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Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of…
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Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented… (editie 2019)

door Charles King (Auteur)

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1763119,431 (4.08)10
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award From an award-winning historian comes a dazzling history of the birth of cultural anthropology and the adventurous scientists who pioneered it--a sweeping chronicle of discovery and the fascinating origin story of our multicultural world. A century ago, everyone knew that people were fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But Columbia University professor Franz Boas looked at the data and decided everyone was wrong. Racial categories, he insisted, were biological fictions. Cultures did not come in neat packages labeled "primitive" or "advanced." What counted as a family, a good meal, or even common sense was a product of history and circumstance, not of nature. In Gods of the Upper Air, a masterful narrative history of radical ideas and passionate lives, Charles King shows how these intuitions led to a fundamental reimagining of human diversity.      Boas's students were some of the century's most colorful figures and unsung visionaries: Margaret Mead, the outspoken field researcher whose Coming of Age in Samoa is among the most widely read works of social science of all time; Ruth Benedict, the great love of Mead's life, whose research shaped post-Second World War Japan; Ella Deloria, the Dakota Sioux activist who preserved the traditions of Native Americans on the Great Plains; and Zora Neale Hurston, whose studies under Boas fed directly into her now classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Together, they mapped civilizations from the American South to the South Pacific and from Caribbean islands to Manhattan's city streets, and unearthed an essential fact buried by centuries of prejudice: that humanity is an undivided whole. Their revolutionary findings would go on to inspire the fluid conceptions of identity we know today.       Rich in drama, conflict, friendship, and love, Gods of the Upper Air is a brilliant and groundbreaking history of American progress and the opening of the modern mind.… (meer)
Lid:jscape2000
Titel:Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century
Auteurs:Charles King (Auteur)
Info:Anchor (2019), 406 pages
Verzamelingen:2021, Audiobooks, Gelezen, maar niet in bezit
Waardering:*****
Trefwoorden:Geen

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Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century door Charles King

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Toon 3 van 3
"Facts go down mighty hard with some folks."

King quotes Zora Neale Hurston writing this in 1945. She wasn't wrong then, nor now. The core of this book is full description and condemnation of the systemic racism and sexism in America that has been a matter of custom and legislation since [at least] the Civil War, and of the staunch efforts to combat those policies by a group of academics in the first half of the 20th century. Franz Boas and his students marshaled facts about human bodies and behaviors, hard data by the sheaf, to undermine the pseudo-science that formed the bulwark of 'scientific racism' underlying American eugenics, Jim Crow, and the Nazi "Final Solution." These efforts, and these shibboleths, are as timely now as could possibly be imagined; that a great deal of this work was conducted and published by women was even more astounding given the character of academia before the 1960s.

But this book is messy and unsatisfying. Long passages of bitter US social history are interspersed with "biographies" of Margaret Mead and a few other specific souls (Ruth Benedict and Hurston, in particular) that amount to episodes of sexual escapades while on-the-clock. Their actual writings deserved more attention. And Edward Sapir! King portrays Sapir as little more than a creepy, possessive lecher, without detailing his accomplishments: for instance, his 1929 "The Status of Linguistics as a Science" is still required reading in most anthropology grad programs, or the lingering legacy of his collaborations through the 1930s with Benjamin Worf (the Sapir-Worf Hypothesis, anyone?).

I'm an anthropologist by training and practice. Some of my older professors had known many of the people in this book well, and had passed along much that is in King's book and much that is not. King has attempted to humanize Boas, Mead, Benedict, Hurston, Deloria, and others with tales of frivolity, volatility, and sexual liaisons, but it makes them look more tawdry than human and overworked (not to mention underpaid). This is a good enough book, but it should have been better. ( )
  MLShaw | May 19, 2021 |
Totally fascinating. In some ways horrifying. I'm now anxious to seek out these anthropologists' work to reread. Well researched, with good notes and bibliography. Engaging writing really kept me turning pages. Great storytelling and very eye-opening for me. ( )
  njcur | Oct 28, 2020 |
A timely reminder. One of the discouraging aspects of the current rise of racist arguments in public discourse is that it pretends that the last hundred years of social science never happened. Yet Boas demonstrated that race is primarily a socially constructed category, and not the simple recognition of an external reality. Further, different cultures are simply that, different, and not superior. For example, Western society may appear to be "better" than more traditional societies, but that is only because it is more efficient at achieving the goals that Westerners have deemed to be important. So we prioritize money over all other values, and judge our way of life superior because it earns more money (for some). But if you value other things--kinship, spirituality, community--then Western culture is a poor method to realize those goals.

The story of the Boasian circle, particularly Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, is thus needed. This book not only does that job, but does it supremely well. A must read. ( )
  dono421846 | Sep 2, 2019 |
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Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award From an award-winning historian comes a dazzling history of the birth of cultural anthropology and the adventurous scientists who pioneered it--a sweeping chronicle of discovery and the fascinating origin story of our multicultural world. A century ago, everyone knew that people were fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But Columbia University professor Franz Boas looked at the data and decided everyone was wrong. Racial categories, he insisted, were biological fictions. Cultures did not come in neat packages labeled "primitive" or "advanced." What counted as a family, a good meal, or even common sense was a product of history and circumstance, not of nature. In Gods of the Upper Air, a masterful narrative history of radical ideas and passionate lives, Charles King shows how these intuitions led to a fundamental reimagining of human diversity.      Boas's students were some of the century's most colorful figures and unsung visionaries: Margaret Mead, the outspoken field researcher whose Coming of Age in Samoa is among the most widely read works of social science of all time; Ruth Benedict, the great love of Mead's life, whose research shaped post-Second World War Japan; Ella Deloria, the Dakota Sioux activist who preserved the traditions of Native Americans on the Great Plains; and Zora Neale Hurston, whose studies under Boas fed directly into her now classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Together, they mapped civilizations from the American South to the South Pacific and from Caribbean islands to Manhattan's city streets, and unearthed an essential fact buried by centuries of prejudice: that humanity is an undivided whole. Their revolutionary findings would go on to inspire the fluid conceptions of identity we know today.       Rich in drama, conflict, friendship, and love, Gods of the Upper Air is a brilliant and groundbreaking history of American progress and the opening of the modern mind.

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