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Constituting paradigms in the study of the African diaspora, 1900-1950.

Dedicated to the memory of Margaret Wade-Lewis and Barry Chevannes

THAT THOMAS KUHN'S 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions announced a revolution in the history and philosophy of science by introducing and applying the concept of the "paradigm" to account for how science works and how it changes is now well known. (2) Kuhn argued that scientists operate in rimes of "normal science" under the influence of a paradigm that dictates not only what kinds of questions are permissible but what counts as evidence that would answer the questions generated under the paradigm. Scientific revolutions occur when a "paradigm shift" occurs, when one paradigm replaces another, quite incommensurable, paradigm; when scientists come to agree--as members of a scientific community--that the previous paradigm generated or evidenced a critical mass of anomalies that can no longer "fit" under the paradigm. These kinds of agreements, and the movement of scientific revolutions when this breaks down, are determined by developments within the science itself, according to Kuhn. This process entails the evaluations of a theory or set of theories. This evaluative process in turn entails comparison with the paradigmatic theory. These evaluations are based partially on observations which themselves are theory-dependent and not part of a neutral process.

When it came to social and human sciences, for Kuhn these were pre-paradigmatic. A pre-paradigm state was that characterized a science in its infancy. One reason was that the social sciences had more competing paradigms at any particular point in history, that is, there was a lack of consensus, and they were constantly searching for newer and deeper interpretations than the natural sciences, where until the advent of a paradigm shift such reinterpretations were actively resisted. Part of this is due to the changing nature of the subject matter of the social sciences, which calls for these reinterpretations, as opposed to the relatively stable and constant nature of the subject matter of the natural sciences. This latter situation permitted research traditions to develop. Kuhn denied that science moves toward the discovery of truth as a goal, rather, toward solving the questions generated under the paradigms. (3)

MANY ASPECTS of Kuhn's approach have, of course, by now been thoroughly institutionalized and, on the other hand, subject to critical scrutiny. There can be no rehearsing those histories here. (4) While I agree that Kuhn's concept, or concepts, of the paradigm for the history of science should be cautiously critiqued, extended, and reconstructed, I do so albeit mostly implicitly in the essay on the history of anthropology in what follows. (5) A leading historian of anthropology, George W. Stocking, Jr., once applied Kuhn's concept of paradigm, which he found a "heuristic metaphor," (6) rather closely, but later came to apply the concept in more modified forms, arriving at the notion of "paradigmatic traditions" in order to account for "paradigm-like bodies of assumption that perdured through long periods of time." (7) I would like to pose a particular paradigm concept in order to study an episode in the history of anthropology. This is a reformulated view of the paradigm concept with an accent on the praxis of communities of practitioners and the production of knowledge--not just ideas or theories but an array of scientific practices. This is a processural and dialectical perspective, entailing, among other principles, assumptions about the institutional locations of knowledge production and the politics of the reception of scientific knowledge as integrally connected to the conditions of its production. I want to apply this concept here to account for a significant approach to the study of the African diaspora in the first half of the twentieth century. In the disciplines of sociology and anthropology. (8) I focus on one paradigmatic tradition, that of African cultural survivals in the Americas.

The African Cultural Survivals Paradigm

IN 1930, when the anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits wrote his article "The Negro in the New World: The Statement of a Problem," he apparently heralded a new paradigm in the study of the African diaspora in the New World. Herskovits became a pioneering scholar of the African diaspora, and was associated with his strong position on the existence of "Africanisms," or African cultural "survivals," as underlying the cultures of peoples of African descent in the Americas. (9) He argued that an understanding of "the Negro in the New World" meant investigations carried out in Africa and in the Americas:
   With better knowledge of the African cultures we
   shall have an adequate basis to investigate the
   affiliation of those cultural traits the American
   Negro has retained in his contact with white and
   Indian civilizations. On the other hand, further
   investigation on this side of the Atlantic must
   result in more data from which to draw conclusions
   as to the nature of the African cultural survivals
   which are manifest in the behavior of the
   Negro in the Caribbean, the United States, and
   in South America. (10)

Herskovits found it heuristic to conceive of a chart that would map the uneven geographic distribution of African cultural survivals throughout the societies of the Americas, and that, furthermore, the contemporary historical and ethnological data could be used unproblematically for this task. (11) He said there could be a consideration of the "intensity of African cultural elements" in various regions north of Brazil (he complained that there were no data for Brazil upon which to base judgment). These Africanisms, he argued, were most visible in specific cultural practices and, he reasoned, could best be investigated within a focused research effort: "Certainly it is in folklore, religion, and music that much of the attack must be centered. For it is principally here, certainly as far as the Negroes of the United States and most of the West Indies are concerned, that possible African cultural survivals are to be salvaged." (12) Further, Herskovits felt strongly that the "Negro problem" as a research problem could be made to speak for more general anthropological concerns: "That the Negro in the New World offers a wide and profitable field for study, which should result in findings of the utmost importance for Africanists, Americanists, and those who are interested in the larger aspects of human existence, should be apparent." (13)


