Paul Mitchell

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9613

Approve Date

April 13, 2018

Project Title

Mitchell, Paul J., U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Tracing Racial Formations: Objectivity, Meaning, and Morphology in 19th Century Craniology,' supervised by Dr. Adriana Petryna

Preliminary abstract: How did cranial morphology achieve racial meaning? This project concerns the production of knowledge by attention to the bodies through which racial categories were constructed by 19th century anthropologists. Toward this end, the historic cranial collections of influential early physical anthropologists Petrus Camper (Netherlands), Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (Germany), Samuel George Morton (US) and Anders Retzius (Sweden) will be examined. As these craniologists supposed that forms of the skull distinguished human races, illustrations of skulls were an important demonstration of features of racial difference in anthropological texts prior to the advent of printable photography. Comparison of these illustrations to the crania that they represent reveals their inaccuracy. The crania from these collections that were illustrated in 19th century texts will be laser scanned to produce accurate digital 3D models, and these will be compared, using geometric morphometrics, with their illustrations. Inaccuracies in these images will be analyzed and compared in an analysis of the science and politics of visual representations of race from about 1790-1860. This project uses novel applications of morphometric techniques to engage with the history of anthropology through questions about objectivity, knowledge and representation, as well as the construction of race and racial biases in science. In treating the transnational human archives of craniology as a resource for historical critical inquiry, this project aims toward a material-discursive study of racialization in 19th century colonial science, engaging with the complex scientific and ethical questions posed by the enduring, embodied legacy of early physical anthropology.