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Writing Letters and Reading against the Grain of Anthropology’s Past


As a window into what happens when anthropology’s published and unpublished writing forms are measured together, this thesis will review the personal correspondence of a mid-twentieth century American anthropologist, David Montgomery Hart, whose letters, totaling over 10,000 pages, were recently entrusted to the National Archives in Morocco. In particular, I highlight what the discussions that occurred in his letters reflect about racialized logics in academic research at the time, collaborations between anthropologists and colonial officials, as well as the dangers Indigenous field assistants could face as a result of their work. Throughout my thesis, I will suggest how conceptualizations of race, particularly notions of whiteness as articulated in Euro-American writing from the nineteenth century forward, have shaped the field of Amazigh studies, as other scholars have noted. In combining analysis of Hart’s publications, personal correspondences, and my own interviews with his colleagues, I have two goals: first, to outline the processes by which twentieth-century anthropological research contributed to marking difference on a black-and-white color line in the region; and second, to suggest that ongoing discussions on the role of reflexivity in anthropology consider the importance of the discipline’s inward- as well as outward-facing writing.

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