Anon. 1885. Dredging party, 1885, with friends.
Sitting, left to right: A.C. Haddon (in front of light suit), S. Haughton, W. S. Green, C. B. Ball;
Standing: Sir D’Arcy W. Thompson (light suit), Sir R. S. Ball (yachting cap), Valentine Ball (at end of trawl),
Permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA

BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology has commissioned Ciarán Walsh to write a new entry on the life and work of Alfred Cort Haddon (1865 – 1940). The entry draws on independent post-doc research for a ground-breaking reassessment of Haddon’s contribution to the modernisation of anthropology that Berghahn Books commissioned as part of its series on Anthropology’s AncestorsAlfred Cort Haddon: a very English savage (in Ireland) is due out in 2023 and represents a radical reworking of Haddon’s work as an artist, philosopher, ethnologist and anti-racism activist whose experiments in photo-ethnography cinematography constitute a singularly modernist achievement in anthropology.

The timing couldn’t be better. The photograph above records a seminal moment in the brave new world of practical marine biology which sets the scene for Haddon’s enthusiastic entry into ethnology two years later, an event that was so disruptive it triggered a decade-long battle with anatomists who attempted to restrict academic anthropology to the study of the natural history of the human species in situations defined by theoretical positions compatible with empire and evolution. This scenario has its analogue in the current stand-off between those who see anthropology as an engaged and essentially emancipatory project and those who operate a restricted form of practical anthropology within a neoliberal academy.

As such, the BEROSE entry represents the first part of a new history of anthropology in Ireland. It addresses key themes of the current debate about what it means to do anthropology (to borrow a phrase from Clifford Geertz) in the intertwined contexts of an engagement with colonial legacies sparked by the Black Lives Matter Movement, legislated genocide in the Amazon and other flash-points across the globe, and the restrictions on knowledge production that characterise a neoliberal academy.

BEROSE will publish “Artist, Philosopher, Ethnologist and Activist: The Life and Work of Alfred Cort Haddon (1855-1940)” by Ciarán Walsh in August 2022.