Kwakiutl Ethnography. FRANZ BOAS. Helen. Codere, ed. Chicago & London: Univer- sity of Chicago Press, (publication date ). xxxvii + pp. Presents an unfinished Boas manuscript and selected publications in which the renowned anthropologist records his observations of such aspects of Kwakiutl. Get this from a library! Kwakiutl ethnography.. [Franz Boas; Helen F Codere].

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Studying in Germany, Boas was awarded a doctorate in in physics while also studying geography. He then participated in a geographical expedition to northern Canada, where he became fascinated with the culture and language of the Baffin Island Inuit. He went on to do field work with the indigenous cultures and languages of the Pacific Northwest.

In he emigrated to the United States, where he first worked as a museum curator at the Smithsonian, and in became a professor of anthropology at Columbia Universitywhere he remained for the rest of his career. Through his students, many of whom went on to found anthropology departments and research programmes inspired by their mentor, Boas profoundly influenced the development of American anthropology. Among his most significant students were Manuel GamioAlfred L. Boas was one of the most prominent opponents of the then-popular ideologies of scientific racismthe idea that race is a biological concept and that human behavior is best understood through the typology of biological characteristics.

Boas also worked to demonstrate that differences in human behavior are not primarily determined by innate biological dispositions but are largely the result of cultural differences acquired through social learning. In this way, Boas introduced culture as the primary concept for describing differences in behavior between human groups, and as the central analytical concept of anthropology. Among Boas’s main contributions to anthropological thought was his rejection of the then-popular evolutionary approaches to the study of culture, which saw all societies progressing through a set of hierarchic technological and cultural stages, with Western European culture at the summit.

Boas argued that culture developed historically through the interactions of groups of people and the diffusion of ideas and that consequently there was no process towards continuously “higher” cultural forms. This insight led Boas to reject the “stage”-based organization of ethnological museums, instead preferring to order items on display based on the affinity and proximity of the cultural groups in question.

Boas also introduced the ideology of cultural relativismwhich holds that cultures cannot be objectively ranked as higher or lower, or better or more correct, but that all humans see the world through the lens of their own culture, and judge it according to their own culturally acquired norms.

For Boas, the object of anthropology was to understand the way in which culture conditioned people to understand and interact with the world in different ways and to do this it was necessary to gain an understanding of the language and cultural practices of the people studied. By uniting the disciplines of archaeologythe study of material culture and history, and physical anthropologythe study of variation in human anatomy, with ethnologythe study of cultural variation of customs, and descriptive linguistics, the study of unwritten indigenous languages, Boas created the four field subdivision of anthropology which became prominent in American anthropology in the 20th century.

Although his grandparents were observant Jewshis parents embraced Enlightenment values, including their assimilation into modern German society. Boas’s parents were educated, well-to-do, and liberal; they did not like dogma of any kind. Due to this, Boas was granted the independence to think for himself and pursue his own interests. Early in life, he displayed a penchant for both nature and natural sciences. Boas vocally opposed anti-Semitism and refused to convert to Christianitybut he did not identify himself as a Jew.

The background of my early thinking was a German home in which the ideals of the revolution of were a living force.

My father, liberal, but not active in public affairs; my mother, idealistic, with a lively interest in public matters; the founder about of the kindergarten in my hometown, devoted to science. My parents had broken through the shackles of dogma. My father had retained an emotional affection for the ceremonial of his parental home, without allowing it to influence his intellectual freedom.

From kindergarten on, Boas was educated in natural history, a subject he enjoyed. When he started his university studies, Boas first attended Heidelberg University for a semester followed by four terms at Bonn Universitystudying physics, geography, and mathematics at these schools.

In his dissertation research, Boas’ methodology included investigating how different intensities of light created different colors when interacting with different types of water, [25] however, he encountered difficulty in being able to objectively perceive slight differences in the color of water and as a result became intrigued by this problem of perception and its influence on quantitative measurements.

These factors led Boas to consider pursuing research in psychophysicswhich explores the relationship between the psychological and the physical, after completing his doctorate, but he had no training in psychology. Boas took up geography as a way to explore his growing interest in the relationship between subjective experience and the objective world.