IN PUBLISHING this article and announcing the theoretical position he was to take up for the rest of his career, Herskovits seemed to be breaking with another paradigm that he himself imbibed. When he completed his Ph.D. work in anthropology at Columbia University under Franz Boas in 1923, Boas helped him obtain a three-year National Research Council fellowship to study the biological anthropology of "race crossing" in African Americans. (14) During this time he met Howard University Alain Locke who prevailed upon Herskovits to contribute a chapter on Harlem, where he was collecting data, in a special issue Locke was guestediting of the Survey Graphic, which was devoted to the Harlem Renaissance. Revised and expanded, this became Locke's 1925 edited book The New Negro, which has become seen as the manifesto of the Harlem Renaissance. In his contribution to the journal and revision for inclusion in the book, Herskovits finished with the same words in both publications, writing that Harlem "represents, as do all American communities which it resembles, a case of complete acculturation. And so, I return to my reaction on first seeing this center of Negro activity, as the complete description of it: 'Why, it's the same pattern, only a different shade!'" (15) Locke's retort in the Survey Graphic went like this:
   Looked at in its externals, Negro life, as reflected
   in Harlem registers a ready--almost feverishly
   rapid assimilation of American patterns, what Mr.
   Herskovits calls "complete acculturation." It
   speaks well for both the Negro and for American
   standards of living that this is so. Internally, perhaps
   it is another matter. Does democracy
   require uniformity? If so, it threatens to be safe,
   bur dull. Social standards must be more or less
   uniform, bur social expressions may be different.
   Old folkways may not persist, but they may leave
   a mental trace, subtly recorded in emotional temper
   and coloring social relations. (16)

Herskovits had been virtually the only scholar in the collections to argue that a framework on assimilation best explained Afro-American life. Now, five years later, and after two fieldwork trips (in summers of 1928 and 1929) among the Saramaka maroons of the Surinamese rainforest (augmented by ethnographic data collected by his wife Frances S. Herskovits in Paramaribo, the Dutch colony's capital), he represented his new direction as based on a review of the available data--his own and that of other scholars. Herskovits cited not one other scholar in his 1930 article "The Negro in the New World" but, as I have shown elsewhere, (17) he was already in transnational dialogue with scholars in Latin America and the Caribbean, forming an "intellectual social formation" with those who viewed African diaspora culture in their locales through the lenses of African cultural survivals. These included Fernando Ortiz in Cuba and Jean Price-Mars in Haiti, and, later, Arthur Ramos in Brazil and Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran in Mexico. He was also influenced by folklorist Elsie Clews Parsons who suggested that be do fieldwork in Suriname to locate the "most African" cultures in the Americas, and she paid for his fieldwork in Suriname in 1928 and 1929, in Dahomey and West Africa in 1931, and in Haiti in 1934, as well as helped subsidize some of the publications coming out of that work. Herskovits revised from time to rime the terms and definitions he used in forming his theoretical apparatus, (18) but a decade after his 1930 article in his well-known book The Myth of the Negro Past of 1941, he seemed to use "survivals" and "Africanisms" interchangeably. (19) In that book, he used the African cultural survivals argument to document African and Afro-American cultural accomplishments in order to lessen anti-black prejudice.

IRONICALLY, the idea of cultural survivals harkened back to the nineteenth-century Victorian social evolutionists and the thought of the influential Sir Edward B. Tylor. Ironically because Herskovits's mentor Boas had brought about his own brand of anthropology in and through a critique of Tylor and the practitioners of the "comparative method" of anthropology. And Herskovits was a strict Boasian. The social evolutionist paradigm--best exemplified by Tylor and other thinkers such as Herbert Spencer, James G. Frazer in England, and Lewis Henry Morgan in the United States--was regnant in the late nineteenth century when anthropology became formed as a separate discipline and began to become professionalized. The armchair anthropologist Tylor was the first person to hold an academic post in the discipline when he was appointed Reader in Anthropology at Oxford University in 1884, assuming the title of Professor in 1896. He bequeathed a definition of culture--"Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society"--on the first page of his 1871 Primitive Culture that was and in many ways remains the touchstone definition for the discipline. (20) In his hands, "culture" was a state, or, more correctly, a stage to be reached in the process and progress of social evolution. Tylor was a "progressivist" social evolutionist. He believed that every society started out started out in a state of rude savagery and some societies evolved, becoming more "cultured" to various degrees along the way as they all passed through the same stages, arranged hierarchically in a single line. This became known as the "comparative method," defined as "an arrangement of social or cultural conditions observed among existing peoples into a series that is then taken to represent a process of evolution." It had a certain utility: "This procedure has been used to depict the whole sweep of human history, a limited period of development, or the growth of a particular social or cultural element or group of elements. The method has been applied most commonly, perhaps, in a search for origins of specific cultural items." (21)

A VALUE JUDGMENT inhered in the evolutionist formulation. The more "cultured" the more valorized as "culture" was equated with "civilization" with all the evaluative freighting of the latter. This kind of social Darwinism could justify the class order, but not only that. It could justify the colonial project, creating a distance in time and the accomplishment of civilization between those at civilization's peak--not surprisingly, this was assumed as the society and the particular class in the social order to which the writer owed allegiance--and the social groupings, identified through their beliefs and practices and seen as living exemplars of earlier, rude stages of civilization's past, lower down on the ladder leading to culture. And it was critiqued and discredited for just these reasons.

For Tylor, the concept of survivals--elements of the "primitive," archaic past that continued to play an active part of the culture of the present day--was integral to the evolutionist scheme. These were cultural traits held over from the past, defined as "processes, customs, opinions, and so forth, which have been carried on by force of habit into a new state of society different from that in which they had their original home, and they thus remain as proofs and examples of an older condition of culture out of which a newer has been evolved," where "it becomes possible to declare that the civilization of the people they are observed among must have been derived from an earlier state, in which the proper home and meaning of these things are to be found; and thus collections of such facts are to be worked as mines of historic knowledge." (22) Survivals indicated, therefore, Euro-American civilization's past, and it showed how far it had progressed. Examples of survivals might be the mores of the peasants in the midst of modernizing Europe, their superstitions, their irrational beliefs, and other practices out of time, out of context, and out of historical cultural stage. Tylor did not actually invent the idea of survivals in a culture. He only popularized them. It was the folklorist Jakob Grimm, student of the jurist Friedrich Carl von Savigny, who, following von Savigny's teachings on the continued influence of Roman law in contemporary (early nineteenth-century) Europe, applied these ideas to the study of myth and folklore. (23) Tylor took the idea from Grimm.


