Podcast episode 30: Interview with Andrew Garrett on Alfred Kroeber

In this episode we talk to Andrew Garrett about the life, work and legacy of American anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber achieved a number of firsts in American anthropology: he was Boas’ first Columbia PhD and the first professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. But Kroeber is not only of historical interest. The recent “denaming” of Kroeber Hall at UC Berkeley illustrates the clash of the past with our present-day social and political concerns.

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References for Episode 30

Primary sources

Dixon, Roland, and Alfred L. Kroeber. 1913. New linguistic families in California. American Anthropologist 15:647-655.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. Shoshonean dialects of California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:65-165.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. The Washo language of east central California and Nevada. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:251-317.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. The Yokuts language of south central California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 2:165-377.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1917. The superorganic. American Anthropologist 19:163-213.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1919. On the principle of order in civilization as exemplified by changes of fashion. American Anthropologist 21:235-263.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1923, 2nd edition 1948. Anthropology. Harcourt, Brace.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Smithsonian Institution.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1952. The nature of culture. University of Chicago Press.

Kroeber, Alfred L. 1976. Yurok myths. University of California Press.

Kroeber, Alfred L., and George William Grace. 1960. The Sparkman grammar of Luiseño. University of California Press.

Kroeber, Theodora. l961. Ishi in two worlds. University of California Press.

Kroeber, Theodora. 1970. Alfred Kroeber: A personal configuration. University of California Press.

Secondary sources

Buckley, Thomas. 1996. “The little history of pitiful events”: The epistemological and moral contexts of Kroeber’s Californian ethnology. In Volksgeist as method and ethic: Essays on Boasian ethnography and the German anthropological tradition, ed. George W. Stocking, Jr. and George W. Stocking, pp. 257-297. University of Wisconsin Press.

Darnell, Regna. 2021. Genres of memory: Reading anthropology’s history through Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction and contemporary Native American oral tradition. In Centering the margins of anthropology’s history, ed. Regna Darnell and Frederic W. Gleach, pp. 201-217. University of Nebraska Press.

Garrett, Andrew. 2023. The unnaming of Kroeber Hall: Language, memory, and Indigenous California. MIT Press, in press.

Jacknis, Ira. 2002. The first Boasian: Alfred Kroeber and Franz Boas, 1896-1905. American Anthropologist 104:520-532.

Kroeber, Karl, and Clifton Kroeber, eds. 2003. Ishi in three centuries. University of Nebraska Press.

Le Guin, Ursula K. 2004. Indian uncles. In The wave and the mind: Talks and essays on the writer, the reader, and the imagination, pp. 10-19. Shambala.

Transcript by Luca Dinu

JMc: Hi, I’m James McElvenny, and you’re listening to the History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences Podcast, online at hiphilangsci.net. [00:20] There you can find links and references to all the literature we discuss. [00:24] In this episode, we continue our exploration of Amercanist linguistics in general and the Boasian school in particular through a conversation with Andrew Garrett, who’s professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. [00:40] Andrew is going to talk to us about Alfred Kroeber.

Kroeber achieved a number of notable firsts in American anthropology. [00:49] He received the first doctorate in anthropology from the program that Boas set up at Columbia University, which we discussed back in episode 28, and he was the first professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. [01:03] Kroeber’s not only famous in the world of anthropology, but also fame-adjacent in the real world. [01:10] His daughter was none other than the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin — the K stands for Kroeber. [01:19] And Kroeber is a figure of immediate contemporary relevance. [01:24] His name connects the historical concerns of our podcast with the social and political concerns of the present day. [01:32] For several decades, the building that houses the anthropology department and museum at UC Berkeley was called Kroeber Hall, in honour of Alfred Kroeber. But in January 2021 the building was denamed as part of an ongoing effort by the University of California to remove from the campus the names of historical figures whose legacies do not accord with the present-day values of the university. [01:59] Andrew Garrett supported this denaming of Kroeber Hall, but not without critically engaging with the process and with what it says about our understanding of history. [02:10] Andrew’s critical energies have brought forth a 400-page manuscript which will be published next year by MIT Press under the title The Unnaming of Kroeber Hall: Language, Memory and Indigenous California. [02:27]

So to get us started, could you tell us a little bit about Alfred Kroeber? [02:31] Who was he, and how did he end up in California, and what were his achievements, if we can put it that way? [02:38]

