The Go Between: Alfred Cort Haddon and a forgotten engagement between Irish Folklore and Anarchist Ethnology.

Why did Haddon have Douglas Hyde’s name in his “little black book”? Haddon delivered an uncompromising critique of Anglo-Saxon colonialism at a packed meeting of  the Anthropological Section of the British Association in 1895. He equated the policy of killing Home Rule with kindness with a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of civilisation and demanded that institutional anthropology consider the terrible consequences of British Imperialism. Haddon had, in many ways, called for the urgent de-Anglicisation of British colonies, at home and overseas. Was he influenced by Douglas Hyde? Haddon is remembered in disciplinary histories as an evolutionist and an exponent of “scientific” folklore. He is popularly remembered as a “head-hunter.”  This paper proposes an alternative view; that (1) Haddon was a radical ethnologist and (2) that his practice was shaped by an engagement with anarchist ethnologists in Paris at the same time that he was conducting  experiments in ethnological fieldwork–collecting folklore–in the West of Ireland. 

The evidence comes from recently discovered papers and other, overlooked, “Irish” material in the Haddon Papers in Cambridge. This material relates to two interconnected networks. The first comprised of anarchists and social reformers in Paris, including Patrick Geddes, Havelock Ellis, Pyotr Kropotkin, and the Reclus Brothers. The second involved Haddon’s own network of Irish folklorists, especially Daniel Lane, son of Denny Lane, the Young Irelander from Cork. I will argue that Haddon’s arrival in the Aran Islands in 1890 transformed his idea of folklore collection as a form of cultural anthropology. Haddon had discovered an undisturbed ethnical district in which he could apply radical theories of social organisation and anthropology, opposing biological constructions of race (physical anthropology) with a sociological engagement with ethnicity (ethnology). This begs another question: was Haddon radicalised through contact with Hyde or his experience of “folklife” in Ireland?