The Incomplete Boasian Critique of Evolutionism

BOAS developed his critique of evolutionism and the comparative method as part of his critique of ideas of "race" and primitive mentality so easily facilitated by and integrated into the social evolutionist schema. (24) Starting off imbibing a kind of Tylorean evolutionism, by the 1890s Boas was emphasizing the relativity of the valuation of culture, the particular historical development of a culture, and, in speaking of cultures in the plural rather than culture in the singular as had Tylor, he was explaining mentalities and abilities and behaviors in terms of differing cultural traditions. (25) Yet, his critique of the comparative method, (26) Boas (and thus Herskovits) retained essential assumptions of this very method. One was the concept of the cultural trait, defined as a unit of the transmission of culture, (27) and the other was the concept of survivals. From his position at Columbia University, training generations of anthropologists, Boas had established his whole school of thought, the Boasian paradigm, later known as "historical particularism," by and through a critique of the unilinear evolutionists, especially Tylor. Yet, within the Boasian paradigm there was a residual of evolutionism, what Thomas calls "covert evolutionism." (28) Boas thus left in place the denial of coevalness of contemporaneous cultural forms and human groups so clear and purposeful in Tylor. (29)

In 1924, he criticized Tylor on his theory of survivals, but then proclaimed their existence by a kind of fiat:
   It should be borne in mind that the assumption of
   the antiquity of one particular type is essentially
   due to a classification in which the form that
   appears as the simplest from any point of view is
   considered at the same time as historically the oldest.
   Nobody has felt the weakness of this assumption
   more clearly than Tylor who tried to support
   the general thesis by the study of survivals which
   indicate the character of earlier developmental
   states. It cannot be claimed that a systematic
   attempt has even been made to substantiate the
   theory of a definite evolutionary sequence on the
   basis of the study of survivals. All that can be said is
   that fragments of earlier historical stages are
   bound to exist and are found. (30)

Boas seemed to embrace the notion that cultural practices could exist "out of time," meaning, at least in the case of modern cultures, that archaic cultural survivals could exist within modernity, whereas among primitive peoples ancient cultural traits and imported were quickly interpreted according to the Geist, or genius of the people. (31) Thus, in making his point against the unilinear evolutionists by arguing that cultures (in the plural) were constituted by their own historical development, there was still room for the central evolutionist plank of survivals. Now, what mattered was the particular culture that encompassed survivals from earlier times, and where that culture was located. For peoples of African descent, at least in the United States, these were minimal. In 1911, in The Mind of Primitive Man, while making the point that physical "type, language, and type of culture are not closely and permanently connected," Boas remarked:
   At the present period we may observe many cases
   in which a complete change of language and culture
   takes place without a corresponding change
   in physical type. This is true, for instance, among
   the North American Negroes, a people by
   descent largely African; in culture and language,
   however, essentially European. While it is true
   that certain survivals of African culture and language
   are found among our American Negroes,
   the culture of the majority is essentially that of
   the uneducated classes of the people among
   whom they live, and their language is on the
   whole identical with that of their neighbors--English,
   French, Spanish and Portuguese,
   according to the prevalent language in various
   parts of the continent. It might be objected that
   the transportation of the African race to America
   was an artificial one, and that in earlier times
   extended migrations and transplantations of this
   kind did not occur.

      The history of Medieval Europe, however,
   demonstrated that extended changes in language
   and culture have taken place many times without
   corresponding changes in blood. (32)

NOW, here Boas uses the case of African Americans to make the wider point that "race," language, and culture vary independently of each other, but comments that while African survivals do exist in North America, they are not deep nor are they profound. That he conceives of them means that he accepts at least that part of the social evolutionist argument. And in doing so, he comes very close to the racist stereotype that peoples of African descent were great imitators of European cultures and mannerisms. The implication being that peoples of African descent were a blank cultural slate upon which a superior culture could (read should) easily be foisted. The upshot was that the idea of cultural survivals could be made compatible with the Boasian anthropological paradigm. When he came to issue his 1930 programmatic statement on studying the African diaspora through cultural survivals, it is not by an accidental turn of phrase that Herskovits wrote that African cultural survivals would be "salvaged" through perceptive research. A central if paradoxical tenet of the Boasian paradigm was an emphasis on what later became known as "salvage ethnography," (33) the need to document cultures deemed to be disappearing under the weight of colonialism and modernization. Cultural survivals might be particularly good candidates for the salvage treatment, before they disappear forever.

African Cultural Survivals and the Politics of the African Diaspora in the Americas

AMATEUR ethnologists and social reformers in the Americas were greatly influenced by Tylor, Spencer, and the social Darwinists. Most often, these were local-born white elites, and those in Latin America and the Caribbean were anxious, as an act of nationalist definition, to defend their societies against a discourse emanating from Europe and North America depicting them as degenerate. Gentlemen scholars in societies such as Brazil and Cuba, with substantial populations of African descent, used the concept of African cultural survivals to criticize the "primitive" groups and strata within their societies, those elements who were a drag on the upward progress of the nation. For the physician Raimundo Nina Rodrigues, based in Bahia, Brazil, the question soon became not only what in terms of dangerous African cultural traits survived, but from where these traits had arrived. Nina Rodrigues wanted to delimit the survivals in terms of the African ethnic cultures of the former slaves and their descendants. He and those who followed him did this with a loose command of the colonial archive of named African ethnic groups, the corpus of African ethnology, and local traditions regarding the ethnic identity of enslaved Africans and their enslaved descendants--slave owners across the Americas where of course were interested in the supposed ethnic cultural characteristics of the various ethnic groups with ethnonyms such as "Bantu," "Yoruba," "Coromantee," "Dahomean," and many others. These were then mapped as ethnic-cultural traits that were deemed dominant in their contributions to language, religion, cuisine, and so forth. (34)

