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Franz Boas

German -American cultural anthropologist Franz's theoretical position is often characterized as historical particularism.He claimed that unilinear evolution was an inadequate model for the known diversity of human cultures. Progress he said does not follow a particular sequence nor is it necessarily unidirectional from simple to complex. Differing with evolutionary theorists like E.B Taylor he contended that cultural learning is unconscious rather rational. Laws comparable to natural sciences were possible in principle though usually premature in practice. He argued in favor of meticulous collection of ethnographic data before attempting generalization.

The Boasian school established culture as the key concept in US anthropology and has been criticized for its cultural determinism and relativism. However Boas was influential in the development of disciplines of folklore, linguistics and anthropology. He was mostly concerned with recording the symbolic culture of Kwakiuti and other north-west coast tribes and deriving general themes of cultural comparison.

Important Books:

  • The Mind of the Primitive Man
  • Anthropology in Modern Life
  • Race, Language And Culture
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