Franz Boas, “Race” in The Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences

Category : Anthropology, Race

The term race is often used loosely to indicate groups of men differing in appearance, language or culture. As here understood it applies solely to the biological grouping of human types. On account of the lack of sharp lines of demarcation the attempts at classification, based on varying characteristics, have not let to a generally accepted system.

Source: The Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Vol VIII (NY: Macmillan, 1930-35): 25-36

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Franz Boas, “The Universality of Cultural Traits” 

Category : Anthropology, Race

There remains one question to be discussed; namely, whether some tribes represent a lower cultural stage when looked at from an evolutionary point of view.

Our previous discussion has shown that almost all attempts to characterize the mind of primitive man do not take into account racial affiliations, but only stages of culture, and the results of our efforts to determine characteristic racial differences have been of doubtful value. It appears, therefore, that modern anthropologists not only proceed on the assumption of the generic unity of the mind of man, but tacitly disregard quantitative differences which may very well occur. We may therefore base our further considerations on the theory of the similarity of mental functions in all races.

Source: The Mind of Primitive Man (NY: Macmillan, 1911)

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Stanley Diamond, “How to Die in America”

Category : Anthropology, Writing

Slip away
go to the end of the line and keep going
make sure you’re alone
and unknown
go by bus, train or plane
just keep going
don’t let them know

First, take a train to Trenton
then rent a car to Philadelphia, the airport
abandon it
take a plane to Santa Fe or Seattle
makes no difference
keep going till the money runs out
then use the credit card
you can only fly to a big city
the small towns aren’t on the schedule
soon they’ll all be suburbs of Chicago
As this country hardens into concrete,
Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans
grow together at the center.
Center of what?
This state, without a nation.
Without memory
Only capital went west
until there was no place else to go.
Neither horizontal nor vertical
destination nowhere

After Seattle
take a train
a sleeper
and ride it
all the way down to Fayetteville
extinct except as a junction
and otherwise unknown
and drive to Raleigh
Take a bus to Nashville

then to Dallas
Fly to Yucatan
Disappear beyond Uxmal
whittle yourself away
but keep moving
Back to Merida
Sign on to Polynesia
destination Singapore
sew your money into your shirt
throw away your wallet
your keys
the pocket watch your grandfatherg ave you
your wedding ring
the golden strand of your daughter’s hair
the hat that had become your friend
In that last year
then discard your fear
begin to empty out your brain
cut long thoughts
remember then dismember our humanity
and buy your way on a junk
to Penang
Walk dumbly through the city
keep the last object of identity
for the snappy pink police
speedingp ast the turbaned beggars
in their blue Hondas
crazed with disaffiliation
traditions become crimes

So walk like a white man
dissimulate importance
and on the edge of the city
put the last mask behind you
slouch quietly
on dirt roads
becoming trails
destroy the last paper
stop eating
stare carelessly into the sun
remove your shirt
fling the cash into the bush
collapse slowly for another hundred yards
then crawl as far as you can go
into the tall grass
and with your hair on fire
and your soul somewhere else
close your eyes
for the sake of those who will find you
neither hating nor loving
but beyond their grasp

Source: Cultural Anthropology 1.4 (Nov 1986): 447-448

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Claude Levi Strauss, La Pensée savage

It has long been the fashion to invoke languages which lack the terms for expressing such a concept as ‘tree’ or ‘animal’, even though they contain all the words necessary for a detailed inventory of species and varieties. But, to begin with, while these cases are cited as evidence of the supposed ineptitude of ‘primitive people’ for abstract thought, other cases are at the same time ignored which make it plain that richness of abstract words is not a monopoly of civilized languages.

Source: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962

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Elsie Clews Parsons, “Satisfaction of Social Categories” and “Women”

Category : Anthropology, Founding, Women

In any study of the relations between personality and social classification the queries arise why the social categories are alike so compulsive to the conservative-minded and so precious, why they are given such unfailing loyalty, why such unquestioning devotion? To offset the miseries they allow of or further, the tragedies they prepare, what satisfaction do they offer? Do they serve only as measures against change, as safeguards to habit, – this is the answer I once suggested, – raising barriers between those most apt to upset one another’s ways, the inevitably unlike, the unlike in sex, in age, in economic or cultural class?

Source: Social Rule (NY: GP Putnam”s Sons, 1916)

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Hylton White, “Tempora et Mores: Family Values and the Possessions of a Post-Apartheid Countryside”

Category : Anthropology, Race

This paper examines a set of ritual responses to the challenges that post-apartheid  South Africa’s political economy poses to projects of domestic reproduction in the former Bantustan countryside of Zululand, where unemployment has limited the capacities of young men to create marital households. In the case study on which the paper is based, one such man’s misfortunes are connected by divination to the spirit of an older kinsman who disappeared while working as a labor migrant. I argue that this connection and the rituals meant to confront it turn on fraught symbolic relations between the present and two pasts: the past of apartheid migrancy
and a projected past of custom. Like the ghosts by which they are manifest, these times trouble domestic life in the present because of contradictory developments forcing unemployed migrants back on the values of private spheres while they undermine the bases of rural households.

Source: Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 31, Fasc. 4 (Nov., 2001), pp. 457-479

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