TEXT ARE US
Anthropologists have been big producers and collectors of texts, right from the beginning of the discipline. In 1881, Adolph Bastian argued that, with indigenous cultures of the world disappearing fast, ‘‘our guiding principle ... in anthropology, prehistory, or ethnology should be to collect everything’’ (Bastian 1881:217; cited in Bunzl 1996:48).
For Franz Boas, Bastian’s young colleague at the Berlin Museum, that meant collecting texts, and more texts, about the indigenous cultures of the world, in the native languages of those cultures. Boas trained his students (Kroeber, Lowie, Sapir, etc.) to collect verbatim text in as many indigenous American languages as they could reach.
This was really tough to do before voice recorders were invented, but that first generation of American anthropologists persevered and made use of every new technology they could to produce texts and more texts. In 1936, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson hauled heavy movie cameras to Bali and, with cinematographer Jane Belo (1960), shot hundreds of hours of cinema verite of Balinese dances and rituals—a treasure trove of fundamental ethnographic data that’s available today for analysis and reanalysis (http:// www.loc.gov/avconservation/packard/).
Boas practiced what he preached. He collected huge volumes of texts in several American Indian and Eskimo languages (Boas 1917, 1928a, 1928b). In the summer of 1888, while doing fieldwork in British Columbia, Boas met George Hunt. Hunt’s father was a fur trader from Scotland and his mother was Tlingit, but Hunt grew up in Fort Rupert and became fluent in Kwakwala, the language of the Kwakiutl. Hunt lived as a Kwakiutl, married a Kwakiutl woman, and participated fully in the ceremonial life of the tribe. After Boas returned to New York, he and Hunt corresponded for 5 years and then, in 1893, Boas brought Hunt and several other Kwakiutl to the World’s Fair in Chicago. It was there that Boas trained Hunt to write Kwakwala phonetically.
Hunt returned to British Columbia and Boas returned to New York. But from then on, for 40 years, Boas kept in touch with Hunt by mail, asking Hunt for information about this or that aspect of Kwakiutl culture. By the time Hunt died in 1933, he had produced 5,650 pages of Kwakiutl text. Boas relied on this rich corpus of descriptive ethnography for most of his reports about Kwakiutl life (Rohner 1966; see Boas 1910a, 1935-1943; Boas and Hunt 1902-1905, 1906). In fact, of Boas’s 5,000 pages of published work, 4,000 pages are unannotated translations of Kwakiutl language texts (Berman 1996:216) and there are thousands more pages in the Boas archives (at the American
Philosophical Society in Philadelphia) that remain unpublished, waiting to be analyzed by another generation of scholars.