Before Boas: The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the by Han F. Vermeulen

By Han F. Vermeulen

The historical past of anthropology has been written from a number of viewpoints, frequently from views of gender, nationality, conception, or politics. Before Boas delves deeper into matters pertaining to anthropology’s educational origins to provide a groundbreaking learn that finds how ethnology and ethnography originated throughout the eighteenth instead of the 19th century, constructing parallel to anthropology, or the “natural historical past of man.”

Han F. Vermeulen explores fundamental and secondary resources from Russia, Germany, Austria, the USA, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and nice Britain in tracing how “ethnography” used to be began as box learn through German-speaking historians and naturalists in Siberia (Russia) during the 1730s and 1740s, was once generalized as “ethnology” through students in Göttingen (Germany) and Vienna (Austria) in the course of the 1770s and 1780s, and was once consequently followed by means of researchers in different countries.

Before Boas argues that anthropology and ethnology have been separate sciences through the Age of cause, learning racial and ethnic variety, respectively. Ethnography and ethnology targeted now not on “other” cultures yet on all peoples of all eras. Following G. W. Leibniz, researchers in those fields labeled peoples basically in keeping with their languages. Franz Boas professionalized the holistic learn of anthropology from the Eighties into the 20th century. 

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This hypothesis, in turn, would confirm Fischer’s and Stagl’s view that Völkerkunde originated in Göttingen (Vermeulen 1988, 1992). Subsequent research in German libraries, especially in Göttingen, provided sufficient evidence for concluding that the early history of Völkerkunde or Ethnographie was indeed a stage in the history of ethnology rather than its prehistory (as Bastian had surmised). In 1994 I had the opportunity to publish a list of forty-two books and journals printed in Germany, Bohemia, and Switzerland between 1771 and 1791 having one of the terms Völkerkunde, Ethnographie, Volkskunde, or Ethnologie in either their titles or the text (Vermeulen 1994a:340–342).

By 1860, however, “anthropology” was primarily reserved for the biological study of human diversity. This trend had been set by the German anatomist Blumenbach, who in 1790–95 reserved the name “anthropology” for a study previously referred to as the “natural history of man” (see chapter 7). In the second half of the nineteenth century, physical anthropology rose to dominance with the founding of anthropological societies in Europe and the United States. Adopting Blumenbach’s terminology, the French physician Paul Broca created the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris in 1859.

Lewis 1973). In 1969 Dell Hymes published a volume on “reinventing anthropology” in which critical anthropologists called for a reflexive approach to ethnography, critical awareness, and ethical concern (Hymes 1969, 1972). Taking a stand against historical studies fueled by political debates, Raymond Firth argued that “anthropology is not the bastard of colonialism but the legitimate offspring of the Enlightenment” (Firth 1972:26; 1975:44). Following Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard, Firth pointed at the eighteenth-century roots of social anthropology, thus distancing the discipline from its ties with colonialism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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