Martin Porr

Reflections on Franz Boas’s Anthropology and Modern Life

Published: 2023-03-30 | DOI: 10.54799/HNPS4059


This paper critically engages with the book Anthropology and Modern Life by Franz Boas, which was originally published in 1928. The paper discusses a number of themes addressed in the book and assesses their relevance to current challenges for anthropological research and public engagement. An important element of Boas’s book is his critique of racist thinking as a basis to understand human actions and other aspects of human variability. Even though Boas’s treatment of racism is not entirely unproblematic itself, his critical contributions remain deeply relevant today in light of a resurgence of related ideas in current public discourses and anthropological research contexts. Even though Boas’s views of education appear to be quite eclectic, they can still serve to support a holistic and reflexive approach towards learning, which are aspects that also come under increasing pressure in higher education contexts in many countries right now. Finally, some consequences of Boas’s arguments for current aspects of archaeological issues are discussed, even though archaeology did not feature in Anthropology and Modern Life in any substantial form. However, the core themes of Boas’s book remain applicable to archaeological research and the impact of archaeological knowledge on public discourses. From this arises a particular responsibility with respect to the historical narratives that archaeology produces and their relationship to contemporary issues and challenges. 

How to Cite

Porr, Martin. 2023. “Reflections on Franz Boas’s Anthropology and Modern Life”. EAZ – Ethnographisch-Archaeologische Zeitschrift 57 (1).
Frontispiece of the revised edition of Franz Boas’s Anthropology and Modern Life of 1932.
Frontispiece of the revised edition of Franz Boas’s Anthropology and Modern Life of 1932.
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