The Fire this Time?

Michael L. Blakey

To cite this article: Michael L. Blakey (2020) The Fire this Time?, Anthropology Now, 12:3, 39-49, DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2020.1884486

Michael L. Blakey

The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn? Hmm. Anthropology was burning before I began my undergraduate career at Howard University in 1975. At least that’s when I first smelled the smoke. I had been the youngest and only Black member of the Maryland Archaeological Society in 1966–1968 when, at the age of 15, I also conducted a study in paleopathology under Don Ortner’s supervision at the Smithsonian. This to say I have been deeply ensconced in anthropology for a half century. But, to use Faye Harrison’s term, I have also been an “outsider within.”1 My undergraduate experience in an African American-run anthropology program at a pivotal time in national and disciplinary history has affected my perspective ever since, so the rising Black and Latino anthropologists who were making “The Case” last month are exactly what I would expect and hope for.

The Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA) formed in the early 1970s to provide for a better anthropological conversation among its members. They sought to reconstruct— to transform—the discipline as an anticolonial and antiracist field, activist, humanizing and inclusive of those who would be made its subjects as its intellectual leaders.2 Howard University, the leading African diasporic research university, had reached its apex of nine anthropologists in a Sociology and Anthropology Department, most of whom were Black. Most were enthusiastic supporters of the newly minted ABA, and Jerry Wright was the leading ABA representative among its young and energetic faculty. I had been the one undergraduate TA with the pleasure of knowing them all well. We students read Notes from the ABA as though it were a promise.

The days of the Second Reconstruction (1968–1980) were exciting for those like us who were working, for the first time, in a post-Jim Crow United States and a postcolonial world of our own, long-fought, Black, Native, Latinx and Asian creation against white hegemony. White people did not demand this world. There were white allies in these efforts, because some could follow be- fore being forced to do so. Anthropologists, occupying white space, have generally refused to follow the “other.” Instead they converted his or her voice into their theory with which to begin a conversation with other whites. They rarely checked in with the other to ask what they wanted to be known about themselves in their own interests. They lived in an intellectually gated white community throughout all of these changes in the status of the other, whose rich cultural diversity constituted anthropologist’s bread and butter, their commodity. They were in the wrestling match, but they would say “objectively” so. Kathleen Gough said they were, instead, the child of imperialism.3 Blacks had said as much since Frederick Douglass began the nature/nurture debate against American anthropology’s support of slavery.4

John R. Cole wrote that anthropology had come “Part-Way Home” to study Europe for the first time by the 1970s, not only because of fiscal tightening of research budgets but because their spying, primitivizing and useless patronizing story-making would have them kicked out of much of the decolonizing Third World.5 And the 110 Black colleges and universities? None had, or has, found enough of value in anthropology to allow it a full department. Howard had departments and graduate and professional programs in just about everything else. We imagined anthropology might be re-tooled in the ways we could see had already been accomplished by those few Blacks who had made their way into the field from its beginning. Indeed, Equiano wrote before its beginning, in the original genre of abolitionist autoethnography called “slave narratives,” while whites’ 19th-century anthropology-supported slavery.6 This was the time. Our conversations at Howard included the voice of no less than Haitian anthropologist Anselm Remy, whose poignantly titled “Anthropology, for Whom and What” had been a talk at our little Anthropology Club.7 And Chinese American Francis L. K. Hsu, the first nonwhite American Anthropological Association (AAA) president, was writing about racism as “The Cultural Problem of the Cultural Anthropologist” and asking the field to engage in “paradigm breaking” in the Anthropology Newsletter.8

William Willis, Boas expert and Howard-Columbia graduate, wrote at the beginning of the Second Reconstruction that Boas’ and his students’ liberal racism were the “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet.”9 Boasians were generally uninterested in racist and class discrimination, with the exception of Gene Weltfish, whom they basically fired for it at Columbia. Nor did they ever demonstrate listening to the intellectuals of “the other” who were interested in antiracist and anticolonial movements and the  problems of growing industrialism. In 1970, African American anthropologist Delmos Jones argued for a “native anthropology” in which one stood with the subjects of study against their oppression.10