THE CUBAN-BORN lawyer Fernando Ortiz's book Hampa afro-cubana: Los negros brujos (1906) was billed by its author as "criminal ethnography" and it employed the idea of African cultural survivals, especially in religion, as a blight on the body politic, as "atavistic" and "degenerate." Blacks were stuck at an earlier stage of psychic development and they needed to be educated through contact with European-derived "higher" culture. Ortiz's criminal ethnography was informed by one of his mentors, Cesare Lombroso, the Italian criminologist, and can be located within an evolutionary perspective. Despite, or perhaps because of this, Ortiz's evidence is not first-hand ethnography but, rather, he uses police reports and newspaper accounts, and nineteenth-century ethnographies of African religion. And yet he presents a detailed description of Afro-Cuban religious life--beliefs and practices he hoped to stamp out. (35)

While Ortiz's perspective changed slowly after the 1930s, and he becomes an equivocal and inconsistent champion of Afro-Cuban literary and artistic expression, he never really loses his evolutionary perspective. He is concerned to define an elite-led Cuban nationalism, one that fuses disparate cultural elements but ultimately blunts the rough edges and melts down the solid mass of the non-European-derived cultural contributions. His ethnography was a tool to bring about that change. In a retrospective essay published in 1946, Ortiz said that by the 1920s "some understood, whites and coloreds, that my ethnographic work was no mere hobby or distraction, like taking up hunting or fishing; it was rather a basis on which to better lay the foundations for solid criteria on greater national integration." (36) While this quote might seem to indicate that it was the opinion of others that his ethnography was useful for the goal of nation-building, this quote might be taken to mean that ethnography in the service of a particular kind of nationalist politics--even if these politics shifted between the early part of the twentieth century and the 1930s--was indeed Ortiz's aim for his researches.

THERE WERE OTHERS who took up this thesis in the early twentieth century. For example, the white US historian Hubert H.S. Aimes, writing in the Journal of American Folk-Lore in 1905 on "African Institutions in America," described the practice of slaves and ex-slaves from New England to the Caribbean to Brazil of electing leaders of their informal groupings and holding elaborate public parades to commemorate them. For Aimes, "it may be said that these customs of the negroes were a direct survival of their practices in Africa." (37) African American ethnographer-novelist Zora Neale Hurston identified "shouting" in African American religious expression as an African survival in one of her contributions to Nancy Cunard's 1934 edited Negro anthology. (38) It would be a mistake to assume that there weren't a number of different motivations, at various levels of self-awareness and political consciousness, for scholars, professional and amateur alike, to deploy the concept of cultural survivals. No doubt this would have been complicated by ethnic identity and class affiliation of the scholar in question.

African American scholars such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson were concerned to counter the racist misrepresentations prevalent in the United States, and in so doing adopted the notion of survivals. Both, not coincidentally, worked closely with Boas. (39) As early as 1903 in The Souls of Black Folk, the sociologist Du Bois had written that "the social history of the Negro did not start in America," suggesting that it is in religion--"the most characteristic expression of African character"--and in music, where he set up a scale of blended elements, where these cultural survivals are to be found. (40) In The Negro, published in 1915, Du Bois presented a broad sweep of the Afro-Americas, and including a chapter entitled "African Culture," where he sketched the cultural background. Again, slavery destroyed family form, but not religion: "At first sight it would seem that slavery completely destroyed every vestige or spontaneous movement among the Negroes. This is not strictly true. The vast power of the priest in the African state is well known; his realm alone--the province of religion and medicine--remained largely unaffected by the plantation system." (41) This approach was integrated with Du Bois's vindicationist scholarship which aimed at proving the contributions of African Americans to the United States' cultural mosaic. As he famously asked: "Would America have been America without her Negro people?" (42)


The historian Woodson as early as the 1920s called for intensive studies of the peoples of the interior of Africa and their social institutions. (43) In his 1936 book The African Background Outlined; or Handbook for the Study of the Negro, Woodson starts his chapter "African Survivals in America" by saying:
   The African background of the Negro offers an
   explanation for much which we find today among
   the Negroes of the United States. Subordinated to
   a ruling class of another race, the Negro with his
   imported culture could not escape the transformation
   in this new atmosphere of prohibitions
   and social repression; but he who can find in the
   American Negro today only the survival of an
   African temperament, who sees no connection
   between the Americanized branch and its African
   forebears is an unfortunately uninformed individual
   with respect to the findings of history, ethnology,
   anthropology, and archaeology. The fact that
   we have had university professors to advertise
   such ignorance in the schoolroom and in print
   shows how badly off we are for a scholarly attitude
   to supplant this bias with respect to the African
   background of the race. (44)

He then goes on to point to the positive role of Africanisms in the adaption of African Americans and their contributions to US culture in the areas of politics, social relationships, the economic role of secret societies-cum-self-help organizations, entrepreneurship, and in religion and in popular culture.

