Hindsight allows present-day scholars to view the development of academic disciplines in a light that contemporaries would never have seen. Hence, from our perspective, Mary Furner's assertion that anthropology developed as a profession reacting against biology and the physical sciences makes sense, for we tend to celebrate the triumph of cultural anthropology as the coming of age of the discipline. However, this trajectory of professional development was not a necessary or predestined development. Rather, the eventual (if occasionally still embattled) predominance of culture over the categories of race, nation, and biology was only one of many possible outcomes. This paper investigates a different trajectory, one that most current scholars would hope has been relegated to the dustbin of history. It is still a cautionary tale, though, in that while the racial anthropology followed in this narrative did not survive World War II, its practitioners did enjoy a degree of prominence and influence that was much greater and longer than has been generally acknowledged by current accounts.
Mark Soderstrom is a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation is titled “Weeds in Linnaeus's Garden: Science and Segregation, Eugenics, and the Rhetoric of Racism at the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten, 1900–45.”
1 I am grateful to Paul Barclay, the members of the University of Minnesota Radical History Workshop, and the University of Minnesota Sociocultural Anthropology Workshop for their encouragement and valuable contributions.