Boasians, like other cultural anthropologists, wanted those societies to be their cultural reductionist experiments, imagining and constructing them devoid of their struggles with the inequities they actually confronted. Boasian antiracism was mainly interested in restoring whiteness to recently marginalized European American ethnics, understandably. Their postwar solution was clearly implemented by the UNESCO Statement on Race by which the “Caucasoid Division” technically reembraced them. Karen Brodkin Sacks would later tell “How Jews Become white Folks” by their subsequent incorporation into the material structures of whiteness that their renewed racial designation allowed.11

Much has been made of Boasian antiracism, but as Willis and others show, Boasians objectified people of color in their culturally reductionist world. Worse, black and brown people were “the football of anthropology,” according to Du Bois. Boas was better than the white supremacist mainstream at the Smithsonian and Harvard, but Boasian anthropology had little to do with the aspirations of those subject peoples themselves and thus remains white hegemony, when it need not have been. From the racist vantage point of its white intellectual space, these anthropologists chose to dismiss, rather than listen to, the other’s own, critical voices and (in order to?) disavow what Frederick Douglass called “The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered.” I later discuss how that problem continues to resonate with The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn.

The Chicago School, however, was concerned with what people of color were striving for, or against. Whether by the contributions of Du Boisian-influenced students, such as St. Clair Drake, or its social anthropological contributions to Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma, they sought to expose racist discrimination and  class  inequity.12 The closest thing to this from the Boasians was Oscar Lewis’ victim-blaming culture of poverty. As I have mentioned, Black schools did not embrace most of anthropology, preferring sociology, history, political science, anatomy and medicine to tell their story of humankind. Lee Baker writes that even Zora, who clearly dismissed much of Papa Franz, seemed questionable to the mainstream of African American academics striving  for their own modernity on their journey of double-consciousness from the white man’s “Savage” to their own “Negro.”13 Yes, some American Negroes were terribly affected by the internalization of white supremacy, as E. Franklin Frazier reported. Others just wanted to be authentic Negroes with means. Neither was comfortable with the anthropology my Oxford-educated Howard professor, Larry Brooks, referred to as “Buga buga.” In the last days leading up to the Second Reconstruction, however, the Black consciousness movement would sample the Boasian “Africanisms” they found useful. Black activist scholars such as Johnnetta Cole14 were the first to integrate anthropology at white academic institutions with a Black intellectual’s own institutionalized conversations. They called this house Africana or African American Studies, where much of anthropology was burned.

A Sick White Phoenix

The Second Reconstruction lasted only as long as the first—about 12 years—prior to its dismantling by white backlash, just as the previous one was followed by Jim Crow. By my second year in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, affirmative action’s teeth had been pulled, with the post-Bakke decline of quotas. Instead, the vilification of Blacks was cultivated. Commercial carceral slavery was led by sequential Republican presidencies and left unquestioned by white Democratic ones. From the old slavery and Jim Crow days of anthropology’s first America, to awkward, patronizing neo-colonialisms of the post-War years, anthropology went from being completely racist to a culturally reductionist, primitivizing liberal racism. It looked only at the other and, even when it returned partway home, refused to turn its gaze to the American white supremacy of which anthropology was both child and parent. With all its talk of looking outward in order to understand “ourselves,” anthropology (and the whites who composed it) actually just refused to look at themselves. Nor would they allow “the other” to sit in the canonical room to discuss its contrasting views of humankind, critical of them.

