The Austrian anthropologist and sociologist Richard Thurnwald (1869-1954) is one of the most respected international scholars of the early twentieth century. Starting his career in Berlin at the Museum für Völkerkunde under Adolf Bastian, he was closely associated with numerous seminal figures – including Franz Boas, Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. His ethnographic fieldwork took place in Melanesian, Micronesian, and East African contexts. Founder of the Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Soziologie (later entitled Sociologus), he held several academic positions in the United States and Germany. Thurnwald’s influence on the professionalization of the discipline between 1898 and 1950 was transnationally broad and intellectually deep. A critic of the Kulturkreislehre, he may be considered a “father” of modern social anthropology and a pioneer of the functionalist approach, but he remains a neglected figure in the historiography of anthropology.
“‘Social Scientist par excellence’: The Life and Work of Richard Thurnwald”
Viktor Stoll, 2020
In his 1935 review of the history of anthropology, Thomas K. Penniman (1895-1977), curator of the preeminent Pitt-Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford, could not neatly define Richard Thurnwald’s anthropological method. Penniman ultimately found that the Austro-German ethnologist was ’cognizant of so many methods that he cannot be labeled’.  It was a view shared by many of Thurnwald’s contemporaries. Robert Lowie (1883-1957) viewed (...)