Meet a Fellow: Danielle Stubbe
Danielle Stubbe is the 2020-2021 Mona C. Frederick Graduate Student Fellow from the Department of History studying the modern intellectual and cultural history of the United States. She will be giving a public lecture on Thursday, April 1 at 2 PM entitled “Cultural Credibility: U.S. Anthropology from the Field to the Archives, 1930-1980.”
What is your research about and why does it matter?
My dissertation research puts disparate strains in the History of Anthropology—its discursive history, its intersections with domestic and international statecraft, its ties to indigenous politics in the 1960s and 70s, and its influence in local, state, and national museums—into conversation. I reckon with the anthropological concepts of culture as they manifested differently in each of these sites in the postwar United States.
Sometimes as many as fifty years on, indigenous people kept writing to the anthropologists with invitations to community gatherings, inquiries about historical information, and requests for object loans, among other things.
Anthropologists in the 1960s in particular found that they had to confront an undergirding tension in their discipline: that much of their institutional legitimacy in the study of culture had been derived from their empowerment through state warfare, which implicated them in a litany of Cold War colonial projects abroad and had increasingly caused their research subjects in American Indian communities in particular to reject their scholarly authority.
This disciplinary history all unfolds contemporary to parallel and intersecting debates among museum officials and indigenous activists, who oftentimes overlap with academic anthropologists, about the ownership of cultural objects and information that had historically been housed in museums.
Describe a discovery or a moment in your research that excited you.
During the summer before I wrote and defended my prospectus, I spent about a month in the reading room at the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution with the intention of following a small group of female anthropologists who had studied under Franz Boas in the 1920s and 30s. My interest at the time had been in how different anthropologists approached their cultural research in the field while discursive ideas about culture itself changed in theory.
As I sifted through their correspondence, however, I was stunned by how many remained in contact with former research subjects in the decades after the studies had concluded. Sometimes as many as fifty years on, indigenous people kept writing to the anthropologists with invitations to community gatherings, inquiries about historical information, and requests for object loans, among other things. This led me to a new question about the history of anthropological culture: How had ideas about the ownership of cultural material changed for scientists and subjects during the twentieth century?
What was your first job, and what lessons did you learn from it?
My first job was as a co-instructor of analog photography to grade school students. The program was part of a camp hosted by the city in which I grew up that offered accessible curricula and facilities for disabled students in the district. Although photography is ostensibly an art form, the job also tasked us to teach the students a series of technical steps to operate a camera and develop their own prints manually. As a university instructor, I wonder if we might also teach history in this way: with undergirding knowledge and skills (dates, maps, how to read primary sources) used in service of a broader humanistic or artistic project. I am still seeking the right balance between the two.
Danielle Stubbe is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of History studying the modern intellectual and cultural history of the United States. Her dissertation project interweaves the midcentury histories of the advent of competing social scientific concepts of culture for American anthropologists, the institutions that supported their work, and their living research subjects from indigenous communities in the U.S. Against a backdrop of cultural politics in the 1960s and 70s, she follows cultural information and materials as they moved between American Indian communities and those whose professional status depended on them. Danielle grew up and completed her undergraduate studies in the suburbs of Boston.