AG: Kroeber was born in 1876 in the U.S. [02:44] His grandparents were all born in Germany. [02:47] His father came to the US as a young child, and his mother’s parents were born in Germany, so German was not only his family background but actually his household language. [02:58] His first language was German. [03:00] The first book that he read, apparently, was a German translation of Robinson Crusoe. [03:04] He grew up in New York in a kind of, I guess, humanistic German-Jewish environment and went to Columbia College in Columbia University in the late 1800s as a student of literature. [03:20] He got an undergraduate degree in comparative literature, and that would have been his trajectory, except that he encountered Franz Boas. [03:27] He took a seminar from Franz Boas which he described later as transformational and as having adjusted his trajectory towards anthropology. [03:37] That seminar was oriented towards text explication, and Kroeber described it afterwards as very similar to what the classical philologists will do with Greek or Latin texts, except these were texts with Native American languages, and Kroeber just loved figuring out language, so he got into anthropology through linguistics and text work. [04:03] The first text documentation that he actually did was in New York working with the Inuktun language recording linguistic materials and texts. [04:13]

So as you said, he was Boas’ first Columbia PhD student. [04:17] He wound up in California because the philanthropist and extremely wealthy heiress Phoebe Hearst, who lived in San Francisco and was the mother of the famous – or infamous – William Randolph Hearst and the widow of the mining magnet and U.S. Senator George Hearst. She had developed an affiliation with the University of California, which was then transforming itself from a local college to a research university, and she was very interested in having a place to put all of her collections that she was assembling, in the way that many late 19th and early 20th century wealthy people were doing. [05:01] She was interested in Egyptology and ancient art and native art in the US, and so she funded archaeological expeditions and purchased huge quantities of antiquities and Native American art and, as I say, she wanted a place to put them and therefore endowed a new museum and the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, and they therefore needed to hire somebody to do that work. [05:32] And there was a conversation between Hearst and some of her friends and the people in charge of the University of California and Boas, and Kroeber, being Boas’ first Columbia student, got that job. [05:45] So he had actually come to California in 1900 for a temporary position and then went back to New York, and it was in 1901 that he came to California permanently, as it turned out to be. [05:57]

You asked about his accomplishments, and it’s very complex, I think, because he was in an anthropology department for his whole career, he’s known today by most people as an anthropologist, but at the time that he started, anthropology and linguistics were not so separated as they are now, and I think many people saw at least some parts of linguistics as being part of anthropology. [06:22] That was certainly how he was trained. [06:24] In the first decade or 15 years of his career at Berkeley, most of the work that he did was linguistic in nature. [06:33] It was work that we would now call language documentation, recording as many languages as possible in California, transcribing texts, publishing text material, and doing all of that with the with the goal of trying to understand the linguistic landscape of California. [06:50] California has more linguistic diversity in it per square mile, I guess, than any place in the Western Hemisphere, and there are about 98 languages, Indigenous languages, and they belong to 20 or 21 unrelated language families. [07:08] So the map is very messy, the relationships of the languages are… were unclear, and part of his interest, like the interests of many people at the time, was to try and understand history through linguistic relationships, and so figuring out, kind of doing the primary documentation of languages and figuring out their linguistic relationships was a major goal. [07:32] And some of his most important publications in the first decade of the 20th century were identifying language families and proposing relationships and subgrouping within language families kind of with that in mind. [07:46] He also, in the last decade of his life, after he retired, kind of returned to that primary, again, what we would call language documentation – basically, working with the material that he had collected early and had languished and trying to prepare it for publication and so on. [08:02]

So his career is very much sandwiched by linguistic work. [08:07] He was actually a president of the Linguistics Society of America at one point. [08:12] He did quantitative historical linguistic work before lexicostatistics and glottochronology. [08:19] So he’s kind of underrecognized for his linguistic contributions partly because of the substance of his anthropological contributions. [08:27] He turned towards what I now would think of as kind of more core anthropology concerns in the early to mid-1910s. [08:37] He went through a period of writing a number of papers that were substantial contributions against eugenics and what we might now call anti-racism against, you know, the pre-Second World War eugenics movement that was so popular in the U.S. and Europe, which was kind of, I think, for him, all about separating the alleged biological basis for human behaviour from the cultural basis for human behaviour and focusing on cultural properties as opposed to biological properties. [09:07] And that in turn led him to a series of publications, which is probably what he’s best known for in anthropology, though I’m not an anthropologist, publications about the nature of the “culture”, quote unquote, culture areas, change in culture over time, what are all the properties of quote-unquote “cultures”. [09:31] He was very interested also in taking the kind of diachronic anthropological lens and looking at European and Asian cultures in a similar sort of way. [09:43]