At the time, German geographers were divided over the causes of cultural variation. Inencouraged by Theobald Fischer, Boas went to Baffin Island to conduct geographic research on the impact of the physical environment on native Inuit migrations.

rthnography The first of many ethnographic field trips, Boas culled his notes to write his first monograph titled The Central Eskimowhich was published in in the 6th Annual Report from the Bureau of American Ethnology.

Boas lived and worked closely with the Inuit peoples on Baffin Island, and he developed an abiding interest in the way people lived. The following day, Iwakiutl penciled in his diary, [36]: I often ask myself what advantages our ‘good society’ possesses over that of the ‘savages’ and find, the more I see of their customs, that we have no right to look down upon them We have no right to blame them for their forms and superstitions which may seem ridiculous to us.

We ‘highly framz people’ are much worse, relatively speaking Boas went on to explain in the same entry that “all service, therefore, which a man can perform for humanity must serve to promote truth. It was a difficult year filled with tremendous hardships that included frequent bouts of disease, mistrust, pestilence, and danger.

Boas kwakihtl searched for areas not yet surveyed and found unique ethnographic objects, but the long winter and the lonely treks across perilous terrain forced him to search his soul to find a direction for his life as a scientist and a citizen. Boas’s interest in indigenous communities grew as he worked at the Royal Ethnological Museum in Berlin, where he was introduced to members of the Nuxalk Nation of British Columbia, which sparked a lifelong relationship with the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

He returned to Berlin to kwakijtl his studies. InBoas defended with Granz support his habilitation thesis, Baffin Landand was named privatdozent in geography.

Kwakiutl Ethnography by Boas, Franz

While on Baffin Island he began to develop his interest in studying non-Western cultures resulting in his kwakoutl, The Central Eskimopublished in Boas had studied anatomy with Virchow two years earlier while preparing for the Baffin Island expedition. At the time, Virchow was involved in a vociferous debate over evolution with his former student, Ernst Haeckel.

Haeckel had abandoned his medical practice to study comparative anatomy after reading Charles Darwin ‘s The Origin of Eyhnographyand vigorously promoted Darwin’s ideas in Germany. However, like most other natural scientists prior to the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics in and the development of the modern synthesisVirchow felt that Darwin’s theories were weak because they lacked a theory of cellular mutability.

Accordingly, Virchow favored Lamarckian models of evolution. This debate resonated with debates among geographers. Lamarckians believed that environmental forces could precipitate rapid and enduring changes in organisms that had no inherited source; thus, Lamarckians and environmental determinists often found themselves on the same side of debates.

But Boas bos more closely with Bastian, who was noted for his antipathy to environmental determinism. Instead, he argued for the “psychic unity of mankind”, a belief that all humans had feanz same intellectual capacity, and that all cultures were based on the same basic mental principles.

Variations in custom and belief, he argued, were the products of historical accidents. This view resonated with Boas’s experiences on Baffin Island and drew him towards anthropology. While at the Royal Ethnological Museum Boas became interested in the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, and after defending his habilitation thesis, he left for a three-month kaakiutl to British Columbia via New York. Alienated by growing antisemitism and nationalism as well as the very limited academic opportunities for a geographer in Germany, Boas decided to stay in the United States.

Possibly he received additional motivation for this decision from his romance with Marie Krackowizer, whom he married in the same year. Aside from his editorial work at ScienceBoas secured ethnographt appointment as docent in anthropology at Clark Universityin Boas was concerned about university president G.

Stanley Hall ‘s interference in his research, yet in he was appointed as the head of a newly created department of anthropology at Clark University. In the early s, he went on a series of expeditions which were referred to as the Morris K. The primary goal of these expeditions was to illuminate Asiatic-American relations. Anthropologist Frederic Ward Putnamdirector and curator of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University etjnography, who had been appointed as head of the Department of Ethnology and Archeology for the Chicago Fair inchose Boas as his first assistant at Chicago to prepare for the World’s Columbian Exposition or Chicago World’s Fair, the th anniversary of Christopher Columbus ‘s arrival kwaiiutl the Americas.


Boas directed a team of about one hundred assistants, mandated to create anthropology and ethnology exhibits on the Indians of North America and South America that were living at the time Christopher Columbus arrived in America while searching for India.