The post-Second Reconstruction’s evasive racism is still present. Trump’s openly racist America drinks the wine that fermented there all those years.  The mythical “level playing field” magically appeared, claiming to have ended years of social and material inequity without ever sharing more than extra crumbs—like “diversity hires”—of their ill- gotten gains. The myth effectively put a ball- and-chain on institutional antiracism efforts such as affirmative action because the false assumption of a level playing field allowed the fallacious notion of “reverse racism” by people of color to take root. This propaganda would characterize affirmative action serving Blacks as unjust—as racist. Affirmative action became the new n-word, an aspersion specific to the assumed unworthiness of Blacks, while white women received the greatest benefits of it, eventually untainted by the connotations of unworthiness. The very use of the word “racism” was itself silenced as if a racist act, an incivility. Now whites could make a claim on the new high ground of antiracism while objecting to “reverse racism” and “incivility,” shutting down any truly antiracist discourse or redemptive policies as though these policies were themselves the culprits of racism.

Anthropologists—white anthropologists—were complicit at each step because anthropology, as far as they were concerned, is white. No longer white in the old 19th-century sense of that which replaced Christendom in 1691 Virginia, about which Audrey Smedley writes,15 but in the evolved sense of the normative, universal, neutral and objective, unmarked, real and complete human being whom Ruth Frankenberg describes.16 But they remained elected in the same Biblical sense in which whiteness began, as theologian Willie Jennings points out.17 Born, as Blumenbach knew, fully formed in civilization, whites (as anthropologists) needed nothing from any but their own, and they, like a “Karen,” knew what their audiences needed to know. Black anthropologists, whose histories were written in the 1990s along with their new Decolonizing analyses, were no more considered for the canon or classroom than were the Zoras and Vera Greens, intended in their times only to access black data for white, Boasian, parlors. But they never acceded to that arrogation. They struggled against whites’ elaborate methods of self-deception. They were there to tell another truth.

And so they did. Many young Black anthropologists, as have many Latinx, know their own alternative truths, whether in the words of their own intellectual ancestors or by virtue of the continued critique (Drake called it vindicationism) made compelling by their own vantages, which are, in Faye Harrison’s words, “excentric.”18,19

It is a shame when they don’t. People of color generally live in worlds where social and self-criticism are essential for survival as anything other than sellouts overtaken by Fanon’s mental slavery. Criticism for us is not relegated to the parlor games of anthropological navel gazers. White students, on the other hand, are rarely shown their deep subjectivity beyond conveniently gentle toys like the “Nacirema.” They think that by applying “cultural relativism” they can achieve objective and neutral authoritative knowledge.

Here is the irony: White anthropologists believe they can absolve themselves of ethnocentrism by thinking about it, while Blacks are assumed to be intrinsically biased, if the history of the field Faye and Ira Harrison brought us means anything20,21 In this conceit, if culture is real, white anthropologists retain the authoritative qualities of whiteness—the society of “occupiers,” still—while historically the “other” is too subjective to have authoritative voice. Well, “the other” knows how true intrinsic subjectivity is—especially among white people—who always take subjective vantages and assert political positions with interpretations of their observed facts, whether or not they acknowledge it. There is no evidence of a cultural, ahistorical or apolitical knowledge. “The neutral scholar,” Frederick Douglass said, “is an ignoble man” seeking favor from all sides as though uninvolved in his or her own thoughts.

The Other’s Path to the Plural Democratization of Knowledge

The most powerful archaeological project at the end of the 20th century invented archaeological public engagement at New York’s African Burial Ground. The African Burial Ground Project recognized simultaneously the need to contend with the intrinsic subjectivity of our practice and the value of material evidence, rather than default to the cover of denial of our subjectivities. This is mid-19th century Africana thought beyond European Enlightenment. We took an ethically based position with those most affected by the history we were constructing—the “descendant community.” They, as a whole community, chose Black anthropologists’ leadership to burn off the thick residue of blindly racist and insular whiteness from our practice and instate the most racially diverse interdiscplinary research team ever in the field. We began the first ethical bioarchaeology, using principles of informed consent, to pursue the organized community’s own research questions with material evidence. The resulting sophisticated reports, U. S. National Monument and rapid growth of publicly engaged archaeology are testament to the efficacy of our “clientage model.” We did not just talk- the-talk but walked-the-walk to a successful example of the plural democratization of science.22