In Haiti, Jean Price-Mars, the Afro-Haitian physician, politician, diplomat, and ethnologist, wrote in his 1928 book Ainsi parla l'Oncle of "survivances inconscientes," unconscious survivals, of African beliefs and values that, he felt, should be documented and valorized. PriceMars wrote against the social evolutionist racism of the likes of Gustave le Bon, and against the Francophilia of the Haitian elite, whose "Collective Bovaryism" trying to be what they are not, he decried in the face of the long US occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). Folklore and ethnology should be put to the service of the nation as it celebrated the African roots of four-fifths of Haiti's population. (45)

Academic Politics

ADHERENCE to a common theoretical tradition sometimes did but did not always create collegiality. Herskovits began corresponding and interacting with Ortiz and Price-Mars in the late 1920s. The scholars exchanged letters and copies of publications, and eventually Price-Mars helped Herskovits in doing fieldwork in Haiti in 1934. Ortiz and Price-Mars remained life-long colleagues of Herskovits. Because Herskovits read their work at a formative rime in his career, their influence on him was of great importance. It is odd, given his professed scientistic tendencies, for Herskovits to have rather uncritically accepted their data as evidence of African cultural survivals when they were writing with such (differing) political purposes in mind. In accessing Nina Rodrigues's posthumously-published book Os africanos no Brasil (1932)--Nina Rodrigues had died in 1906--because he did not speak nor read Portuguese, Herskovits had University of Chicago sociology graduate student Donald Pierson write English-language abstracts of each chapter. (46) Because of his connections to his Columbia classmates Gilberto Freyre and Rudiger Bilden, he became connected to the Afro-Brazilianists, namely the psychiatrist and ethnologist Arthur Ramos, an erstwhile member of the Nina Rodrigues school in Bahia. Herskovits and Ramos emerged as close allies, with Herskovits supporting Ramos as a visiting lecturer in the United States, and Ramos assisting with Herksovits's fieldwork in Brazil in 1941-42. (47)

THERE WERE, IN FACT, several kinds of academic politics at play that intersected with the establishment of the African cultural survivals paradigm. Since his 1930 manifesto article, Herskovits had elaborated on Boas's emphasis on "acculturation," defined as the results of two or more groups coming into "culture contact," establishing this approach to "culture change" in North American anthropology and helping to move it to the center of the discipline's concerns. (48) The survivals paradigm could not only remain intact under this approach, but the study of Africanisms could contribute greatly to anthropological theory-building more generally. (49) Herskovits had established a separate anthropology department, cleaved off of the sociology department, at Northwestern University, and had begun producing graduate students in his own theoretical image. He maintained smooth relationships with funding sources in the major foundations, securing research support for himself and for his students, and, conversely, he began to play gatekeeper. Du Bois had proposed an Encyclopedia of the Negro to various funding sources, and Herskovits worked behind the scenes to scotch the project. (50) Yet, Herskovits had a good personal relationship with Du Bois. And even though Woodson had published Herskovits in his Journal of Negro History, he and Herskovits had a fierce professional rivalry. Further, they did not get along personally. Herskovits regarded both men as less-than-scientific propagandists.

Woodson greatly influenced the African American linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner, as Wade-Lewis shows. (51) By the time Turner and Herskovits started to interact in the late 1930s, Turner had started to present the findings of his research among the Gullah/Geechee communities of African Americans in the Sea Islands and inland areas in the area from Jacksonville, Florida up the coast to North Carolina. Turner had already adopted the Africanisms thesis, and they started up a long-term friendship and collegial relationship. (52) Herskovits wrote letters of support for Turner's grant applications, and cited the unpublished manuscript for Turner's Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (53) in the writing of The Myth of the Negro Past.

NOT EVERYTHING went Herskovits's wa during this period. When the Carnegiy Corporation began to establish their Negro in America study, they briefly considered Herskovits to direct the study. They eventually settled on the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, and the study eventuated in the influential book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem in Modern Democracy (1944). (54) Herskovits was upset that he was not named director. Still, he and a number of other scholars were hired on the project to conduct research and to write research memoranda. But Myrdal rejected his contention that Africanisms were crucial for understanding the status of African Americans and ethnic conflict in the United States. The Myth of the Negro Past was written as a memo for the project, bur as a kind of dissenting opinion. (55) The American Council of Learned Societies established a Committee on Negro Studies in 1940, and asked Herskovits to be the chair. This was an attempt to provide a counter-balance to the Carnegie study. Herskovits packed the committee with scholars such as Turner who shared his theoretical views, and headed the committee for ten years, disbanding it when some of the black members wanted to take a more activist approach. (56) This kind of institution-building provided Herskovits with a platform from which he could provide closure and maintain paradigmatic boundaries. And this surely did not have to entail personal animus. The African American sociologist E. Franklin Frazier had insisted that the African American family forms could not be explained by African cultural survivals; instead, the horrible dislocations caused by the enslavement process, and racism were the causal agents. (57) He and Herskovits sparred in print, (58) even though they were on friendly terms, Herskovits wrote letters of support for Frazier, Frazier, Turner, and Herskovits all did fieldwork at around the same time, sharing the same informants, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, in the early 1940s, and, in fact, Frazier believed that African cultural survivals could and did exist in certain domains such as religion and language. (59)


WpWHILE LEAVING aside the intellectual and political merits of the paradigm under question--What does it mean to deny the coevalness of particular cultural traditions said to exist in the present day, taking them "out of time?" If cultural practices are seen as archaic holdovers from the past is it antithetical to conceive of "living traditions," of culture being made and remade under certain historical conditions? Is the concept of a cultural survival dynamic enough to depict diasporic process of inter- and intra-cultural dialogue, identity politics, community formation, resistance and renewal?--it might be seen that with this brief study a further challenge is mounted to the Kuhnian paradigm concept and, it is hoped, a path towards its renovation is suggested as well.

The Kuhnian idea of a scientific community is challenged in a number of ways. First, it is clear that paradigms might be cross-disciplinary in their adherence. Scholars from sociology, history, linguistics, as well as anthropology were involved in the development of the African cultural survivals thesis in the first half of the twentieth century. "Communities" of scientists are also clearly sometimes transnational in their constitution. This means that science is pursued across national disciplinary traditions. These boundaries have been very significant in anthropology. Furthermore, what happens to scholarship in "translation?" Another observation--that scientists often compete with each other for recognition and status in their quest for funding and followers--mitigates against community solidarity. This puts a strain on the cohesion of a community of scholars. Yet, in the case reviewed here, the paradigm's practitioners, coming from vastly different institutional settings and with differing motives and purposes, still found common theoretical ground. Is a community of scholars needed to support a paradigm?