Putnam intended the World’s Columbian Exposition to be a celebration of Columbus’ voyage. Putnam argued that showing late nineteenth century Inuit and First Nations then called Eskimo fdanz Indians “in their natural conditions of life” would provide a contrast and celebrate the four centuries kwakiurl Western accomplishments since Franz Boas traveled north to gather ethnographic material for bboas Exposition.

Franz Boas

Boas had intended public science in creating exhibitions for the Exposition where visitors to the Midway could learn about other cultures. Boas arranged for fourteen Kwakiutl aboriginals from British Columbia to come and reside in a mock Kwakiutl village, where they could perform their daily tasks in context. Inuit were there with 12′ long whips made of sealskin, wearing sealskin clothing and showing how adept they were in sealskin kayaks. His experience with the Exposition provided the first of a series of shocks to Franz Boas’ faith in public anthropology.

The visitors were not there to be educated. ByBoas had come to recognize with a certain resignation that “the number of people in our country who are willing and able to enter into the modes of thought of other nations is altogether too small The American who is cognizant only of his own standpoint sets himself up as arbiter of ethnogrzphy world.

After the exposition, the ethnographic material collected formed the basis of the newly created Field Museum in Chicago with Boas fthnography the curator of anthropology.

Inhe organized the Jesup North Pacific Expeditiona five-year-long field-study of the natives of the Pacific Northwest, whose ancestors had migrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia. He attempted to organize exhibits along contextual, rather than evolutionary, lines.

He also developed a research program in line with his curatorial goals: These widening contexts of interpretation were abstracted into one context, the context in which the specimens, or assemblages of specimens, would be displayed: His approach, however, brought him into conflict with the President of the Museum, Morris Jesupand its director, Hermon Bumpus. By Boas had begun to retreat from American museum anthropology as a tool of education or reform Hinsley He resigned innever to work for a museum again.

Some scholars, like Boas’s student Alfred Kroeberbelieved that Boas used his research in physics as a model for his work in anthropology. Many others, however—including Boas’s student Alexander Lesserand later researchers such as Marian W.

SmithHerbert S. Lewisand Matti Bunzl —have pointed out that Boas explicitly rejected physics in favor of history as a model for his anthropological research. This distinction between science and history has its origins in 19th-century German academe, which distinguished between Naturwissenschaften the sciences and Geisteswissenschaften the humanitiesor between Gesetzwissenschaften the law – giving sciences and Geschichtswissenschaften history.

Generally, Naturwissenschaften and Gesetzwissenschaften refer to the study of phenomena that are governed by objective natural laws, while the latter terms in the two oppositions refer to those phenomena that have to mean only in terms of human perception or experience.

InKantian philosopher Wilhelm Windelband coined the terms nomothetic and idiographic to describe these two divergent approaches.

Kwakiutl Ethnography | Milwaukee Public Museum

He observed that most scientists employ some mix of both, but in differing proportions; he considered physics a perfect example of a nomothetic science, and history, an idiographic science.

Moreover, he argued that each approach has its origin in one of the two “interests” of reason Kant had identified in the Critique of Judgement —one “generalizing”, the other “specifying”.

A Logical Introduction to the Historical Sciences ; Boas’s students Alfred Kroeber and Edward Sapir relied extensively on this work in defining their own approach to anthropology. Although Kant considered these two interests of reason to be objective and universal, the distinction between the natural and human sciences was institutionalized in Etnnography, through the organization of scholarly research and teaching, following the Enlightenment.

In Germany, the Enlightenment was dominated by Kant himself, who sought to establish principles based on universal rationality. In reaction to Kant, German scholars such as Johann Gottfried Herder an influence to Boas [45] argued that human creativity, which necessarily takes unpredictable and highly diverse forms, is as important as human rationality.

Inthe great linguist and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt called for an anthropology that would synthesize Kant’s and Herder’s interests. Humboldt founded the University of Berlin inand his work in geography, history, and psychology provided the milieu in which Boas’s intellectual orientation matured. Historians working in the Humboldtian tradition developed ideas ethhnography would become central in Boasian anthropology.