The Father Of American Anthropology By Franz Boas Essay

The Father Of American Anthropology By Franz Boas Essay

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Beginning with historical particularism, it is the first American-born school of anthropology, founded by the “father of American Anthropology” Franz Boas. It was also born out of rejecting the previous social ideas of scientific racism as well as parallel evolution. Boas was originally trained in the physical sciences and shifted toward anthropology when he began to study Inuit migration patterns (McGee & Warms 2012: 112). He became an advocate of fieldwork, encouraging his students to collect detailed, in-depth studies of the culture being studied. Boas trained a number of great anthropologists that drew inspiration from him, one that included Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber was a theorist in historical particularism; however, he did stray from Boas in a few details. Boas favored studying the individual in a role while Kroeber was interested in the role of an individual (McGee & Warms 2012: 116). He was also more interested in a regional approach to studying cultures. This method differed from Boas’s way of thinking since he valued each culture as a unique concept. Kroeber wrote the Handbook of the Indians of California that looked at the geographic and cultural distribution that related to Native American cultures (McGee & Warms 2012: 116). Boas would not have written about something this broad, instead he would have likely focused on only one of the cultures and wrote in-depth about them. Kroeber simply combined the cultures together to compare them regionally.
Historical particularism was also interested in questioning how cultures changed over time as well as relying on both oral and written histories. Boas argued, “…cultures could only be understood with respect to their unique historical development,” (McGee & Warms 2012: 116). H...


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...anguage. Benjamin Whorf, a linguist who developed the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, also promoted the importance of language. He states that language shapes how humans perceive the world around them and also influence how they behave (Whorf 2012: 117). This idea of fieldwork is still valued and practiced in today’s anthropological studies. However, Boas’s student Kroeber differs slightly with this idea. Kroeber was not as interested with the idea of focusing on a single community but preferred a regional, super-organic view of cultures. A super-organic view of culture simply means to focus on the structure of the culture rather than the individuals inside the culture. Kroeber was still a supporter of historical particularism, but he would rather combine the area cultures together to find similarities and differences instead of focusing on one culture like Boas and Radin.

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