Further, if the same paradigm is put to different uses, as we have seen, perhaps we need a "looser" definition of paradigm. At the same time, for the social sciences, this might mean a challenge to the notion that the social sciences are pre-paradigmatic. Combined with the observation that competing paradigms can exist even in rimes of "normal science," and I take it to be that if a certain paradigm is established and defended it is established and defended against something, rather than pre-paradigmatic it might be that the social sciences are plurally paradigmatic.

ON THE NOTION that science changes by the revolutionary overturning of paradigms and replacing them with new ones, it might be that this is indeed the case--sometimes. However, as we have seen, there are continuities as well. When Boas came on the scene, he heralded a paradigmatic shift in anthropology. Yet his emerging theoretical program also maintained some of the elements of the comparative method it was established to eradicate. Therefore, it might be the case that there are more than one kind of paradigm shifts, one truly revolutionary, the other kind(s) not so much so, and that they should be categorized and analyzed as such.

In Kuhn's theory, there is no serious attention paid to the "politics of reception" of scientific ideas outside of the community of scholars. How the reception among African Americans of the idea of African cultural survivals has changed from the formulations of a few particular academics such as Du Bois and Woodson to a more widespread acceptance by the time of the cultural revolutions of the 1960s as political agendas have changed accordingly is a question worth pursuing in this vein. As is the linked question as to how these concerns have fed back into academic praxis. These questions are not pursued here. In the present article, there is no thoroughgoing treatment of the role of the scientific and educational institutions in the creation and maintenance--and overthrow--of scientific paradigms. I admit that I have only hinted at such matters. A more in-depth analysis than could be attempted here would show how institutions are a point of mediation between the scientific endeavor and the outside world, which is replete with its own set of determinations. Conversely, that might mean that paradigms might persist in time beyond their encounter with anomalies for reasons other than scientific, located in causal, external factors. The aim of this exercise not solely critique. Certainly, I have maintained that the paradigm concept is "good to think." It is hoped that research hypotheses might be generated here as well.


(1.) Research for this article was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship and by grants from the Humanities Institute and the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of South Florida. I thank for their facilitation of access to the materials used here David L. Easterbrook, of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University, Janet C. Olson, Allen J. Streicker, Kevin B. Leonard, and Patrick M. Quinn, at the Northwestern University Archives, Sarah Walpole, archivist at the Royal Anthropological Institute, Portia James and Jennifer Morris of the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, and Livio Sansone of the Museu Digital da Memoria Afro-Brasileira. I benefitted from discussions and comments on an earlier version presented at the at the symposium "Connecting the Worlds of the African Diaspora: The Living Legacy of Lorenzo Dow Turner" held at the Anacostia Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, November 12-13, 2010 by symposium participants and by audience members. I thank them, and I thank the Anacostia Museum staff for their kind invitation and warm hospitality. I am grateful to Alcione M. Amos for her comments on an earlier draft of this article, and Maize Woodford for her editorial prowess.

(2.) Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

(3.) Kuhn, Structure, 170-171, italics in original.

(4.) An important critique is Margaret Masterson's, "The Nature of a Paradigm," in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, eds., Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 59-89, where she identifies at least 21 different ways Kuhn uses the paradigm concept. This collection also contains Kuhn's "Reflections on My Critics," 231-278. There is also his collected essays in Thomas S. Kuhn, The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), where he further considers his critics. See, also, Barry Barnes, T.S. Kuhn and Social Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), Steve Fuller, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), and James A. Marcum, Thomas Kuhn's Revolution: An Historical Philosophy of Science (London: Continuum, 2005) for a sample of treatments. Of these critical analyses, Robert M. Young's is still one of the best. See his "The Historiographic and Ideological Contexts of the Nineteenth-Century Debate on Man's Place in Nature," in Changing Perspectives in the History of Science: Essays in Honour of Joseph Needham, eds., Mikulas Teich and Robert M. Young (London: Heinemann, 1973), 344-438. An important critique often unjustly bypassed in the critical history of science literature is found in Theodore M. Brown, "Putting Paradigms into History," Marxist Perspectives 3(1) (1980):34-63.

(5.) Rather than reifying the distinctions between science and society, and I would suggest looking for the points of mediation in a dialectical approach, while at the same time maintaining that the "stuff" of paradigms is as important to understand as are the boundaries, but attention must be paid to how those boundaries are patrolled.

(6.) George W. Stocking, Jr., Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (New York: The Free Press, 1968).

(7.) George W. Stocking, Jr., "Paradigmatic Traditions in the History of Anthropology," in his The Ethnographer's Magic and Other Essays in the History of Anthropology (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 344.

(8.) For works on the history of the study of the African diaspora in sociology, see, for example, Alford A. Young, Jr. and Donald R. Deskins, Jr., "Early Traditions of African-American Sociological Thought," Annual Review of Sociology 27 (2001):445-477 and Pierre Saint-Arnaud, African American Pioneers of Sociology: A Critical History, trans., Peter Feldstein (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), and, in anthropology, see Ira E. Harrison and Faye V. Harrison, eds., African-American Pioneers in Anthropology (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), and Kevin A. Yelvington, "The Anthropology of Afro-Latin America and the Caribbean: Diasporic Dimensions," Annual Review of Anthropology 30 (2001):227-260.