Our approach was also informed by our conversations with indigenous peoples at the Native American Rights Fund, the World Archaeological Congress (1986) and Inter-Congress (1989) in the years preceding the 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). In 1989, the year before anthropologists would be forced by law to accede to Native American’s stewardship of ancestral remains and sacred objects, I worked with archaeologists including Larry Zimmerman and human rights forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow, who listened to indigenous people’s positions and worked to build a new bridge, even to bioarchaeology. The New York African Burial Ground’s clientage model of public engagement, by which descendant communities are in charge, resulted from those conversations, synthesized with the activist scholarship the African diaspora had long embraced.23 I was told by leading physical anthropologists at the time that “talking to the Indians is a professional kiss of death.” Well, most people are almost always wrong eventually. We won, they lost.

For nonfederally recognized and African American burials that NAGPRA does not cover, the struggle to determine the disposition of the dead is more equivocal, as white developers and archaeologists grab for their cemeteries every day. Today, new forms of “civic” engagement that are basically a rebranding of the old public archaeology “engagement” without community control are loaded with white municipal and archaeological “stakeholders.” These often swamp and impede the voices of the ethical client, descendant communities, though the ethical box of “engagement” may thus be ticked. The farce of Kennewick Man/The Ancient One (a 9,000-year-old Native American skeleton exempted from NAGPRA as long as it was wrongly cast as a white American founder) shows how far racialism is used by physical anthropologists to grab and twist to their racial nationalist interests that which rightly belongs to someone else.

Black people led activist and antiracist scholarship, critiques of anthropology’s irrelevance and need of public engagement, as both Black presidents of the AAA— Yolanda Moses and Leith Mullings—have shown.24 Yet, the word “engagement” has entered the vogue rhetoric of 21st-century white anthropologies. Borofsky’s “Anthropology of Anthropology” appears to reinvent that wheel—can this even be done?— leaving its century-and-a-half-long Africana literature entirely uncited.25 Thus, white anthropologists would make engagement their entitled commodity, under their uncritical control. The elected, who presume to see their taking as charitable, always see them- selves in the lead. But Black scholars can agree that currently disengaged anthropology is suicidal. And now I come to why in September some among the most brilliant among us wanted to talk about burning down the house.

On the Case

“The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn? Race, Racism and its Reckoning in America,” while on a longer list of “The End of …” things, is a new generation of brown and black people’s evolved complaint and invention. As I said, this starts with Olaudah Equiano’s first accurate activist, abolitionist, ethnography of Africa and the slave trade in 1789. It then extends to Frederick Douglass’ 1854 nurture argument with the Enlightenment arrogations of the first American anthropologists’ racism, and it never ends. Neither these nor their Africana successors’ demonstration of the centrality of the fight with white supremacy in Western history (and anthropology) enter the average anthropology classroom. Aisha Beliso-De Jesús and Jemima Pierre followed Deborah Thomas in the American Anthropologist to show the “mundane racism” of anthropological gate-keeping, closing the door in the face of Black scholarship beyond a few redundant tokens.26 In a way, each time we enter your house we say the same thing, and each time you ignore us and return to the occupation. We also return to our work, as these new slash-and-burn cultivators show.

Today, white America’s occupation or racism is meted out with a smile. We are expected to smile back lest it become more of anthropologists’ and their white community’s characterization of the emotive, political, subjective, angry, violent Black (you know, the unreasonable ones whites cannot follow). But this new generation (I am feeling nicely old today) does not appear to care too much what whites think. They have returned to the room with a breadth of Africana and Western knowledge to rival what Anténor Firmin brought before the Anthropological Society of Paris a century ago, to run intellectual circles around a room of white men consensually stuck on the idea he was not even  a human being. These are not just asking anthropologists to be empirical, as he did, al- though it would be a good idea. They ask, For whom and what might anthropology serve?

