New book: Before Boas – The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment

I would like to announce a newly published book exploring why the cradle of our discipline was to be found in ethnographic research in the Russian Arctic. The present book sums up the results of decades of research into early ethnographic scholarship during the exploration of Siberia in the 18th century and its links to the German enlightenment.

“Before Boas – The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment”

Han F. Vermeulen












(table of content)

The history of anthropology has been written from multiple viewpoints, often from perspectives of gender, nationality, theory, or politics. Before Boas delves deeper into issues concerning anthropology’s academic origins to present a groundbreaking study that reveals how ethnology and ethnography originated during the eighteenth rather than the nineteenth century, developing parallel to anthropology, or the “natural history of man.”

Han F. Vermeulen explores primary and secondary sources from Russia, Germany, Austria, the United States, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Great Britain in tracing how “ethnography” was begun as field research by German-speaking historians and naturalists in Siberia (Russia) during the 1730s and 1740s, was generalized as “ethnology” by scholars in Göttingen (Germany) and Vienna (Austria) during the 1770s and 1780s, and was subsequently adopted by researchers in other countries.

Before Boas argues that anthropology and ethnology were separate sciences during the Age of Reason, studying racial and ethnic diversity, respectively. Ethnography and ethnology focused not on “other” cultures but on all peoples of all eras. Following G. W. Leibniz, researchers in these fields categorized peoples primarily according to their languages. Franz Boas professionalized the holistic study of anthropology from the 1880s into the twentieth century.

Han F. Vermeulen is a research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

Before Boas: The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment. Lincoln and London, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. Hardback, xxvi + 720 pp. ISBN 978-0-8032-5542-5. 10 images, 6 maps, 12 tables. Price: $75.00, £52.00, € 53,95.

If you want to purchase the book directly from the publisher feel free to mention the discount (25%) code when ordering in the US with use code 6AS15.

For UK and Europe: with 20% off only £41.60* when you order using code CSF615BOAS Order online:
Order by telephone: call Marston on +44 (0)1235 465500

Posted in Announcements, Indigenous Peoples, Publications, Russian North, Theoretical Issues | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New M.A. programme Arctic anthropology! / Магистерская программа Арктическая антропология

Svetlana Zhavoronok. Important resources for Arctic people

The European University in St Petersburg launches a new masters programme on northern Anthropology! The Programme is coordinated by Nikolay Vakhtin, with courses read by Elena Lyarskaya, Veronika Simonova, Alla Bolotova and Stephan Dudeck, all of whom are fluent in English and Russian.

Courses taught include general anthropological courses on theory, methods and ideas in contemporary northern anthropology, as well as special fields such as “oil, gas, and people” in Siberia, or “the contemporary Arctic city”, or “the state and the indigenous people”.

The next deadline for applications is August 1, 2015. More information can be found on the site of the EU SPb Arctic Research Centre.

Read on here for information in Russian

Continue reading

Posted in All, Announcements, Extractive Industries, Indigenous Peoples, Russian North, teaching | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Arctic Anthropologist as Arctic Centre Director?

Dear all readers worldwide.

Drumming up good candidates for the Director post of Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi

Drumming up candidates for the Director post of Arctic Centre Rovaniemi (thanks, Yamal Iri for lending this Image)

The University of Lapland advertises internationally the position for a new director of the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi. It is one of the leading research centres on Arctic Research with a fairly even composition of social and natural scientists.

Our centre has been led for the last 15 years by Paula Kankaanpää and we are sad to see her go on, but wish her an exciting time at her new chosen position. Theoretically the new director could be an Arctic Anthropologist. Would somebody like to apply? If so, here is the link to the job advert and instructions

It’s a nice place to work.

The more good candidates we get, hopefully the better will be the new director for the Arctic Centre!

Posted in All, Announcements | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beyond perception conference

The previous blog topic by Anna on humans and animals is very prominent in the programme of the upcoming super-interesting “Beyond Perception” conference at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

perception, livelihood, dwelling, movement: Kamchatka's number one reindeer herder Kiriak Petrovich in the front of his nomadic dwelling and his horses. Both humans and animals moved to Kamchatka from Yakutia in the 19th century

perception, livelihood, dwelling, movement: Kamchatka’s number one reindeer herder Kiriak Petrovich in the front of his nomadic dwelling and his horses. Both humans and animals moved to Kamchatka from Yakutia in the 19th century

The conference takes key topics of Tim Ingold’s work as starting points and explores in five sessions how researchers – from anthropology and also other disciplines – have worked with these ideas in their work. Ingold’s work has inspired a whole generation of anthropologists well beyond the North, not least because his ideas are so inviting for critical ethnographic scrutiny and discussion. As Arctic Anthropology has been a lot about human-animal relations, the perception of the environment in general and movement, this multidisciplinary conference will surely be extremely inspiring for any of our readers to attend. Early bird registration is now open until July 1. Check out their website here.

Posted in All, Announcements, Arctic Ark: Human-animal relations, conferences, Indigenous Peoples, Theoretical Issues | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why are Arctic animals like they are? FieldWorking together: anthropologists and geneticists search for an answer.

The joint field trip to a reindeer farm in Finland in April was the first experience of a collaborative work of social and natural scientists to understand processes of animal adaptation to extreme Arctic environments. The ‘Arctic Ark’ project (Arctic Ark. Human-animal adaptation to the Arctic environment: natural and folk selection practices, 2015-2018) consists of two distinct but integrated parts. Natural scientists are dealing with the detailed animal biological genome to get more insights about nature evolution. Changes in physiology and metabolism here are crucial to adapt to annually changing, specific vegetation and cold temperature. Comparison with the samples from other animals and regions can greatly contribute to better understanding of adaptive processes in the North.

Reindeer farm

Anthropologists focus on local knowledge and practices related to selective breeding and desired use of animals. Slaughtering is part of reindeer breeding and it was a good occasion for us to learn more about selective choices of reindeer herders – why were these particular animals selected? Anyway, we anthropologists (Nuccio Mazzullo and me) and our master student Leon Fuchs, without any previous experience of sampling, learned a lot about sophisticated methods of collecting tissues and contributed as much as we could to the samples preservation by our colleagues, at least holding the lid of nitrogen container or labeling glass tubes.

glass tubes

Joining the reindeer feeding was for the anthropologists a great possibility to get insights about the different activities needed to keep animals healthy and to learn more about the concept of the ‘beautiful herd’.


Here are Leon’s (Arctic Centre/University of Versailles) notes on feeding:

“In wintertime, reindeer are kept together in a large outdoor enclosure. The herder mainly feeds them with artificial food. To do this, he uses his snowmobile and pulls a trailer loaded with granules into the forest. Once in the enclosed area, reindeer follow the snowmobile and run around the herder. They seem to know what is going on and they appear to be quite used to the process. The trailer is designed in a way that the food is spread throughout the pen in a sufficiently fair manner for every reindeer, and the animals align themselves to get food in a straight line. After only a few minutes, the food is all gone and reindeer go a bit further away in the forest. While feeding the animals, the herder also talked about the colors of reindeer, their antlers and health issues. Besides, he showed us some particular trees and explained that he sometimes cuts branches to feed reindeer and clean the forest”.

Posted in Announcements, Arctic Ark: Human-animal relations, Fieldwork | Leave a comment