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Andaman Islanders And Polar Eskimo: Emergent Ethnographic Subjects

This lecture focused on the ethnographic work of British social anthropologist A. R. Radcliffe-Brown and the Danish ethnographer Knud Rasmussen. In particular, Professor Hastrup explored Radcliffe-Brown’s fieldwork in the Andaman Islands between 1906 and 1908, and Rasmussen’s studies of the Polar Eskimo in Northwest Greenland. While sharing a general quest for ethnographic description, they styled their fieldwork in different ways, saw colonialism in different terms, adhered to different knowledge traditions, and – not least –worked in different natural environments. This resulted in very distinct portraits of ‘the natives’, which were to cast long shadows into the present, within which the history of first encounters is firmly embedded.

About the speaker
Kirsten Hastrup is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. She has done substantial research on Icelandic history and society, and on early polar expeditions and the emergence of Arctic anthropology. Over the past five years she has done fieldwork in Northwest Greenland, where the small hunting community is greatly affected by climate change. In addition to these more specialised fields, she has published critical explorations of the foundations of anthropology.

This lecture was also delivered at the University of St Andrews on Monday 8 October 2012.