The webinar discussion follows a 2020 provocation by Ryan Cecil Jobson in American Anthropologist to adopt “a new humanism as its political horizon” without a “coherent human subject,” using skeptically “patchy” operational subjects, of societies whose inequitable structures have diverse “fixes” for their instabilities. Providing “witness” to these structures and fixes will require fundamental changes in the way academia—and anthropology—are managed. The people outside of anthropology should have voice in its product. Our practice, I believe Jobson says, must supersede mundane complicity with the likes of the “Boasian fix [which] permits us once again to escape a reckoning with the pitfalls of anthropology as a ‘white public space’ that maintains a liberal myth of perfectibility through the progressive incorporation of historically sub- ordinated peoples into the comforts and privileges of property and citizenship,” after Brodkin, Morgan and Hutchinson’s AAA report. This anthropology “is to unveil the shaky constitution of the scaffolding in a moment rife with authoritarian affects rather than to advocate for a futile return to a status quo. Dismantling the state fix does not, and should not, prescribe the reconstruction of a liberal state in its stead.”27 If there is to be Shange’s “abolitionist anthropology,” some things must burn.

In the webinar discussion of this provocation, Deborah Thomas asks, “Is a radical humanism possible?” and Kamari Clarke asks that most human of questions, “What do we owe each other?” Savannah Shange is working on “unthinking” the nation and “undoing” the society. I was taken by the immediate relevancy of her example of the kinds of analyses we might work toward: She says the court was constructing, as compelling, the “reasonableness” of Breonna Taylor’s murder by the “omission of redress” (a judicial act  of misdirection). Perfect, I thought, the power of that which is hidden in plain view and its exposure. An anthropological question that only a Black woman asked, in a war over false logics and their inhumane results.

Should the Smoke Clear

I would caution only that the pull of elite rules of academic legitimacy, at times undetected, is strong. Its language is partly valuable for conceptualization; partly a disabling and mystifying rhetoric to the everyday person whose key ally-ship will depend on their becoming part of the conversation. Its language can be a shield against flimsy accusation, yet a barrier to the sharp point it conceals. More in hope than criticism, I ask that young scholars heed Malcolm’s words, and increasingly “Make it plain.”

Jonathan Rosa asks what it would look like were anthropology to “reorient to the dynamism of the things not settled, never settled.” Perhaps I wanted to hear in this a reflection of something else he said. He found remarkable promise in the question he received in a job interview at UMass-Amherst: What of your research questions were derived from the community you studied? I knew where that kind of question originated in the epistemic of my alma mater, because I was there when they listened just long enough to start asking it. The plural democratization of scholarship fostered by public engagement is just such a messy, unsettled pursuit of knowledge and action. It requires relinquishing control to the people. I think this, real public engagement through a specific community’s clientage, rather than diffuse stake-holder liberalism, is part of the tool kit they are seeking. We proved it worked for bioarchaeology at New York’s African Burial Ground. Cultural anthropologists of Roy Rappaport’s Panel on Disorders of Industrial Societies called for this kind of collective work in the early 1990s.28 Leith Mullings raised it in her presidential speech to the AAA membership just a few years ago. I hope we will work together to take it further, beyond white liberal entanglements to assuage their guilt without relinquishing privilege, along with the other interventions dis- cussed here and the interventions people of color have always discussed, coughed up in “white space” as though a foreign toxin.

And when these discussants all began to touch on “humility,” they really had me. A call for empathy. The ability to respect, to listen, to follow the other with whom one shares a world of reciprocal obligations is an inclusive vision, not of the occupier’s anthropo- logically glossed thuggery, but of the prayerful projection of the oppressed. A projection onto the oppressor as John Jea, a manumitted “African Preacher” in New York, said in 1811, we will all be “stinking in the nostrils of Al- mighty God” in the end. Common humility and empathy or violence. It’s our choice.

