The Franz Boas Enigma

Ludger Muller-Wille, Author
Ludger Muller-Wille. Baraka Books (IPG, North American dist.), $24.95 trade paper (188p) ISBN 978-1-77186-001-7
Reviewed on: 04/07/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-306-45652-4
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-77186-016-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-77186-014-7
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Franz Boas was a pioneer of anthropology, but much of his early career remains unknown. To remedy this, Muller-Wille, a McGill University anthropologist who specialized in Arctic studies, examines Boas's life in the 1880s, when he began his fieldwork among the Inuit of Baffin Island, and immediately following, when he developed the skills and contacts that later fostered his career. Life was uncertain for Boas both personally and financially. He was traveling back and forth from Germany to the United States, writing and speaking to scientific societies for an irregular income. Many of Boas's writings were in German-language publications and have remained largely unknown to English readers until now. He wrote both journalistic and scholarly works on ethnology, the Inuit oral culture, Arctic whalers, and the geography of the North. Muller-Wille meticulously encapsulates these works and the circumstances surrounding their composition, of interest not only to anthropologists but also to historians. But he does not go into any great biographical detail, glossing over both Boas's personal difficulties and influences. For example, Muller-Wille mentions, tantalizingly, the influence that the anti-Semitism Boas experienced as a German Jew may have played on his views of race and ethnicity, but he doesn't elaborate enough to completely unravel the so-called enigma. (Mar.)
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