George W. Stocking Jr., “Anthropology’s Anthropologist,” Dies at 84.
Professor Stocking’s first book, a 1968 collection of essays, “Race, Culture and Evolution,” was considered a landmark. Margaret Mead, writing in the journal American Anthropologist, called it “beautifully and painstakingly” illuminating.
Professor Stocking, who grew up in Austin, described his book’s objective as redefining the accepted view of anthropology’s “origin story,” one centered on Edward Burnett Tylor as a foundational theorist. Tylor is considered to have been the first to define the word “culture” in the modern sense: as a set of knowledge, customs and values that all people acquire from their native environments, whether England or Polynesia. …
Though Tylor acknowledged the existence of many human cultures, and refuted early anthropologists who called dark-skinned people savages of another species, he acknowledged only one cultural ideal, believing that “less civilized” people should accept guidance from more civilized ones.
Professor Stocking and others linked the widespread scientific acceptance of such ideas to the brutalities of 19th century colonialism, the annihilation of American Indians and other purported mass “civilizing” campaigns.