Nomenclature wars: Ethnologists and anthropologists seeking to be scientists, 1840–1910

Don D. Fowler, Nancy J. Parezo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Scholarly disciplines are ever-changing and continuously debated constellations of intellectual heritage and contemporary issues. This article discusses debates over anthropological nomenclature, anthropometric indices, and museum exhibit design in the development of European and American anthropology from its ethnological beginnings in the 1840s through nineteenth-century evolutionism to the establishment of the Boasian historical particularist approach after 1904. It also outlines the impacts of those debates and disagreements on the subsequent development of the “four-field approach” in American-university-based anthropology programs. The transitions from ethnology to evolutionism to particularism can be followed through arguments over nomenclature, anthropometrics, and the content and design of museum exhibits, as nascent anthropologists defined and redefined their subfield(s) of study and attempted to become part of the burgeoning Science Establishment of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe and North America. The arguments and their (sometimes) resolutions laid the foundations for twentieth-century university-based anthropology programs and ethnographic and archaeological exhibits in anthropology and natural history museums. The article is, thus, a contribution to the developmental history of anthropology in Europe and North America.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)388-411
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


    • Anthropology as science
    • Ethnology
    • History of anthropology
    • Museum exhibits
    • Systems of nomenclature

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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