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Franz Boas, his students and the scientific truth of human unity.


Boas and his students understood that in every society of which he have knowledge, people have a tendency to take their own ways of categorizing and mapping the world, and seeing those as natural, as timeless and commonsensical. A really scientific mindset - or for Boas and his students, an anthropological mindset - was for a moment to cast yourself out of that sense of naturalness from your own society, and begin to see the world from on-high, from the position of the Gods of the Upper Air, as Zora Neale Hurston said, and begin then to understand your own condition as only one of a number of ways of seeing the world.

Author Charles King examines the revolutionary work and legacy of anthropologist Franz Boas and his students - overturning the heriarchical, essentialist worldview of 19th century Western societies for a radically modern, relativist understanding of humanity as diverse and varied and equally worthy of empathy and curiousity.

Charles is author of Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century from Doubleday.

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Charles King

Charles King is an author and Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University.


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