(9.) On Herskovits's work and career, including critical assessments, see Andrew Apter, "Herskovits's Heritage: Rethinking Syncretism in the African Diaspora," Diaspora 1 (3) (1991):235-260, Robert Baron, "Africa in the Americas: Melville J. Herskovits' Folkloristic and Anthropological Scholarship, 1923-1941," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1994, Johnnetta B. Cole, "Africanisms in the Americas: A Brief History of the Concept," Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly 10(4) (1985):120-126, St. Clair Drake, "Anthropology and the Black Experience," The Black Scholar 11(7) (1980):3-21, Jerry Gershenhorn, Melville J. Herskovits and the Racial Politics of Knowledge (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), Walter A. Jackson, "Melville Herskovits and the Search for Afro-American Culture," in Malinowski, Rivers, Benedict and Others: Essays on Culture and Personality, ed., George W. Stocking, Jr. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), 95-126, J. Lorand Matory, Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), Richard Price and Sally Price, The Root of Roots: Or, How Afro-American Anthropology Got its Start (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003), David Scott, "That Event, This Memory: Notes on the Anthropology of African Diasporas in the New World," Diaspora 1(3) (1991):261-284, George Eaton Simpson, Melville J. Herskovits (New York: Columbia University Press, 1973), and Kevin A. Yelvington, "The Invention of Africa in Latin America and the Caribbean: Political Discourse and Anthropological Praxis, 1920-1940," in Afro-Atlantic Dialogues: Anthropology in the Diaspora, ed., Kevin A. Yelvington (Santa Fe, N.M.: School of American Research Press, 2006), 35-82.

(10.) Melville J. Herskovits, "The Negro in the New World: The Statement of a Problem," American Anthropologist 32(1) (1930), 149.

(11.) Years later, he does make such a chart. See Melville J. Herskovits, "Problem, Method and Theory in Afroamerican Studies," Afroamerica 1(1) (1945):5-24.

(12.) Herskovits, "The Negro in the New World," 155.

(13.) Herskovits, "The Negro in the New World," 152.

(14.) His publications in physical anthropology include the books The American Negro: A Study in Racial Crossing (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928) and The Anthropometry of the American Negro (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930).

(15.) Melville J. Herskovits, "The Dilemma of Social Pattern," Survey Graphic 6(6) (1925), 678, and "The Negro's Americanism," in The New Negro, ed., Alain Locke (New York: Albert & Charles Boni, Inc., 1925), 360.

(16.) Alain Locke, Editorial Comment, Survey Graphic 6(6) (1925), 676.

(17.) Yelvington, "The Invention." Herskovits had been arguing for existence of African cultural survivals in book reviews and in his grant applications in the years before his 1930 article.

(18.) Robert Baron, "Amalgams and Mosaics, Syncretisms and Reinterpretations: Reading Herskovits and Contemporary Creolists for Metaphors of Creolization," Journal of American Folklore 116(459) (2003):88-115.

(19.) Melville J. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941), e.g., p. 7.

(20.) Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom (London:John Murray, 1871). On the role of Tylor in the development of anthropology, see Henrika Kuklick, The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), Joan Leopold, Culture in Comparative and Evolutionary Perspective: E. B. Tylor and the Making of Primitive Culture (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1980), and George W. Stocking, Jr., Victorian Anthropology (New York : The Free Press, 1987) and After Tylor: British Social Anthropology, 1888-1951 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995).

(21.) Kenneth E. Bock, "The Comparative Method of Anthropology," Comparative Studies in Society and History 8(3) (1966), 269.

(22.) Tylor, Primitive Culture, Vol. 1, 14-15, 64. On the role of survivals in evolutionist anthropology, see Margaret T. Hodgen, The Doctrine of Survivals: A Chapter in the History of Scientific Method in the Study of Man (London: Allenson and Co., 1936) and, most recently, Laavanyan Ratnapalan, "E.B. Tylor and the Problem of Primitive Culture," History and Anthropology 19(2):131-142.

(23.) Ratnapalan, "E.B. Tylor," 136.

(24.) Stocking's Race, Culture, and Evolution tells this story well.

(25.) Franz Boas, "The History of Anthropology," Science (N.S.) 20(512) (1904), 522.

(26.) Franz Boas, "The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology," Science (N.S.) 4(103) (1896):901-908.

(27.) R. Lee Lyman and Michael J. O'Brien, "Cultural Traits: Units of Analysis in Early Twentieth-Century Anthropology," Journal of Anthropological Research 59(2) (2003):225-250.

(28.) Nicholas Thomas, Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

(29.) Here I am referring to the critique made by Johannes Fabian in his Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

(30.) Franz Boas, "Evolution or Diffusion?," American Anthropologist 26(3) (1924), 342.

(31.) Franz Boas, "Stylistic Aspects of Primitive Literature," Journal of American Folk-Lore 38(149) (1925), 334.

(32.) Franz Boas, The Mind of Primitive Man. Rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1938 [1911]),146, 147.

(33.) The term is, I believe, owed to Jacob W. Gruber and his article "Ethnographic Salvage and the Shaping of Anthropology," American Anthropologist 72 (6) (1970):1289-1299.

(34.) See, for example, Raimundo Nina Rodrigues, Os africanos no Brasil (Sao Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1932). On the effects of the Nina Rodrigues school on Brazilian anthropology, see Mariza Correa, As ilusoes da liberdade: a escola Nina Rodrigues e a antropologia no Brasil (Braganca Brazil: Editora da Universidade Sao Francisco, 1998). For works on his thought, see Anadelia A. Romo, Brazil's Living Museum: Race, Reform, and Tradition in Bahia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010) and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930, trans., Leland Guyer (New York: Hill and Wang, 1999).

(35.) See Fernando Ortiz, Hampa afro-cubana: los negros brujos (apuntes para un estudio de etnologia criminal) (Madrid: Libreria de Fernando Fe, 1906) and Hampa afro-cubana: los negros esclavos: estudio sociologico y de derecho publico (Havana: Revista Bimestre Cubana, 1916). On Ortiz's work and influence, see Miguel Arnedo, "Arte Blanco con Motivos Negros: Fernando Ortiz's Concept of Cuban National Culture and Identity," Bulletin of Latin American Research 20(1) (2001):88-101, Alejandra Bronfman, Measures of Equality: Social Science, Citizenship, and Race in Cuba, 1902-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), Mauricio A. Font and Alfonso W. Quiroz, eds., Cuban Counterpoints: The Legacy of Fernando Ortiz (Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books, 2005), Robin Moore, "Representations of Afrocuban Expressive Culture in the Writings of Fernando Ortiz," Latin American Music Review 15(1) (1994):32-54, and Stephan Palmie, Wizards and Scientists. Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002).

