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Indigenous VisionsRediscovering the World of Franz Boas$
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Ned Blackhawk and Isaiah Lorado Wilner

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300196511

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300196511.001.0001

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Utter Confusion and Contradiction: Franz Boas and the Problem of Human Complexion

Utter Confusion and Contradiction: Franz Boas and the Problem of Human Complexion

(p.185) Chapter 8 Utter Confusion and Contradiction: Franz Boas and the Problem of Human Complexion
Indigenous Visions

Martha Hodes

Yale University Press

In the late nineteenth century, Franz Boas joined other men of science who sought to establish a rational method of labeling and organizing variations in human complexion. For Boas, it was imperative to include Native Americans, especially given the prevailing notion that, in collision with white civilization, they were soon to become extinct. Thus, Boas undertook the massive endeavor of calculation and quantification of Indian bodies. This chapter argues that when Boas published his key work, The Mind of Primitive Man in 1911, he had taken important, if tentative, steps toward disrupting the scientific drive toward racial classification. By reading Boas's raw data sheets from the early 1890s along with his writings on an array of topics, one can speculate on the significance of this little-studied aspect of his progressive assertions about race in The Mind of Primitive Man.

Keywords:   Franz Boas, Indians, Native Americans, human complexion, The Mind of Primitive Man

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