A Maverick Boasian


A Maverick Boasian

The Life and Work of Alexander A. Goldenweiser

Sergei Kan

Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology Series

268 pages
16 photographs, index


February 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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February 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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February 2023


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About the Book

A Maverick Boasian explores the often contradictory life of Alexander Goldenweiser (1880–1940), a scholar considered by his contemporaries to be Franz Boas’s most brilliant and most favored student. The story of his life and scholarship is complex and exciting as well as frustrating. Although Goldenweiser came to the United States from Russia as a young man, he spent the next forty years thinking of himself as a European intellectual who never felt entirely at home. A talented ethnographer, he developed excellent rapport with his Native American consultants but cut short his fieldwork due to lack of funds. An individualist and an anarchist in politics, he deeply resented having to compromise any of his ideas and freedoms for the sake of professional success. A charming man, he risked his career and family life to satisfy immediate needs and wants.

A number of his books and papers on the relationship between anthropology and other social sciences helped foster an important interdisciplinary conversation that continued for decades after his death. For the first time, Sergei Kan brings together and examines all of Goldenweiser’s published scholarly works, archival records, personal correspondences, nonacademic publications, and living memories from several of Goldenweiser’s descendants.

Goldenweiser attracted attention for his unique progressive views on such issues as race, antisemitism, immigration, education, pacifism, gender, and individual rights. His was a major voice in a chorus of progressive Boasians who applied the insights of their discipline to a variety of questions on the American public’s mind. Many of the battles he fought are still with us today.

Author Bio

Sergei Kan is a professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College. He is the author or editor of several books, including New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations (Nebraska, 2006), Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors (Nebraska, 2015), and Lev Shternberg: Anthropologist, Russian Socialist, Jewish Activist (Nebraska, 2009).


"Kan's excellent biography is deeply researched, easy to read, and economically written. It does a good job of telling the story of an important but little-known figure in the history of folklore and anthropology."—Alex Golub, Journal of Folklore  Research

“Alexander A. Goldenweiser is a unique figure among American anthropologists. A Maverick Boasian is a valuable contribution to the history of anthropology, specifically to the study of the first generation of Franz Boas’s students and the establishment of professionalized anthropology in the United States.”—Robert Brightman, author of Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships

“An authoritative contribution to the history of anthropology.”—Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, author of Franz Boas: Shaping Anthropology and Fostering Social Justice

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Series Editors’ Introduction
1. The Russian Beginning and the Early American Years
2. Early Scholarship, the Iroquois Fieldwork, and Columbia
3. The New School, Academic and Popular Writing, and a Devastating Divorce
4. The West Coast Exile
5. The End

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