My interview with Nancy Mattina on Gladys Reichard, ‘America’s least appreciated anthropologist’ is now live over at the New Books Network. Go take a listen! Nancy’s carefully-researched book re-captures the achievements of Gladys Reichard, a woman whose achievements, Nancy persuasively argues, was erased by her contemporaries. Perhaps the closest discipline of both Franz Boas and Elsie Clews Parsons, Nancy presents an image of an incredibly productive scholar with a zest for living whose work was disparaged by the sexism of men like Edward Sapir and Clyde Kluckhohn and the classism of blue-blooded women such as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. It’s easy to be put off by Sapir’s misogyny today, but what I thought made this book and our interview so fascinating was Nancy’s portrayal Benedict and Mead not as feminist heroes but as envious of and less-successful than Reichard. In the middle we ask the question: What would have happened to American ethnography if Reichard, carrying Boas’s and Parsons’s style forward, had become hegemonic. It’s a fascinating question! And with Reichard’s wonderful ethnography Spider Woman now available for free download, hopefully more people will be able not only to ask this question, but answer it.
The joke is that we are supposed to have more free time because we are stuck indoors. But in my case — and I’m sure I’m not alone in this — taking my normal load and then adding child care and moving my classes online is not exactly what I’d call creating free time. Just. The. Opposite.
Of course, I’m very fortunate: I’ll still getting paid, and I’m shut in with other people, not unemployed and trapped alone in my studio apartment, or worse. I recognize that. But there is something tantalizing (as in Tantalus) about the current situation: More and more people in higher education and other realms are ungating more and more content during COVID-2019.
Case in point: Project Muse is ungating huge amounts of content. They’ve always been a good organization with good values who publish good stuff, so the list is long. But I’m particularly interested to see that Oklahoma University Press’s Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology series is now open access. Holy cow — that’s a lot of great work. Long-overdue biographies of groundbreaking female anthropologists like Ruth Landes and Cora Du Bois, the new (and only) biography of Franz Boas, the collected essays of Stephen O. Murray, who passed away not too long ago — the list goes on and on.
So if you have all that Copious Free Time that I wish I had, go take a gander at these and all the other great offerings at Project Muse. You’ll see the history of anthropology is far more complicated than just evil dead white men, although to be fair there are a few of those featured in the book as well! It’s a great resource that spans hundreds of years and most of the continents. Go check it out. And… thank you, Project Muse and Oklahoma!