The Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology series consists of critical studies of key aspects of the history of anthropology. The series aims for a balance between the reflexivity of contemporary theory and the historicism which has long been the keynote of the history of anthropology. Below are a few of the newer books in the series.
National Races: Transnational Power Struggles in the Sciences and Politics of Human Diversity, 1840-1945, by senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth Richard McMahon, explores how politics interacted with transnational science in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This interaction produced powerful, racialized national identity discourses whose influence continues to resonate in today’s culture and politics. Ethnologists, anthropologists, and raciologists compared modern physical types with ancient skeletal finds to unearth the deep prehistoric past and true nature of nations. These scientists understood certain physical types to be what Richard McMahon calls “national races,” or the ageless biological essences of nations.
The Enigma of Max Gluckman: The Ethnographic Life of a “Luckyman” in Africa, by professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont and the University of the Free State Robert J. Gordon, examines one of the most influential British anthropologists of the twentieth century. South African–born Max Gluckman was the founder of what became known as the Manchester School of social anthropology, a key figure in the anthropology of anticolonialism and conflict theory in southern Africa, and one of the most prolific structuralist and Marxist anthropologists of his generation. From his position at Oxford University as graduate student and lecturer to his career at Manchester, Gluckman was known to be generous and engaged with his closest colleagues but brutish and hostile in his denunciations of their work if it did not contribute to the social justice and activist vision he held for the discipline.
In Race Experts: Sculpture, Anthropology, and the American Public in Malvina Hoffman’s Races of Mankind Linda Kim examines the complicated and ambivalent role played by sculptor Malvina Hoffman in The Races of Mankind series created for the Chicago Field Museum in 1930. Although Hoffman had training in fine arts and was a protégé of Auguste Rodin and Ivan Meštrović, she had no background in anthropology or museum exhibits. She was nonetheless commissioned by the Field Museum to make a series of life-size sculptures for the museum’s new racial exhibition, which became the largest exhibit on race ever installed in a museum and one of the largest sculptural commissions ever undertaken by a single artist.