Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
My current project traces the ways the Fuegian Archipelago became famous as “the world’s end.” In doing so, I learned about Anne Chapman, an American-born anthropologist who worked in the Fuegian archipelago for several decades. During the sixty years of her professional life, Chapman collaborated with some of the most famous figures in anthropology: Paul Kirchhoff and Sol Tax in Mexico, Karl Polanyi at Columbia, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, who was her supervisor for most of her career. Chapman’s online memoir reveals the admiration she had for these figures, particularly Polanyi, who taught her to be critical of universal assumptions about human nature.
Chapman ends her memoir saying, “I may add here while all my professors were men, many of my informants were women.” Except for collaborators in Tierra del Fuego, I have never met an anthropologist who has heard of Anne Chapman, even though she published widely in multiple languages, made ethnographic films, and engaged with the key ideas of her time. As a young woman she rode on horseback for three days to reach her field site in Honduras; in middle age, she embarked on a new project in very remote regions of the Fuegian archipelago. Most of us learn very little about the work of women anthropologists of my grandmothers’ generation, even though the ideas of her professors and colleagues remain taught to this day. This paper offers a portrait of Chapman, both a form of speculative feminism, to quote Haraway, and a refiguring of environmental anthropology.