At Bard Graduate Center we think of “Anthropology” as study of the humanistic aspects of material culture. Our emphasis is on social theory, ethnographic methods, and cross-cultural perspectives. The work of anthropologists has long informed that of scholars in other disciplines represented at BGC, notably history and archaeology. Points of contact between anthropology and our multidisciplinary curriculum facilitate comparative discussions about indigenous arts, colonialism, and ethnographic museums.

One of the hallmarks of BGC is the seamless integration of teaching and research. Graduate seminars are taught by the faculty who organize the seminar series, symposia, and publications and who select visiting fellows. These research events, in turn, inspire new faculty and student work. In this online series we re-present to you research at BGC as facets of faculty teaching and publishing. Themes reflect curricular foci and areas of special strength.

Meet the BGC: Aaron Glass

Professor Aaron Glass discusses his interdisciplinary background, his work as a curator collaborating with living communities, and his research on various aspects of First Nations visual art and material culture, media, and performance on the Northwest Coast of North America.

Interview: Ivan Gaskell

Professor Ivan Gaskell speaks to Dean Peter N. Miller about how his research on material culture intersects with anthropology. He discusses his role as the Head of the Focus Project and the importance of our partnership with the anthropology division of the AMNH for this initiative.

Digital Publication: The Story Box

This digital exhibition catalogue explores the hidden histories and multiple legacies of anthropologist Franz Boas’s 1897 groundbreaking volume The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, which had considerable influence on anthropology, museums, and the modern concept of “culture.”

Lectures: Collison, Fowles, Tapsell & Usner

Watch lectures by visiting speakers recorded on 86th Street: Jisgang Nika Collison’s “Gina Suuda Tl’l Xasii ~ Came To Tell Something,” Severin Fowles’s “Iconohistories of the American West,” Paul Tapsell’s “(Post)musings from the Edge,” and Daniel H. Usner’s “From Bayou Teche to Fifth Avenue.”

Digital Interactive: American Art in American Dress

From the exhibition An American Style, this interactive revisits the 1919 Exhibition of Industrial Art in Textiles and Costumes, which displayed items made to stimulate an authentic national style inspired by non-Western artifacts in the AMNH’s ethnographic collections.

Interviews: First Nation Artists

In the process of developing the exhibition Objects of Exchange, curator Aaron Glass conducted a number of conversations with First Nations artists and scholars during which they discussed the selected objects and the show’s historical themes.

Research Project: The Distributed Text

The goal of this collaborative project, based around Franz Boas’s 1897 monograph on the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw), is to produce an annotated critical digital edition that will reunite archival material with the original text and with the indigenous families whose cultural heritage is represented.

Publications: The Anthropology of Expeditions

In “In the Field / En Plein Air: The Art of Anthropological Display at the American Museum of Natural History, 1905–30,” Ira Jacknis uses the anthropology exhibits at the AMNH (post 1905) as a case study to examine what happened to the materials from expeditions.

Object of the Month: Photographs

BGC-AMNH Postdoctoral Fellow Hadley Jensen (BGC PhD ‘18) discusses the photographs from the Vernay-Hopwood Chindwin Expedition and how they have both constructed and obscured the cultural realities of indigenous life in northern Burma during the twentieth century.

Digital Interactive: Threads and Knots

From the exhibition Carrying Coca: 1,500 Years of Andean Chuspas, this interactive allows you to learn about coca use across time, region, and culture. Stories are situated on a quipu, an Andean device constructed of knotted strings based on a decimal positional system.

Image Credits: [Digital Publication: The Story Box] Transformation Mask (closed and open) with notes by Franz Boas, ca. 1887–94; attributed to Albert Grünwedel. Paper, ink, paint (watercolor). American Museum of Natural History, Z/43 H and I. [Digital Interactive: American Art in American Dress] Designed by MediaCombo: Robin White Owen, Evan Rose, Ellen Zhao. [Research Project: The Distributed Text] Kwakwaka’wakw Transformation Mask, late 19th century, courtesy of the U’mista Cultural Centre and the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin (cat. no. IVA 1243). [Publications: The Anthropology of Expeditions] Photograph: Bruce White. [Object of the Month: Photographs] “Hahti to Singkaling Hkamti, March 1935.” Photograph by H.C. Raven. VHC-N36, American Museum of Natural History Library.
Goan skinner and Charles S. McCann preparing bird skins. “Lonkin to Hpakan, January 1935.” Photograph by H.C. Raven, VHC-E2, American Museum of Natural History Library. [Digital Interactive: Threads and Knots] Threads and Knots: Coca and Culture Intertwined. Designed by MediaCombo: Robin White Owen, Evan Rose, Ellen Zhao.