(36.) Fernando Ortiz, "For a Cuban Integration of Whites and Blacks," in AfroCuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture, eds., Pedro Perez Sarduy and Jean Stubbs (Melbourne, Australia: Ocean Press, 1993 [1946]), 30.

(37.) Hubert H.S. Aimes, "African Institutions in America," Journal of American Folk-Lore 18(68) (1905), 16.

(38.) Zora Neale Hurston, "Shouting," in Negro: An Anthology, ed., Nancy Cunard (London: Wishart and Co., 1934), 49-50.

(39.) See, for example, Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), William S. Willis, Jr., "Franz Boas and the Study of Black Folklore," in The New Ethnicity: Perspectives from Ethnology: Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society, ed., John W. Bennett (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1975), 307-334, and Rosemary Levy Zumwalt and William S. Willis, Franz Boas and W.E.B. Du Bois at Atlanta University, 1906 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2008). But, cf. Vernon J. Williams, Jr., Rethinking Race: Franz Boas and His Contemporaries (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996).

(40.) W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903), 195, 193, 256-57.

(41.) W.E.B. Du Bois, The Negro (New York: Henry Holt, 1915).

(42.) Du Bois, The Souls, 263.

(43.) Carter G. Woodson, The Negro in Our History (Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, 1922).

(44.) Carter G. Woodson, The African Background Outlined; or Handbook for the Study of the Negro (Washington, DC: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, 1936), 168.

(45.) See Jean Price-Mars, La Vocation de l'elite (Port-au-Prince: Imprimerie Edmond Chenet, 1919) and Ainsi parla l'Oncle (Paris: Imprimerie de Compiegne, 1928). On Price-Mars, see Jacques C. Antoine, Jean Price-Mars and Haiti (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1981), Gerarde Magloire and Kevin A. Yelvington, "Haiti and the Anthropological Imagination," Gradhiva (N.S.) (a) (2005): 127-152, Gerarde Magloire-Danton, "Antenor Firmin and Jean Price-Mars: Revolution, Memory, Humanism," Small Axe 9(2) (2005):150-170, and Magdaline W. Shannon, Jean Price-Mars, the Haitian Elite and the American Occupation, 1915-35 (London: Macmillan, 1996).

(46.) Pierson to Herskovits, August 28, 1934. Box 18, Folder 11, Melville J. Herskovits Papers, Africana Manuscripts 6, Series 35/6, Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, Ill.

(47.) A representative publication of Ramos's is O negro brasileiro: ethnographia, religiosa e psychanalyse (Rio de Janeiro: Civilizacao brasileira, 1934). This was translated as The Negro in Brazil, trans., Richard Pattee (Washington, DC: The Associated Publishers, 1939). On Ramos, see Luitgarde Oliveira Cavalcante Barros, Arthur Ramos e as dinamicas sociais de seu tempo (Maceio, Alagoas, Brazil: Editora da Universidade Federal de Alagoas, 2000), Correa, As ilusoes da liberdade, and Romo, Brazil's Living Museum. On the connections between Herskovits and Ramos, see Antonio Sergio Alfredo Guimaraes, "Comentarios a correspondencia entre Melville Herskovits e Arthur Ramos (1935-1941)," in Antropologias, Historias, Experiencias, eds., Fernanda Areas Peixoto, Heloisa Pontes, and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz (Belo Horizonte: Editora Universidade Federal do Minas Gerais, 2004), 169-198.

(48.) See Robert Redfield, Ralph Linton, and Melville J. Herskovits, "Memorandum for the Study of Acculturation," American Anthropologist 38(1) (1936):149-152, and Melville J. Herskovits, Acculturation: The Study of Culture Contact (New York: J.J. Augustin, 1938).

(49.) Herskovits, The Myth, 10.

(50.) See Gershenhorn, Melville J. Herskovits, 148-57.

(51.) Margaret Wade-Lewis, Lorenzo Dow Turner: Father of Gullah Studies (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007), 34-7.

(52.) On the Turner-Herskovits connection, see Margaret Wade-Lewis, "The Impact of the Turner/Herskovits Connection on Anthropology and Linguistics," Dialectical Anthropology 17(4) (1992):391-412, and Wade-Lewis, Lorenzo Dow Turner, 189-96.

(53.) Lorenzo Dow Turner, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).

(54.) Gunnar Myrdal, with the assistance of Richard Sterner and Arnold Rose, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1944).

(55.) On the project, see Waher Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 1938-1987 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), and David W. Southern, Gunnar Myrdal and Black-White Relations: The Use and Abuse of An American Dilemma, 1944-1969 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987).

(56.) On the committee, see Robert L. Harris, Jr., "Segregation and Scholarship: The American Council of Learned Societies' Committee on Negro Studies, 1941-1950," Journal of Black Studies 12(3) (1982):315-331.

(57.) See E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939).

(58.) For example, see E. Franklin Frazier, "The Negro Family in Bahia, Brazil," American Sociological Review 7(4) (1942):465-478, Melville J. Herskovits, "The Negro in Bahia, Brazil: A Problem in Method," American Sociological Review 8(4) (1943):394-402, and Frazier, "Rejoinder," American Sociological Review 8(4) (1943):402-404.

(59.) Frazier, The Negro Family, 5-6.
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Author:Yelvington, Kevin A.
Publication:The Black Scholar
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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