An Asian Frontier: American Anthropology and Korea, 1882-1945

By Robert Oppenheim | Go to book overview

5
THE ANTHROPOLOGIST WITHOUT QUALITIES

And all at once, in the midst of these reflections, Ulrich had to confess
to himself, smiling, that for all this he was, after all, a “character,” even
without having one.
—Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities

As the 1893 World’s Fair was bringing anthropology to the masses, and Pak Yonggyu to Culin and Cushing, nearby in Chicago another institution, destined to be an important center of American anthropology, was taking shape. Founded in 1892, the University of Chicago embraced anthropology from its inception, with a faculty appointment in the discipline at a time when there were only a handful of such positions in the United States. Yet its destiny as a force in the field would be some time in coming. The anthropologist whom founding university president William Rainey Harper chose for this first position was Frederick Starr. Starr was only a marginal participant in the anthropological endeavors of the World’s Columbian Exposition, due in no small part to his strained relationship with their chief organizer, Frederick Ward Putnam, and he quickly came to be marginalized at Harper’s university as well. Located in a joint department with sociologists who would soon be laying the groundwork for their own Chicago School, Starr lost the competition for administrative attention and resources; his own bureaucratic ineptitude, and lack of driving vision, did not help.

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