For those who would ask where this “Case” comes from, suddenly upon the stage, I say it has always been here. “… America: The Divided Society” (a once contested title of an AAA plenary I organized) is only undivided in the convenient liberal fantasies of those who can afford them. The fact that our humanity allows us to make good friends across the barriers of race (and that there are useful ethnographies upon which I have not paused) does not mean that whites, as anthropologists, have ever done nearly enough to stop racism and begin to share. For that, they will have to listen and follow. Otherwise, let it burn. Here is my challenge: How about white anthropologists take up the study of white’s racism? They will need the guidance of critical Africana and other decolonized thinkers and observers to help them jump their shadows, but with white ethnographers on board anthropology might make enormous inroads into identifying and solving the problem of whiteness and its dangerous spread. If they but will.

In the last five years I shifted my teaching over to Africana Studies for a better conversation about the anthropology of racism and the Africana world than I usually find in the Anthropology Department. My courses did not change. I just moved them. When I was president of the ABA in 1987-1989, the decision was before us to join with the AAA or go it alone. We joined then despite some consternation. But I suspect for most of us the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) will be far more collegial, interesting and useful than the majority of anthropology sessions are now. Especially for “abolitionism.” But the job opportunities, as the webinar panelists pointed out, would have to expand toward Africana Studies before we might leave the burning house.

Is it possible, if unlikely, that the new configuration of academia will favor more Africana departments in the age of Black Lives Matter (or BLM-talk?). More so than for an anthropology that grows moribund beyond the necessity of contract archaeologists and the cherished narratives of deep time. How much sociocultural anthropology do you see in the media? Imagine shedding participation in the cover of diversity talk and “silly” (to use Du Bois’ term) anthropologies that talk over the important conversations of their presumed subjects rather than join them. Then to turn one’s expertise to filling the omissions and correcting the distortions of white supremacy (vindicationism) for our educational system and our lives. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. One must think, if anthropology would not come into our room or let us into theirs, how can we imagine America building us a house? Yet, the gleaming National Museum of African American History and Culture on Washington’s Mall is more successful than all the other Smithsonian museums in visitorship, funding and more. That too is a lesson for us as we work in the smoke-filled rooms of anthropology.