JMc: Yeah, so it’s interesting that he has quite a similar origin story to Edward Sapir, who also was at Columbia to study German and then had a conversion in a seminar given by Boas, but I guess Sapir is remembered more today as a linguist than as an anthropologist. [09:59]

AG: Yeah, that’s right, even though they both had very interdisciplinary interests, and they both wrote about literary topics and cultural topics and linguistic topics, but yeah, as you say, Kroeber really is seen as being on the anthropology side and Sapir’s seen as being as being on the linguistics side. [10:19] Kroeber was not a great linguist. [10:22] He didn’t have a wonderful ear, he didn’t have that ability that Sapir had to just transcribe with amazing accuracy languages that he did not know for page after page, so Kroeber is a much more problematic figure as a linguist to work with, and unlike Sapir, who wrote many excellent grammars, Kroeber never really finished very many of the grammatical projects that he worked on. [10:49] He was more of a survey linguist in California, I would say, than a finisher of grammatical descriptions, and Boas often criticized Kroeber for that. [10:59] Boas thought you should dig deep into a language, and Kroeber, I think, felt that his obligation at a public university in the state of California was to assemble information about all of California’s Indigenous peoples and languages, so he would work for two days with a person from this dialect, and for three days with a person from that dialect. [11:22]

JMc: One aspect of Kroeber’s attitude towards the Indigenous people in California that he was studying that’s perhaps problematic today is that he subscribed to a kind of cultural essentialism, and this is actually an attitude that came from Boas, which Boas inculcated in all members of his school. [11:42] The Boasians thought that there’s something like the pure cultures of Native American peoples which had been irrevocably corrupted by the encroachment of European colonial civilization. So a consequence of Kroeber’s attitude is that he pursued what was called memory ethnography, and this has also been called salvage ethnography. [12:05] So memory or salvage ethnography is the effort to try and unearth this putative pure culture to find out what life was like in the olden days before the arrival of white colonists. [12:16] So what influence do you think this attitude had on how Kroeber approached anthropology, and in what ways could his attitude be problematic, would you say? [12:27]

AG: That’s a very interesting question. [12:30] I think that… I mean, you describe it exactly rightly, and I think that that approach that he and others at the time had had, in a way, both pros and cons. [12:42] One thing to be said about it is that it’s not peculiar to the relationship of academics or writers to Indigenous cultures outside Europe, but it comes out of this 19th century Romanticism that was also applied equally well to European folk cultures – you know, the idea that there’s an “essential” quote-unquote, I don’t know, Lithuanian or German or Irish culture, and that, you know, that, too, should be quote unquote “rescued” before modernity destroys it. [13:16] That kind of movement, I think, was present in Europe before it was applied to the cultures of other parts of the world, but it certainly is true that Kroeber did exactly what you say. [13:28] From the present-day point of view, it’s kind of strange to think about the methodology that he used. [13:34] There was no participant observation. [13:37] Nowadays, one thinks of the way that you learn about cultural practices being going to live in a place and either engaging in or at least watching the practices that are going on around you, and Kroeber instead went to a place, tried to find the most knowledgeable elderly people and ask them how it used to be. [13:58] So, you know, “How did you do this ceremony 50 years ago or when you were a child? What kind of songs did people sing?” etc. [14:06] So that clearly gives you a very mediated perspective on the way things were. [14:14] You’re learning about things that people remember and that will be colored by the way that they remember things. [14:22] For him, I think, the goal was twofold. One was, exactly as you say, they had this notion that there was such a thing as an authentic or essential Indigenous culture and that the goal was to try and figure out and record information about the authentic one, not the contaminated one, and the old people, of course, would have a better knowledge of the authentic culture. [14:46] For Kroeber, also, part of the goal was diachronic, and so he, unlike Boas, was very interested in reconstructing the diachronic relationships of languages and also the diachronic relationships of cultures, and therefore the further back you can go in getting information, the closer you are to sort of figuring out the history of things. [15:11] It’s the same logic as underpinned European dialectology at the same time. [15:17] You go out and interview not the young people in the city, but the old farmer who remembers the vocabulary that he learned 80 years ago, and that gets you closer to the allegedly original dialect forms. [15:31] So I think it’s the same kind of reasoning. [15:33]

