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Responses to the Boasian School of Anthropology Essay

The Boasian school of anthropology, headed by Franz Boas, was among those that pioneered modern concepts in anthropology. The Boasian school was critical of overgeneralizing perspectives or theories in the sciences, including the cultural evolutionary school in anthropology, choosing instead to adopt rigorous empiricism in its approach. The Boasian school believed in the world having distinct cultures and that cross-cultural generalizing often made in the natural sciences are not possible in anthropology.

The school today uses the “four field approach” that divides the field into socio-cultural, biological, linguistic and prehistoric anthropology. While Leslie White was educated in the Boasian school of anthropology, he later began to question the anti-evolutionary views of his early education. He developed and advocated an anthropological, ethical and political view of the world almost targeted against the Boasian school.

Leslie White embraced two contradictory models of culture: the sut generts conceptions from his Boasian education and the materialist-utilitarian framework developed out of his concern with cultural evolutionism. White never reconciled the two but he definitely gave stress to the Boasian-based sut generts in case of conflicts. White feared that the Boasian school’s concept of cultural determinism represented an emasculation of anthropology and instead advocated science and evolution, particularly 19th Boasian School 1 century theories.

White regarded culture as superorganic made up of the technology, social organization and ideology levels. It should be noted, however, that White still held on to the Boasian-based sut generts and that he still tended to downgrade the impact made by the natural environment on culture and society. Julian Steward was a fellow evolutionist with Leslie White. Differing slightly from White, Julian steward’s concepts of evolution and progress was not limited to 19th century concepts. Steward, who was a pluralist in terms of openness to other views, never sharply broke up with the Boasian school.

But he did find anomalies in the historical particularism paradigm of the Boasian school. Steward viewed evolution as ‘recurrent forms, processes, and functions’, in opposition to Boasian’s repudiation of evolution and regularity in culture. He also perceived culture as superorganic, similar to a limited extent to White’s culturology. Steward’s multi-linear evolution aspect of his approach to anthropology differed from the extreme particularism of the Boasian school but without adopting the antithetically unilinear evolution concept of White.

Boasian School 1 References (December 2006). The Paradoxical Anthropology of Leslie White. Retrieved from the American Anthropological Association Website http://www. aaanet. org/gad/history/088white2. pdf. Leslie White. (2006, July 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:16, December 4, 2006, from http://en. wikipedia. org/w/index. php? title=Leslie_White&oldid=65691607. (May 2006). ESP/ANT 133. University of California Davishttp://www. des. ucdavis. edu/ esp133/133-08l. htm.

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