“Culture” Crosses the Atlantic: The German Sources of The Mind of Primitive Man

Harry M Liebersohn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the Franz Boas's German sources and how he used them, focusing on his book The Mind of Primitive Man. Boas was a proud graduate of the German research university, and after his move to the United States he continued to practice its virtues and its emphasis on detailed empirical research and methodological self-consciousness. His intellectual friendship with Carl Stumpf, a prewar Berlin professor, also underlines the intellectual style of a time and place. The chapter further argues that in Boas's anthropology, culture became a fluid, historical concept, relatively autonomous but open to new elements and reconfiguration. In the end, it was Boas, not Stumpf or his colleagues in the superbly knowledgeable and cultivated universities of prewar Germany, who became the founder of the modern study of culture.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIndigenous Visions
Subtitle of host publicationRediscovering the World of Franz Boas
EditorsIsaiah L. Wilner, Ned Blackhawk
PublisherYale University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780300196511
StatePublished - Apr 24 2018

Publication series

NameThe Henry Roe Cloud Series on American Indians and Modernity


  • Franz Boas
  • German sources
  • Carl Stumpf
  • culture
  • anthropology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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