Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, “Franz Boas: The Emergence of the Anthropologist” (U Nebraska Press, 2019)

Franz Boas is remembered today as one of the most important figures in the history of anthropology. In the United States, he is widely created with creating the modern field of anthropology or at least being one of the key people involved in its creation. And yet despite this fact, no biography of the life of Franz Boas has ever been written — until now. In the first volume of what will be a two-volume work, Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt tracks Boas’s life from his birth in 1858 to his permanent appointment at Columbia University at the close of the nineteenth century.

In this interview, channel host Alex Golub talks with Rosemary about the young man behind the legend, including Boas’s romance with his wife Marie Krackowizer, the years he spent in the academic wilderness trying to find a permanent position, and his remarkable ability to balance life and family work. Along the way Rosemary and Alex discuss her writing project more broadly: How can we reconcile the image of Boas as a social justice activist with the fact that he trafficked in human remains? Would Boas have been a success if he did not have rich relatives to support him in what we would today call his ‘adjunct years’? How do you successfully spend twenty years writing a two-volume biography of a prolific scholar who lived to be 82? For answers to these questions and more, please give a listen to this interview about Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt’s Franz Boas: The Emergence of the Anthropologist (University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

Alex Golub is associate professor of anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

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