JMc: Perhaps it fits with this logic that there’s an onslaught of modernity that is sweeping away these traditional cultures. [15:41]

AG: That’s exactly right, I think. [15:43] So he, like Boas and others of that era, I think we’re very concerned the way that they would advertise the project to philanthropists and university leaders was always about, “Cultures are dying. We need to record information about languages and cultures for posterity,” meaning elite white Euro-American posterity for academic culture before they die off, etc., and that was the language. [16:14] The constant assumption was that Indigenous people were about to vanish and this work needed to be done immediately before they vanished. [16:23] It’s quite striking to me how similar the discourse that Boas used or Kroeber used in 1900 or 1901 to the discourse that linguists use 100 years later and 120 years later about having to do this work urgently before things disappear, and I think in anthropology, as you kind of implied, in anthropology people have moved on from that attitude that what needs to happen is to record the old ways before they’re gone. [16:52] I don’t think anthropologists now think of their project in that way at all, whereas linguists do still often think of their project in exactly that way as, “We need to go and record things before they are gone.” [17:03]

So yeah, that meant that Kroeber, that approach colored all of his documentation. [17:09] It meant that he recorded traditional narratives, ceremonies, song, culture, verbal arts that he considered or that his consultants considered to be older ones, but he didn’t record how people talked in then present-day bilingual communities. [17:28] He didn’t write about language mixing. [17:31] He didn’t write about discursive practices that Indigenous people use in interaction with white people. [17:38] He didn’t – intentionally – write about ways in which language was changing. [17:45] In fact, sometimes he would even suppress ways that language is changing, so he would sometimes, if people code-switched into Spanish, when he published he would sometimes omit the Spanish because that was not part of his goal, which was to reconstruct, you know, the original style of speaking. [18:05] So occasionally, that would even… He would wind up presenting a misleading version of the way things were in the service of trying to characterize the way things used to be, so that has led to the criticism, which is quite justified, that he and others neglected present life – that is, then-present life – of Indigenous people, which is both, you know, creates a lot of gaps in terms of just understanding linguistic and cultural practices of the time. [18:38] And it has been said that that also contributed to the public feeling that Indian people were quote-unquote “vanishing”, because what was being recorded was just the vanished part of the culture and not the thriving part of the culture. [18:53] So that’s certainly problematic, and as I said, many people have criticized Kroeber and the Boasians for that aspect of their work. [19:02]

JMc: You think that present-day linguists’ attitude of trying to record endangered languages before they disappear and also the practice of language revitalization – that is, trying to bring back languages that are no longer spoken – do you think that these are equally problematic to the sort of attitude that Kroeber and Boas manifested 120 years ago? [19:25]

AG: That’s a very interesting question. I think that many of the practices of linguists today are unintentionally similar to some of the practices of Kroeber, so linguists often are interested in the code, not the social behaviour around the code or the social significance of the code. [19:49] We’re interested in documenting the structures, and so that can lead linguists to a bias against code-mixing and other kinds of linguistic behaviour that are dynamic linguistic behaviour that seem to kind of cut against the linguist’s perception of what the code is. [20:13] That is to say, I think linguists do, sometimes even today, implicitly have a language a puristic language ideology that can manifest as an interest not in recording language behaviour or language practices in general, but in recording this one code as opposed to this other code or a mixed code or inter-language behaviour or hybridization or what have you. [20:41] I think there are linguists today still who have that presupposition and whose work is therefore potentially limited in that way. [20:50]

As to the question of language revitalization, that’s also an interesting question, but I think that language revitalization movements mostly come from within the Indigenous communities, and so these are not outsiders – generally – telling Indigenous people, “You need to talk the way that your grandparents talked or the way that your great-great-grandparents talked,” but it’s typically Indigenous people saying, “We want to reclaim this knowledge that our parents had or our grandparents had and that we didn’t have enough access to.” [21:25] It is certainly true that the question of authenticity and purism can come up in that context and internal to the dynamics of any revitalization situation, there will be participants who have a puristic approach who only want to do things the way it used to be done, and there will be participants who have a more hybridistic approach or who are more tolerant of change or mixing or what have you, and those different participants can in some cases be different Indigenous stakeholders, or in some cases it’s the linguist who’s the purist and the non-linguists who are kind of more open, or in some cases it’s the other way around. [22:10] So I think, certainly in revitalization situations, it’s important for all the participants to kind of be aware of what their own language ideologies are and how purism and eclecticism play into the choices that they make. [22:25]

