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Autobiography of an ArchiveA Scholar's Passage to India$
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Nicholas Dirks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169677

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.001.0001

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Franz Boas and the American University

Franz Boas and the American University

A Personal Account

Chapter:
(p.293) 13 Franz Boas and the American University
Source:
Autobiography of an Archive
Author(s):

Nicholas B. Dirks

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.003.0014

This chapter offers a personal reflection of Franz Boas's role in the disciplinary formation of anthropology in America during his time at Columbia University. Boas came to anthropology from a background in physics and natural science. He insisted on a separation between natural science, where general laws were fundamental, and historical science, based on a specific understanding of phenomena on their own terms. He had prescient, not to mention controversial, views about the problems with imperialism and nationalism. The chapter explains how the author of this book came to see the ways in which fate had done him a great honor by bringing him into Boas's shadow and how fortunate he had been to be given that historical opportunity in the larger context both of the discipline of anthropology and of the development of the arts and sciences at the institution. It also comments on Boas's sense of the distinction between the natural and the human sciences, as well as his interest in politics both within and outside the academy.

Keywords:   anthropology, Columbia University, natural science, historical science, imperialism, nationalism, arts and sciences, human sciences, politics

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