Before there was the internet and search engines, there was the International Directory of Anthropologists. It was published irregularly starting in 1938. The first one was put together by AV Kidder and revised in 1940. After the war, in an effort to rebuild links between Anthropological traditions and research communities, Herskovits produced a version in 1950. A fourth directory was published nearly a generation later in 1967. The free book bin downstairs recently bestowed upon me one of its most magnificent gifts, a mint copy of the Fifth International Directory of Anthropology, edited by Sol Tax in 1975.


In a world in which communication was impossibly slow and difficult, in ways beyond the understanding of my children, “The Fifth International Directory of Anthropologists is designed to facilitate communication among anthropologists and associated scholars throughout the world”. The directory wants to be inclusive. It covers “the four generally recognized subdivisions of anthropology: ethnology (including social anthropology), archaeology (other than strictly classical), physical anthropology, and linguistics”. The scholars who study “the characteristics and natural history of the human species… were never inclined to close doors to new knowledge and ideas from whatever source, and were happy to call ‘anthropologists’ any who would seriously join them in the enterprise”.

That inclusive spirit is tempered, however, by the need to determine who “seriously” wants to join the enterprise. In 1967, for example, the fourth directory “marked the beginning of a transition to a directory with international controls by associates in Current Anthropology, who before publication legitimized the credentials of all entries”. As the discipline grew and diversified, it seems, there was a concern for keeping its acknowledged membership within some reasonable scope.

The Directory identifies and gives contact information and brief scholarly biographies for 4765 anthropologists in 111 countries. It also gives adjusted estimated numbers for the total number of anthropologists which must exist, especially in under-represented regions. I ran into this in my brief survey of the Directory’s Finnish content. Archaeologists don’t appear there at all, probably because they were strongly associated with history departments rather than with anthropology.

The numbers are adjusted up more strongly for non-western regions because to many there, “the word ‘anthropology’ is associated with the stigma of the colonial era: and the profession has not had the will or found the means to reach out for them”. While their scholarship might fit under the discipline’s umbrella, they don’t identify as part of it. The number for Africa, for example is adjusted from the observed 115 to an estimated 175. “The largest corrective (65 percent) is necessarily made for Latin America, where Spanish and Portuguese languages, and universities, were established when North America was yet wilderness, and the isolation from the North Atlantic is due mainly to the language difference”. Not only was anthropology welcoming in 1975, it even sought to claim those who had never claimed it.

The digital born may be interested in the extensive cross-indexing work found in the directory. Researchers are indexed by geographical region of interest, time period of interest, subject and method (separately for each subdivision), and institutional and regional origin. For example, finding the contact information for an arctic archaeologist interested in settlement patterns and lithic technology is as easy as finding that record number 13 is listed under the Arctic (Ar) block of the geographical interest index and both blocks 23 (Settlement patterns and land use) and 27 (technology and tool industries) of section II (archaeology) of the subject/methodological index.

Consulting record 13 of the directory brings us to Robert E. Ackerman, Professor of Anthropology at Washington State University, Pullman, who fits the bill perfectly. There is a listing of his other interests and of his main publications at the time, along with a series of cryptic codes, helpfully elucidated in the Introduction.


The Directory potentially provides a fascinating picture of the discipline as it saw itself in the mid-1970s, but getting the information out of it would require digital data and actual CPUs rather than too-fine print for old eyes and my poor, confused, holiday-recovering brain.

I have already noticed a few interesting oddities about it. Lewis Binford, for example, is absent, although both Sally and Martha are listed. I am sure there is a story there. I would love to do a bit more analysis of the subject index, and perhaps chart its evolution from the 1938 version to 1975.

Beyond the strictly academic interest, I must admit that I have been having an inordinately good time looking up specific entries. And yes, I do take requests.



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