JMc: Going back to Kroeber, one striking episode in Kroeber’s life is his relationship to the Yahi man generally known as Ishi. [22:35] Kroeber’s treatment of Ishi is one of the key points on which he’s been criticized recently, so can you tell us what the story with Ishi is, and what would you say about Kroeber’s role in this story? [22:49]

AG: Sure. [22:50] Ishi was a man, as you say, a Yahi man. [22:55] Yahi is a dialect of the Yana language and the Yahi people and Yana people live, or lived, in north central California. [23:05] Ishi was a man who had lived outside of white control or US government control as most Indians did –most Indians lived under US government control in some form – and he had lived outside of US government control for his whole life, approximately 50 years, until 1911 when he walked into the town of Orville. [23:29] He had actually been in plenty of contact with white people living on the margins of their society, but he had not been in a reservation or in, you know, under the management of the US government as many Indigenous people were. [23:45]

So he walked into Orville, California, in 1911 speaking only the Yahi language, which nobody there could speak, so no one could communicate with him effectively. [23:56] Kroeber and his colleague T. T. Waterman had been looking not for Ishi himself but for Ishi’s people for several years because there had been lots of stories about these people who, you know, lived out of the forest and were so-called quote-unquote “wild.” [24:16] There had been a lot of anecdotes about them and people who had encountered them, so Kroeber and Waterman had been kind of looking for them for a while and suspected when Ishi walked into Orville that he was one of them. [24:29] So Waterman went up there with a word list from the language to verify, if he could, that, that was actually the language that he spoke and discovered that it was, and they got permission from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to bring Ishi to San Francisco to the museum, which is where the – San Francisco is where the UC anthropology museum was at the time. [24:53]

So their interest in doing that at that time was clearly what we would now call exploitative or extractive. [25:00] They were interested in him for the knowledge that he would provide to researchers, and that’s why they brought him to San Francisco. [25:08] Between 1911 and 1916, he lived – as did other museum employees – he lived in the museum of anthropology, in a room there. They had rooms, had one or two rooms for their, some of their employees. For those four and a half years, I guess, that he lived in San Francisco, [25:26] he worked mostly as a janitor and kind of general helper in the museum, for most of that period, for the first seven months. [25:36] He also did demonstrations, cultural demonstrations, on Sundays where he would do flint cutting or bow making or some other kind of traditional cultural activity, and either an anthropologist or an Indigenous person would stand up and say in English what he was doing. [25:54]

So Kroeber has been criticized for using Ishi as a research specimen. [26:03] There’s a long tradition of Indigenous people being exhibited in museums, and critics have sometimes said that Ishi was exhibited in the museum. [26:14] People have occasionally referred to it as indentured servitude or slavery, which seems inaccurate to me. [26:19] Ishi frequently said that he preferred to live there. [26:25] He was often asked whether he would rather go live in a reservation or go back and live where he had come from, and he always said, no, that he wanted to live where he did live. [26:35] He had a pretty active social life. [26:37] He spent weekends at people’s houses, and he had dinner with lots of friends, and went to movies, and went on weekend vacations out of San Francisco and hung out with kids really, really frequently, so he had a very busy life. [26:54] They did documentary work with him off and on, so in 1911 they did a lot of language and text recording with him, and then again in 1914 and 1915, but mostly not during most of the years that he was there. He just lived and worked in the museum. [27:11]

As you say, nowadays Kroeber is often criticized for prioritizing research over Ishi’s human interests, and there is, as I said, absolutely no question that his initial engagement with Ishi was entirely research-oriented or extractive. [27:32] In a way, I think that is often true today in linguistics, at least. [27:36] So I have encountered many situations of a linguistic field methods course where a faculty member says, “Oh, I’ve heard that there’s a speaker of such and such a language. We definitely need to get that person to be involved with our field methods course because that language is so interesting,” which is the same kind of prioritizing the research goal over the interests of the person or the community. [28:00] So it’s another way, I think, in which those attitudes are not gone. [28:04]

I should also say Ishi died of tuberculosis in the museum, or in the hospital next door, so that’s another aspect of the criticism, that he came into a city got tuberculosis eventually, and died of tuberculosis. [28:18] Tuberculosis was endemic at that time and Indian reservations were filled with illness, unfortunately, and the US healthcare system for Indians was terrible, so it’s also not exactly clear that he would have been healthier in the reservation. [28:34]

JMc: And of course, Ishi wasn’t his actual name, was it? [28:37]

