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Reassembling The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians: Toward a Collaborative Critical Edition of Franz Boas and George Hunt’s Pioneering 1897 Monograph

Co-chaired by Judith Berman and Aaron Glass. Photo courtesy of SAR.

October 25–27, 2016

Reassembling The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians: Toward a Collaborative Critical Edition of Franz Boas and George Hunt’s Pioneering 1897 Monograph

In 1897, anthropologist Franz Boas published The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, a synthesis of his initial research on the Northwest Coast with materials authored by his Indigenous collaborator, George Hunt. Although highly influential, the monograph remained incomplete and fractured, and extensive archival materials relating to its origins and afterlives were scattered across two continents. An international, collaborative project brings anthropologists together with Kwakwaka’wakw elders, artists and community researchers in order to produce an innovative critical edition—in both print and digital formats—that will reunite the original text with the vast archival materials relating to the book’s production and afterlife, and with contemporary Kwakwaka’wakw perspectives. The project’s dual goals are to produce a critical historiography of the book and to return these archival materials to the community for use in current cultural revitalization.

The aim of the SAR seminar was to synthesize the historical and contemporary ethnographic data with Kwakwaka’wakw community perspectives in order to explore three overlapping realms:

1. The incorporation of Kwakwaka’wakw cultural ontology into the project’s database and digital infrastructure;

2. The research questions and research protocols that the team is establishing with contemporary Kwakwaka’wakw communities; and,

3. The suitability for publication of potentially sensitive ceremonial and genealogical materials.

Seminarians reported that they achieved all the goals set out by co-chairs, Aaron Glass and Judith Berman, but would have liked to have more time to go over detailed research material together. The next two years will be spent completing research and database development, writing the scholarly essays and annotations for the print edition, and securing funds and development partners for the digital edition.

To link to the project, click here.

Judith Berman, Chair
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria

Aaron Glass, Chair
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Bard Graduate Center

Bill Cranmer
U’mista Cultural Centre, ‘Namgis First Nation

Andy Everson
Project Team Member, Artist and Community Researcher, K’omoks First Nation, Kwagu’ł, Hunt Descendent

Rainer Hatoum
Research Associate, Institut für Ethnologie, Goethe University

Sarah Holland
Director, U’mista Cultural Centre, ‘Namgis First Nation

Corrine Hunt
Artist and Exhibit Designer, Kwakiutl First Nation, Hunt Family Representative

Ira Jacknis
Research Anthropologist, Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California – Berkeley

Generous funding provided by the National Science Foundation

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