Sympathetic co-tribalist Jonathan Marks recounts the life of race charlatan "Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu". I find the letter of introduction hilarious. Carleton Coon also makes an appearance (in the second block quote, discussing the 1950 UNESCO "Statement on Race").
Certainly the most vocal and influential exponent of anti-racist anthropology was the enigmatic Ashley Montagu (Sperlin 2000). Born Israel Ehrenberg in London's East End, he began by studying physical anthropology informally with Sir Arthur Keith, and later studied cultural anthropology formally with Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics. At this time, he reinvented himself as Montague Francis Ashley Montagu. In 1931, he emigrated to the United States, writing a letter introducing himself to Hooton at Harvard, in which he cavalierly misrepresented his credentials:
I am twenty-six, educated at Cambridge, Oxford, London, Florence, and Columbia. M.A., Ph.D., etc. fifteen anthropological publications. Recommended very generously by Sir Arthur Keith, who has furnished me a too-glowing testimonial which you may see if you wish. Sir Arthur once told me that I can always say that he will speak for me, so I may as well mention this too, for if you hold him in as great respect as I do, this should be impressive (December 28, 1931, EHP)
In fact Montagu had not matriculated at either Cambridge or Oxford. He would not earn a PhD for several years, and it would be in cultural anthropology, under the supervision of Ruth Benedict. Nevertheless, he got a job teaching anatomy to dental students through Hrdlicka. In 1941, he launched his first attack upon the central concept of physical anthropology -- race -- combining the Boasian approach with the arguments advanced in Britain by the biologist Julian Huxley adn the anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon in their We Europeans (1936). Montagu maintained a cordial correspondence with Hooton, whose sponsorship (or at least benign neglect) would be needed for any advancement in physical anthropology.

Meanwhile, in the wake of revelations of Nazi horrors UNESCO's president, Julian Huxley, sought to have a formal statement issued about race. An international panel of anthropologists was assembled under Arturo Ramos, a Brazilian anthropologist, who died suddenly, leaving Montagu acting as "rapporteur" (Barkan 1996). The resulting UNESCO Statement on Race was issued in 1950, and left the "old guard" biologists and physical anthropologists sputtering about the divide between cultural and physical anthropology. To them, it was evident that the Statement had been drafted principally by cultural anthropologists -- and authored by its rapporteur, Montagu (Stewart 1961). As one of the angered physical anthropologists wrote, the original statement
was drawn up by eight men, one each from seven countries with Ashley Montagu as rapporteur. Only one, save the rapporteur, is a physical anthropologist -- Juan Comas of Mexico. The United States was represented by a Negro sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier; France by Claude Levi-Strauss, a Jewish sociologist, the UK by Morris Ginsberg, profession unstated. Not a single expert on race had anything to do with it. There were no Germans or Austrians.

It was sent to about 90 scientists, including myself. Darlington, Sir R. Fisher, Genna (Italy) and I "are frankly opposed to the statement". (Carleton Coon to Sarah Dees [undated], CP)
[. . .] the conservative backlash against the 1950 statement was powerful, particularly in England. The British journal Man published a long series of critical comments on it; and in response, a second UNESCO Statement on Race was drafted in 1951. Anxious lest the meeting be dominated by "out-and-out racists," which would result in a "pretty sad" statement (Dobzhansky to Montagu, February 24, 1951, AMP), the anti-racist scholars arranged to have the liberal geneticist L.C. Dunn serve as rapporteur. The second statement emphasized the biological aspects of debates about race -- and principally the indeterminacy of many key issues, such as intelligence. Even so, many senior physical anthropologists and biologists took exception to this statement. Their criticisms were solicited and published as The Race Concept: Results of an Inquiry, by UNESCO. [. . .]

Montagu had successfully undermined the concept of race, central to physical anthropology, but at enormous professional cost. Untenured at Rutgers, he was a prime target for the McCarthyites. Succumbing to political pressure, Rutgers summarily fired him, and he found all other academic avenues blocked. He was forced to earn his living as a lecturer and writer. [Oy vey iz mir.]

[pp. 245-246]

Marks, J. (2008) Race across the physical-cultural divide in American anthropology. In: A New History of Anthropology, edited by H. Kuklick. New York: Blackwell, pp. 242-258.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read Carleton Coon's autobiography to find out about Montagu using Dobzhansky to assault Coon at a public banquet. Dobzhansky was a catspaw for the wily, plotting Montagu.