In the world of anthropology there is a primary focus on the many astounding anthropologists like Max Weber, Lewis Henry Morgan, Margaret Mead, and one whom many deem the father of anthropology, Franz Boas. Acting as a guide, their contributions have laid the basis to numerous of ideologies, theories, and studies concerning the human culture. By way of instance, one of Margaret Mead’s most infamous studies is through a technique called visual anthropology where Mead studies personality formation in three unique cultures, the Balinese, Iatumal, and American. Personally, I love Margaret Mead’s methods and because learning about her I have studied a lot of her previous work. During my first semester in grad school I was excited to continue to learn about those who paved a way for me to study anthropology. However, as I sat through course after course learning about all these anthropologists and their wonderful contributions, there were a couple of things which I did notice. One, there were no detailed research on Black Anthropologists, two in virtually every class attended I was the only minority, and three since I began to take part in field work I understood that there were very few minorities who were a part of anthropology as a whole and I started to wonder why. Was it as a result of scientific racism related to the earlier periods of anthropology? Or is it simply because minorities aren’t being exposed to anthropology? Whatever the reason maybe it’s a silent issue which seems to dwell in the world of anthropology.
Make no mistake that racism was front and center during the beginning stages of anthropology as it was developed during a time where racism was displayed like another fashion statement. Regrettably, those biased perspectives went to the work of some of the most prominent figures of anthropology. The scientific racism that distinct minorities endured during the previous years of anthropology can be very daunting to find out about without ones’ heart feeling somewhat heavy or sad. This heaviness is something which I have seen to be exhibited from just about everybody who learns what happened during these times. For instance, the first time a professor showed a movie about the human zoo there was an awkward feeling that straddled the area and a heated discussion that took place afterwards. Expressions of shock, hurt, and disappointment was on the surface of the discussion. The human zoo was present throughout the 19th and early 20th century as people of various ethnicities were collected from numerous areas of the world by socialists, scientists, and anthropologists to be placed on display for entertainment purposes. Europeans around the world would pay to gaze at the humans as if they were animals and in certain cases animals were grouped with humans as a contrast.
Is It Acceptance or Exposure?
Personally, I have never experienced a moment where anyone has made me feel as though I did not belong in the area, but there were definitely times where I may have felt that my remarks were not as equally accepted or appreciated as my white peers. However, I think this is something which minorities face in nearly every line of work from some men and women who indulge in an ignorant mindset. Whatever the case may be it’s still uncomfortable and acceptance in the field of Anthropology was not always the case. On one hand, you had the vast majority of anthropologists who always studied blacks and other minorities to show that they were inferior to their white successors and their lives had no value amongst many other horrendous preconceptions. Due to those frivolous studies about minorities many blacks were not accepting of anthropology and opted to distance themselves from the tradition. Instead a majority of African Americans took a liking to sociology and history when furthering their education. Now today the amount of black anthropologists have succeeded well beyond 10 individuals but the numbers are still relatively low. As cultural and racial wars have helped to break some barriers for minorities, it has not quite made its connection to anthropology.
One theory that I have considered is that exposure to anthropology is not fully within the African American culture. From my own experience, I know I was exposed to the chance of being a doctor, a lawyer, nurse, teacher, and the typical mainstream jobs that are subconsciously forced upon children through various media outlets. Anthropology wasn’t one of those choices, in fact I wasn’t truly introduced to anthropology until being required to take Cultural Anthropology as a mandatory course during my time as an undergraduate. Thankfully that course enabled me to explore a universe of cultures and finally change my career path generally. Deficiency of exposure doesn’t just stem from the cultural aspects but it seems to generate from an educational standpoint also. As an undergraduate I soon realized that there weren’t a lot of studies present on African American Anthropologists which directed me to perform my own research about African American Anthropologists. Through research, I learned just how Franz Boas wasn’t only the instructor to white anthropologists but also into a black anthropologist as well. I was curious to learn about African American Anthropologists, who also became favorites of mine, also played a substantial part in anthropology like Zora Neal Hurston. Ms. Hurston was a student of Franz Boas and in his course the same exact time as fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead. Zora Neal Hurston was a renowned novelist, one who led to folklore, and a writer. However, Zora Neal Hurston was also an anthropologist in her own rights that studied with the best. Margaret Mead is always mentioned as a notable student of Franz Boas, but unfortunately in most classes Hurston is not even acknowledged. Then, there was the fact that W.E.B. DuBois took a likening to Franz Boas, read newspapers side by side with Boas in London, and invited him to speak at the college he taught at in Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, collaboration of the two isn’t something which you would typically learn about in the fundamental classes of Anthropology that is sad. The lack of exposure to the accomplishments of African American Anthropologists’ speaks volumes and it exerts a message that analyzing blacks is great but acknowledging their gifts is impotent. Anthropology is a field that shines a light on many different issues around the world. Obviously, exposure is not the main reason minorities shy away from the discipline of anthropology but it does appear to have its proper stake in the matter. The truth is there’s a need for more diversity in anthropology and hopefully, as anthropology continues to progress there’ll be a recognition of such ultimately providing ways for people who would not even consider becoming an anthropologist as people can’t divulge in something they’ve never been exposed to.