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Human Rights Anthropology in the Cold War: Metraux at UNESCO (1946-1962)

Human Rights Anthropology in the Cold War: Metraux at UNESCO (1946-1962)

Monday, December 4, 2006

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Anthropology Section


The Academy's Anthropology Section is the crossroads for four-field anthropology in the greater New York area. The Section has a long history of sponsoring events and publications that have become landmarks in the discipline. All of the subfields of anthropology are represented in the Section's program: social/cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and anthropological linguistics. The program combines talks about broad disciplinary and public concerns with state-of-the-art presentations in specialized areas of research.


Discussant: Wilton S. Dillon, Smithsonian Institution
Wilton Sterling Dillon, 83, is Senior Scholar Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution. There, for 30 years, he directed international, interdisciplinary symposia addressing trends in modern civilization. He is now an advisor to the Smithsonian exhibition, Alfred Metraux: From Fieldwork to Human Rights. His book, "Gifts and Nations: The Obligation to Give, Receive, and Repay," a case study of French reactions to the Marshall Plan, is dedicated to three former professors: Alfred Kroeber, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Margaret Mead. Alfred Métraux was his mentor in Paris in 1951-52, guiding him in his field work applying the gift-exchange ideas of Marcel Mauss to international relations. A graduate of University of California-Berkeley (A.B. 1951) and Columbia University (Ph.D. 1961), his post-graduate studies were at the Musée de l'Homme, Paris, and Leiden University, Netherlands. He has done fieldwork in Japan, France, and Ghana. He is a former member of General MacArthur's information and education staff in Tokyo, a former president of the Institute for Intercultural Studies, New York, a college teacher, book and journal editor, and foundation executive. The French government has awarded him the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

Lecturer: Harald E.L. Prins, Kansas State University
Born and raised in The Netherlands, Dr. Harald E.L. Prins (New School for Social Research, PhD '88; U Nijmegen, Doctoraal '76) is a University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University. His fieldwork since the mid-1970s focused on indigenous peoples in Argentina, Paraguay, Canadian Maritimes, and New England. Academically trained at half a dozen Dutch and US universities, he first came to the US as a Vera List Fellow, New School University ('78-80). He has taught comparative history at U Nijmegen (Netherlands), visual anthropology at Bowdoin College (Maine), and various other universities. Also trained in filmmaking, he was President of the Society for Visual Anthropology ('99-'01), served as the Visual Anthropology Editor of American Anthropologist ('98-'02), and co-produced award-winning documentaries. His numerous academic publications appear in six languages, and include the monograph "The Mi'kmaq: Resistance, Accommodation, and Cultural Survival" (Harcourt Brace '96), several textbooks, including "Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge" (Wadsworth '05), various co-edited academic journal issues, books, etc. An advocacy anthropologist, he worked for a decade for American Indian tribes on human rights, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, served as key expert witness in native rights cases argued in the US Senate and Canadian courts, and continues being actively involved with American Indian cultural survival issues. He also serves as guest co-curator of a planned Smithsonian museum exhibit: "Métraux: From Fieldwork to Human Rights."


The career of UNESCO anthropologist Alfred Métraux (1902-63) offers a unique window on the post-World War II emergence of what is now known as "public anthropology"—addressing problems of public concern and sharing s