A little about the Kroebers

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Wed Nov 1 15:02:17 MST 1995


Alfred Kroeber, Ursula Kroeber LeGuin's father, was the dominant
figure in California anthropology for over half a century.  He
was the first lecturer hired when the University of California
established its Department of Anthropology in 1904 and taught for
another 45 years or so.  During that time, he laid out the first
"culture maps" (I'm not sure if that's the right technical term)
of California, distinguishing the various linguistic, cultural
and economic zones of the California Indians.  His "slew of
graduate students" (Lisa) helped with extensive interviews of
survivors of the devastated California peoples (who had been
subjected to a far more genocidal onslaught than most other North
American Indians), following up on the work Stephen Powers had
begun in the 19th century.  Kroeber's _Handbook of California
Indians_ (Smithsonian, 1925) was the definitive work until it was
revised by (his student and colleague) Robert Heizer in 1978 to
take new information into account.

Ursula's mother Theodora Kroeber was also a prominent
anthropologist.  She's best known for her book _Ishi in Two
Worlds_ about the last of the Yahi Indians, but did extensive
work on all aspects of California Indian life.

The Kroeber's were first and foremost "ethnographers", and I
don't think particularly associated with any theoretical
arguments of the type which later became prominent in
anthropology.  The Anthropology building and museum at U.C.
Berkeley was until recently named Kroeber Hall after them, but
has been renamed in honor of someone with more money.

Tom Condit


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