Writing Anthropologists, Sounding Primitives

Writing Anthropologists, Sounding Primitives

The Poetry and Scholarship of Edward Sapir, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict

Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology

by A. Elisabeth Reichel

Published by: Nebraska

462 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 11 photographs, 2 illustrations, 1 appendix, index

  • ISBN: 9781496226082
  • Published: August 2021

£60.00

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Writing Anthropologists, Sounding Primitives re-examines the poetry and scholarship of three of the foremost figures in the twentieth-century history of U.S.-American anthropology: Edward Sapir, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict. While they are widely renowned for their contributions to Franz Boas’s early twentieth-century school of cultural relativism, what is far less known is their shared interest in probing the representational potential of different media and forms of writing. This dimension of their work is manifest in Sapir’s critical writing on music and literature and Mead’s groundbreaking work with photography and film. Sapir, Mead, and Benedict together also wrote more than one thousand poems, which in turn negotiate their own media status and rivalry with other forms of representation.

A. Elisabeth Reichel presents the first sustained study of the published and unpublished poetry of Sapir, Mead, and Benedict, charting this largely unexplored body of work and relevant selections of the writers’ scholarship. In addition to its expansion of early twentieth-century literary canons, Writing Anthropologists, Sounding Primitives contributes to current debates about the relations between different media, sign systems, and modes of sense perception in literature and other media. Reichel offers a unique contribution to the history of anthropology by synthesizing and applying insights from the history of writing, sound studies, and intermediality studies to poetry and scholarship produced by noted early twentieth-century U.S.-American cultural anthropologists.