In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology, and Empire in France, 1850-1950

In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology, and Empire in France, 1850-1950

by Alice L. Conklin

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This book offers new insight into the thorny relationship between science, society, and empire at the high-water mark of French imperialism and European racism.See more details below


This book offers new insight into the thorny relationship between science, society, and empire at the high-water mark of French imperialism and European racism.

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"Conklin's history of French anthropology/ethnology is a very welcome addition to the history of the field, a subtle, detailed, and fine-grained account of the development—in some cases the underdevelopment—of the discipline in the colonial era. She focuses in particular on changing and contested ideas of 'race.' Indeed, anthropology emerged in nineteenth-century France as an elaboration of biological 'race science' under the aegis of Paul Broca, who endeavvored to demonstrate European biological superiority through the rigorous comparative analysis of skeletal remains. Paradoxically, Broca's very rigor ultimately doomed the enterprise."—The International Journal of African Historical Studies

"This masterfully researched study examines the transformation of French anthropology, including its institutionalization and professionalization. . . . As Conklin makes clear in this thorough and highly valuable study, the vestiges of belief in racial hierarchy did not disappear, but the intellectual circles of Rivet and Mauss helped bring it into disrepute."—Martin S. Staum, Isis Journal (September 2014)

"The human sciences are undergoing profound revision at this moment, and the transformation is nowhere more evident than in the case of anthropology and its historiography. The history of anthropology in France has a special role to play in this new discussion because of the strong universalistic tendency in French intellectual life. In this book Alice Conklin traces in fine-grained detail the conflicts, tensions, paradoxes, and debates on the century-long path from a science that accepted racial differences as a fact of nature in the age of European imperialism to the repudiation of 'race' and the study of a unified humanity in the aftermath of World War II. Deeply researched and authoritatively written, Conklin’s book will influence debates about race, human rights, and their intellectual history in the twentieth century." —Harry Liebersohn, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of The Return of the Gift: European History of a Global Idea

"This is a riveting study of French anthropology from the heyday of cranial measurement under the leadership of Paul Broca (d. 1880) to the rise of structural anthropology fashioned by Claude Lévi-Strauss after World War II. Alice L. Conklin takes in institutional, museological, and intellectual evidence, leading to a fascinating reconstruction and critique of the exhibits of the Musée de l'Homme in the 1930s and an insightful discussion of the Vichy interlude and its aftermath."—William M. Reddy, William T. Laprade Professor of History and Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University

"Alice L. Conklin's book is simultaneously a history of the key institutions in which the study of mankind took place, of the discipline of anthropology, of the thinking of social scientists, and of a concept that has played an important and often nefarious role in European history. She demonstrates that rather than there being a 'colonial' or a 'French' conception of race, there was no consensus but heated and unresolved arguments about what, if anything, race meant."—Frederick Cooper, New York University

"In the Museum of Man is a masterful synthesis of the emergence of the new field of anthropology in France. Alice L. Conklin provides a fascinating glimpse into the way in which social thought was shaped in response to historical circumstances. The political stakes in the debate over race were high, especially during World War II, when some scholars who favored the biological interpretation of race ended up collaborating with the Nazis. Others who favored a cultural and historical interpretation either supported the resistance or were murdered by the Nazis because of their Jewish background. Based on a huge amount of primary and secondary research, Conklin's pathbreaking book will be of value to students and scholars of French, European, and even American intellectual, cultural, and political history."—Vicki Caron, Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, Cornell University

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Cornell University Press
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6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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