AG: Good point. [28:38] That’s right, [28:38] Ishi is the Yahi word for “man.” [28:40] He chose not to reveal his name, so people called him Ishi. [28:45]

JMc: So if we come back to the denaming of Kroeber Hall, you’ve supported this process of the denaming or unnaming of Kroeber Hall, but at the same time, you said, and I’m quoting here from an open letter that you wrote to the committee that performed this denaming, you wrote that “Focusing on Kroeber distracts us from honest self-examination, suggesting that our problem lies with a single villain rather than being what it is: foundational and systemic.” [29:17] So can you tell us what you mean by this? What are the foundational and systemic issues, and what would an honest self-examination look like? [29:25]

AG: I should say first that the reason why I was in favour of unnaming the building, why I thought it was a good idea, is that there are really two issues at stake when people talked about whether Kroeber Hall should be unnamed. [29:42] One issue was, what did the historical guy Alfred Kroeber do, and how do we understand that in the context of his time, and what are the pros and cons of all of the work that he did? [29:53] And the other issue is, how does the legacy of salvage anthropology, as you described it, how does that legacy hit Indigenous people today, and what does it mean for Indigenous people to walk into a building that has Kroeber’s name on it? [30:09] And regardless of the first question, the answer to the second question is that the legacy of early 20th century anthropology has brought a tremendous deal of harm and pain to Indigenous people. [30:22] The University of California has not, over many years, has not been supportive of Indigenous people, and so people, you know, walking onto the University of California campus and walking into a building called Kroeber Hall that houses the main campus institutions that are about the relationships between the university and Indigenous people, those people felt a weight of pain because of that name, which is independent of what Kroeber did or did not do, and there’s no reason for people entering the University of California, Berkeley, campus, there’s no reason for them to have to feel that way, and there’s no reason for us to have buildings that evoke any kind of feelings of exclusion or pain. [31:06] So to me, it seemed completely reasonable to change the name for that reason alone. [31:13]

As for your question about foundational and systemic problems, what I meant by saying that there’s a foundational problem is that the University of California was built not only literally on Indigenous land, but built with the profits of the exploitation of Indigenous land. [31:35] All of the early donors to the University of California were San Francisco and California elites. [31:42] The way that white people in early California made their money was from the Gold Rush, which is to say either directly or indirectly from killing and displacing Indigenous people from their land. In some cases very directly, so the Hearst money, which was the kind of – Hearst was the largest donor to the University of California – the Hearst money comes from mining, which is about pushing Indigenous people off their land and exploiting its resources. Even people who themselves didn’t directly exploit Indigenous people were bankers or involved somehow in the support of miners. [32:23] So the university was set up by a community of individuals who, of course, had good intentions – educational intentions, etc. – but individuals who had profited immensely by the displacement and eradication of Indigenous populations, and their cultures and their languages. [32:45] Pointing to Kroeber and saying he’s the problem, in my opinion, was a way of distracting us all from this more foundational problem, which has not really been acknowledged by the university. [32:58]

It remains systemic in a lot of ways. [33:02] There are not really strong systems in place yet to support Indigenous students or faculty or staff, although things are changing, but slowly. [33:12] There are not strong systems in place to support the relationship between the university and Indigenous people of California outside the university – although, again, things are changing, and it goes at different rates in different parts of the campus. [33:27] But the university’s rhetoric remains the rhetoric of a settler colonial institution, so just the ideology that California was the wilderness, that California was the frontier, that the university was established by settlers and pioneers for their families. That rhetoric – and, you know, that was historically true – but that rhetoric remains part of the constant rhetoric of the university’s own self-presentation. [33:59] In your self-presentation, every time you say “This is a university that was set up by pioneers or by settlers to ensure good education for pioneers and settlers,” you are excluding the Indigenous people whose land they settled. [34:14] So I think that a more honest self-examination would not single out a particular academic who was actually mostly quite supportive of Indigenous people, but would look at the people who provided the money to, you know, put in place the institutions that enabled that research. [34:33]

JMc: Well, thank you very much for coming on the podcast. [34:38]

AG: Sure, it’s been a pleasure. [34:39]

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One comment on “Podcast episode 30: Interview with Andrew Garrett on Alfred Kroeber
  1. Fascinating and thought-provoking. Many thanks to you both.

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Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
XXXII. International Colloquium of the “Studienkreis ‘Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft'” (SGdS)
Controversies in the history of linguistics

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