Price, David H. 2016. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. Duke University Press.
A few years ago, I had a chance to have lunch with David Price and some other people at the AAA meetings. Back then, he struck me as exactly like the kind of person you’d expect to be a professor at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest. Which is exactly what he is. Graying beard, laid back manner. I couldn’t see his feet but if he was wearing Birkenstocks, I wouldn’t be surprised. But beneath this amiable exterior is one of America’s most impressive historians of anthropology, a radical thinker and untiring author whose relentlessly probes the dark corners of our discipline’s history. In the course of twelve years Price has written three books which have helped redefine anthropology’s understanding of itself. And now, with Cold War Anthropology, Price brings his massive, precedent-make (and -busting) history of anthropology and American power to a close. It’s a defining moment in the history of anthropology, and deserves wide attention.
Zora and Performance
I am most struck, however, by Zora’s recognition and analysis of the performative nature of Black culture. Years before performance theory was born, Zora Neale Hurston had been there and done that. We will not find her insights, however, in the traditional scholarly publications. Zora’s discourses on the performative character of Black people are in essays published in the then groundbreaking anthology, The New Negro edited by Nancy Cunard. There hold a wealth of analysis and interpretation of Negro/Black performativity, and are frequently overlooked.
Many academics today have come to recognize that there is significant intellectual value in having a “public voice” that reaches broader audiences beyond those attracted to our scholarly articles. The Savage Mind blog is a good example of the multiplicity of platforms available to anthropologists to speak their piece outside of the constraints of refereed journal articles.
Zora, like her contemporary Margaret Mead who wrote for RedBook, was a “cultural commentator” or what we call in today’s parlance, a “public intellectual” of the first order. Continue reading