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JSPES, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Summer 2009)
pp. 208-243

Franz Boas as Citizen-Scientist:
Gramscian-Marxist Influence on American Anthropology

Gary Bullert

Columbia Basin College, Washington

Franz Boas’ role in shaping twentieth century American anthropology is well known, but less well known is his commitment to radical politics, and his political biases have been less thoroughly investigated. While traditional Marxism sought to advance its goals by way of violent revolution ostensibly vitalized by the “proletariat,” the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1897-1931) realized that Marxist egalitarian goals could be more effectively advanced by infiltrating and taking control of the existing institutional structure of a society. In the course of a thorough study of Boas’ correspondence, the author concludes that there is clear evidence that Boas was an effective convert to Gramscian Marxism and one of its most successful exponents.