Historians have in recent years increasingly focused on the circulation of scientific ideas between countries, continents, and cultures. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the field of anthropology reflected this dynamic perhaps more than any other area of scientific inquiry. Anthropology was from its beginning a transatlantic undertaking, integrating explorers and scientists from Europe and North America with local scientists in the New World and elsewhere. Latin America in particular was a key site of archeological, anthropometric, and ethnographic research. Moreover, as the field expanded and gained in legitimacy – based in large part on local studies of American peoples – ideas about the “nature of man” were centrally implicated in this process.
This panel will address the transnational networks of ideas and scientific knowledge, specifically in terms of ideas about American populations as they were developed and shared by European, North American, and Latin American scholars alike. Papers will address the movement of scientific objects and concepts, as well as the scientists themselves, within an international network of anthropological institutions that emerged and rapidly grew in the last quarter of the 19th century. Participants will draw on emerging scholarship on the history of anthropology in diverse American settings, with a focus on a key element of much anthropological research in the region: the encounter between the local and the foreign. Taken together, the papers trace some of the complex patterns of intellectual development among European, North American, and local Latin American anthropologists. They examine the interactions, the divergent interpretations as well as the shared assumptions, and finally, the controversies that ensued from these transnational meeting points in the “study of man” in the Americas.