange tales about our history and present

Wallis Asking Questions About Humanity
Image Titled: “A Representation of the Surrender of the Island of Otaheite to Captain Wallis by the Supposed Queen Oberea.” Plate no. 22 [i.e., 23], from vol. 1 of Hawkesworth’s An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere . . . (London, 1773). [Rare Books Division] see Samuel Wallis, 1728–1795 / Philip Carteret, d. 1796