I have recently completed a book project on the place of Korea in early American anthropology, from the 1880s through 1945—and essentially, I would like to devote this talk to the question of why I bothered. Rather than showcasing one or another chapter, I hope to sample from the substance while foregrounding some methodological considerations and conceptual conclusions of wider significance toward understanding the past of the discipline as a whole. Among the methodological points are commitments to treating the history of anthropology as a branch of the history and sociology of science rather than simply the history of ideas as well as a “Pacificist” framing of nineteenth century anthropology. As for broad conclusions, some forward simple historical reconsideration—of ecologies of museum collecting in the Victorian era, for example, or of the relation between area study and the comparative method. Others complexify the genealogy of concepts and ethical positionings that have been central issues for anthropology—such as “race,” “culture,” anti-imperialism, and anti-rac(ial)ism. Ultimately, I argue, as a second tier site of significance Korea is “good to think off center with” about where American anthropology has been.
Free and open to the public.