In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology, and Empire in France, 1850-1950
Alice L. Conklin
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In the Museum of Man offers new insight into the thorny relationship between science, society, and empire at the high-water mark of French imperialism and European racism. Alice L. Conklin takes us into the formative years of French anthropology and social theory between 1850 and 1900; then deep into the practice of anthropology, under the name of ethnology, both in Paris and in the empire before and especially after World War I; and finally, into the fate of the discipline and its practitioners under the German Occupation and its immediate aftermath.
Conklin addresses the influence exerted by academic networks, museum collections, and imperial connections in defining human diversity socioculturally rather than biologically, especially in the wake of resurgent anti-Semitism at the time of the Dreyfus Affair and in the 1930s and 1940s. Students of the progressive social scientist Marcel Mauss were exposed to the ravages of imperialism in the French colonies where they did fieldwork; as a result, they began to challenge both colonialism and the scientific racism that provided its intellectual justification. Indeed, a number of them were killed in the Resistance, fighting for the humanist values they had learned from their teachers and in the field. A riveting story of a close-knit community of scholars who came to see all societies as equally complex, In the Museum of Man serves as a reminder that if scientific expertise once authorized racism, anthropologists also learned to rethink their paradigms and mobilize against racial prejudice―a lesson well worth remembering today.
single-center-of-origin-followed-by-differentiation thesis. If this theory were correct, he argued, there should have been a concentration of like fossils at the point where each race originated. Instead, Montandon hypothesized that at first an undifferentiated human ancestor occupied the entire globe, and then gradually and continuously split dichotomously into the various races and subraces. Each split produced a late branch and a precocious branch, and while the races of the late branches
Working of Science in France, 1920–1940,” in Cahiers pour l’Histoire du CNRS, 1939–1989 5 (1989): 7–34. 56 Alexandra Minna Stern, “From Mestizophilia to Biotypology: Racialization and Science in Mexico, 1920–1960,” in Nancy P. Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, eds., Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Chapel Hill, NC, 2003), 188. 57 M. V. Fleury (Eugène Schreider), “Comment on étudie les races humaines. Anthropologie et biotypologie,” Races et Racisme 16–17–18
occurred the next year, Jacques Soustelle, who had been designated secretary of the sixth section, complained bitterly that of six young Institut d’Ethnologie–trained candidates put forward by Rivet only one went through, Denise Paulme. There was, he claimed, a veritable cabal by those sympathetic to the old physical anthropology to prevent the “École du Troca” from gaining seats in the new organization—proven by the fact that the electors had preferred to vote in a zoologist over a Rivet
while the French were not a race because of a long history of miscegenation, they were an ethnie whose future was being destroyed by a “naturally” incompatible Jewish one established throughout the world. Then, in 1938 Montandon had begun to deliver public lectures to openly anti-Semitic and extremist groups, and in November 1939, after France had declared war on Germany, he published his most violent article yet, entitled “L’etnia puttana” in the Italian journal La Difesa dela Razza. He followed
Ethiopian frescoes taken during the Mission Dakar-Djibouti (1931–33) by the ethnologist Marcel Griaule from an early Christian church in Gondar—a display that attached this part of Africa culturally to the West.21 In the White Africa and Levant Hall, the curators highlighted the importance of Islam while dividing the gallery into sections on nomads, oasis dwellers, and mountain peoples; urban life was also represented by one case. The scant European collections contained mostly southern, central,