Rediscovering Papa Franz: Teaching Anthropology and modern life

Holly Swyers


 When confronted with the task of choosing texts for an undergraduate four-field course in a joint sociology/anthropology department, I elected to teach with Franz Boas’ 1928 text, Anthropology and modern life . Six years in, I have become enamored of the text for teaching undergraduates. This essay examines the question of how an early twentieth-century textbook applies to the questions of the twenty-first century and how Boas continues to play an active role in how anthropological work is presented to the public in sites like the Field Museum of Chicago. Considering Boas’ work on race, nationalism, eugenics, and education enables students and others to see themselves in dialogue with a long four-field tradition in anthropology, and revisiting his legacy as professional anthropologists offers us space to be joyful in our own often-troubled history.


History of anthropology; Franz Boas; classroom ethnography; museums; scientific racism; four-field anthropology; pedagogy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.015