Re: Blumenbach and Boas

Ian Mast (imast@SUN.CIS.SMU.EDU)
Sun, 22 Jan 1995 23:23:30 -0600

letter had to do with the conflict of interest that Boas perceived in
regard to anthropologists working for the government during war time.

Many anthropologists who had worked abroad, especially in those areas
which were enemy territory, were employed by the government during the WW
I. In many cases, anthropologists were some of the few people who had
visited some of the more remote areas. For this reason, anthropologists
were able to offer reconaissance information as well as cultural

Boas believed that anthropologists who used their position to do "covert"
work for the government jeopardized the entire future of anthropology.
How would anthropologists be able to gain the trust of foreign peoples of
these same peoples believed the information they gave could be used
against them.

Boas was also fairly unhappy about US involvement in the war. (He grew up
in Germany.) I think in general, Boas wanted to keep the entities of
anthropology and politics separate. This was part of Boas's effort to
professionalize anthropology.

Anyway, I think that is the general context of the whole matter. More or

Ian Mast