  1. Faye V. Harrison, Outsider Within: Reworking Anthropology in the Global Age. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
  2. Ira E. Harrison, “The Association of Black Anthropologists: A Brief History,” Anthropology Today 3, no. 1 (February 1987): 17–21.
  3. Kathleen Gough, “Anthropology, Child of Imperialism,” Monthly Review 19, no. 11 (1968).
  4. Frederick Douglass, “The Claims of the Negro Ethnographically Considered,” in The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, ed. P.S. Foner (1854; New York: International Publishers, 1950): 289–309.
  5. John R. Cole, “Anthropology Comes Part-Way Home: Community Studies in Europe,” Annual Review of Anthropology 6 (1977): 349–78.
  6. Olaudah Equiano, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself,” in Pioneers of the Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives from the Enlightenment 1775–1815, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and William L. Andrews (1789; Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1998): 183–366.
  7. Anselm Remy, “Anthropology: For Whom and What?” Black Scholar 7, no. 7 (1976): 12–17.
  8. Francis L. Hsu, “The Cultural Problem of the Cultural Anthropologist,” American Anthropologist 81, no. 3 (1979): 517–32.
  9. William Willis, “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet,” in Reinventing Anthropology, ed. Dell Hymes (New York: Random House, 1972): 121–152.
  10. Delmos Jones, “Towards a Native Anthropology,” Human Organization (Winter 1970): 251–59.
  11. Karen Brodkin Sacks, 1994. “How Did Jews Become White Folks?” in Race, ed. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 78–102.
  12. Faye V. Harrison and Don Nonini, “Intro- duction to W.E.B. Du Bois,” Critique of Anthropology 12, no. 3 (1992): 229-37.
  13. Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896– 1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).
  14. Riché J. Barnes, “Johnnetta Betsch Cole: Eradicating Multiple Systems of Oppression,” in Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology, ed. I. E. Harrison, D. Johnson-Simon, and E. L. Williams (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018), 84–98.
  15. Audrey Smedley and Bryan D. Smedley, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012).
  16. Ruth Frankenberg, “Whiteness and Americanness: Examining Constructions of a Race, Culture and the Nation in White Woman’s Life Narratives,” in Race, ed. S. Gregory and R. Sanjek (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994): 62–78.
  17. Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).
  18. St. Claire Drake, “Anthropology and the Black Experience,” The Black Scholar 11, no. 7 (1980): 2–31.
  19. Faye V. Harrison, “Theorizing in Ex-Centric Sites,” Anthropological Theory 16, no. 2–3 (2016): 160–76.
  20. Faye V. Harrison and Ira Harrison, eds. African American Pioneers in Anthropology (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998).
  21. Faye V. Harrison, ed., Decolonizing Anthropology: Moving Further Toward an Anthropology for Liberation (Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association and Association of Black Anthropologists, 1991).
  22. Michael L. Blakey, “African Burial Ground Project: Paradigm for Cooperation?” Museum International 62, no. 1–2 (2010): 61–68; “Le projet de cimetiere Africain: un paradigme pour cooperation?” Museum International (Paris: UNESCO): 64–71.
  23. Michael L. Blakey, “Archaeology Under the Blinding Light of Race,” Current Anthropology 61, Suppl. 22 (2020): S183–S197.
  24. Leith Mullings, “Anthropology Matters: Presidential Address, 113 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, November 23, 2013,” American Anthropologist 117, no. 1 (2015): 4–16.
  25. Robert Borofsky, An Anthropology of Anthropology: Is It Time to Shift Paradigms? (Kailua, HI: Center for a Public Anthropology, 2019).
  26. Aisha M. Beliso-de Jesús and Jemima Pierre, “Introduction,” American Anthropologist 121, no. 4 (2019).
  27. Ryan Cecil Jobson, “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019,” American Anthropologist 122, no. 2 (2020): 259–271.
  28. M. L. Blakey, R. Dubinskas, S. Forman, C. MacLennan, K. S. Newman, J. L. Peacock, R. A. Rappaport, C. Velez-Ibanez, and A. W. Wolfe, “Statement to the Profession: The American Anthropological Association Panel on Disorders of Industrial Societies,” in Diagnosing America: Anthropology and Public Engagement, ed. Sylvia Forman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994): 215–312.


Michael L. Blakey is the National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology, Africana Studies and American Studies, and Founding Director, Institute for Historical Biology, William & Mary. He is a bioarchaeologist, biocultural anthropologist and science historian whose work is on the interfaces of biology, culture and history. He served as scientific director of the New York African Burial Ground Project at Howard University (1992–2009), where he also curated the W. Montague Cobb Collection (1988–2001). He has taught at Spelman College, Columbia, Brown and La Sapienza in Rome. Blakey held a Research Associateship in Physical Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History (1985–1994) and serves on the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the National Museum of African American His- tory and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. He was a key advisor to the Race: Are We So Different? exhibition and website of the American Anthropological Association, where he also served on the editorial board of American Anthropologist (2012–2016) as well as other boards and com- missions of the Association. Blakey was president of the Association of Black Anthropologists (1987–1989) and was the representative of the United States on the Council of the Fourth World Archaeological Congress, Cape Town, South Africa (1999). He received an honorary Doctor of Science from York College, CUNY, in 1995 and the Centennial Medal of the Graduate Program  of UMass-Amherst (2008), where he earned his graduate degrees. He is currently involved in diverse public engagements at historic sites around the United States and completing a book on race and racism in science and society for Oxford University Press.

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