Associate Professor Helen Gardner Presenting at the Melbourne Museum

Associate Professor Helen Gardner is presenting a paper at the Melbourne Museum.

May 11, 2016. 1 pm.

‘The Genealogy of the Genealogical Method: Discoveries, Disseminations and the Historiography of British Anthropology’.


This seminar explores the historiography of  British and colonial anthropology through the remembering and forgetting of the origins of the genealogical method of kinship collection. W. H. R. Rivers’ development of the genealogical method has iconic status as a foundation moment in the history of the discipline. Yet there is compelling evidence that a genealogical method for kinship collection was employed in the Australian colonies from the early 1870s, developed by Gunaikurnai man Tulaba with magistrate A. W. Howitt. The method was spread throughout Australia and the Pacific Islands using printed questionnaires on kinship and social organisation.   In comparison with the Rivers’ method, the Tulaba/Howitt system was deeply influenced by Lewis Henry Morgan. The seminar explores the development of two distinct genealogical methods, first in Gippsland and then in the Torres Strait and concludes by questioning whether the narrative structures of Anglophone anthropology have denied or downplayed the importance of Australian analyses before ‘the field’ became the sine qua non of the discipline.


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