Re: Blumenbach and Boas

Richard Spear (rspear@PRIMENET.COM)
Mon, 23 Jan 1995 09:12:17 -0700

This issue was significant during the Vietnam War. I recall (and
participated in!) a demonstation at an AAA meeting here is southern CA
critical of anthropologists involved in government work with highland
tribes ... sorry, the details have now faded, but the opposition repeated
Boas' earlier position (I didn't know that untill now!).

Regards, Richard

On Sun, 22 Jan 1995, Ian Mast wrote:

> I am not sure who the 4 individual spies were, but I believe the
> 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
> information.
> 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
> less.
> Ian Mast