A spotlight on Kroeber's legacy
Anthropologist's son offeres reflections at centennial event

17 April 2002 | The inquisitive practice and personality of Alfred Kroeber, a founding father of the Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology, helped shape the 100 years of the highly-ranked, pioneering department and the first century of work of American anthropologists.

So observed Karl Kroeber, a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University and a son on the legendary anthropologist, at the “Alfred Kroeber and His Legacy” centennial conference April 12-13.

A good-natured greediness for knowledge, an intellectual expansiveness and restless eagerness for novel ways to make the past accessible guided his father, said Kroeber, who recalled the old tin shack that first housed Berkeley’s anthropology department.

Kroeber said his father focused his curiosity both on hard facts and on the stories that gave a voice to people and cultures he was studying.

“American anthropology emerged as a science even though, as my father observed, it is the most humanistic of sciences or the most scientific of humanities,” he said.

The conference highlighted the contributions and influence of campus anthropology faculty and graduates studying medical anthropology, the media, folk art, labor and politics and cultures from China, Alaska and Central America to San Jose, Calif.

George Breslauer, dean of social sciences in the College of Letters and Science, noted the department has been ranked among the top three anthropology departments in the country for a century.

“Members of this department, by my observation, are passionately committed to the pursuit of truth,” he said in welcoming remarks. “They are prolific researchers and publishers engaged in cutting-edge scholarship that reshapes the ways we think about problems. They are avid field workers, they all stay in close touch with the objects of their studies and they care very, very deeply about maintaining that contact.”


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