Accepted paper:

Looking for pygmies in the back yard, Alfred Cort Haddon and the Irish Ethnographic Survey 1891-1903


Ciarán Walsh ( / Maynooth University)

Paper short abstract:

The ethnographical activity of Haddon and Browne, when reviewed in the context of photographic documentation of life in the west of Ireland, challenges Anglo-Saxon hegemony and ideas of civilisation / primitivism in the UK, with surprising consequences for contemporary attitudes to anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with Haddon's early adoption of photography as evidence, using his journals, sketchbooks and lantern slides to show how illustration - graphic and photographic - were an extension of direct observation in his early experiments in ethnography. Shortly after his return from the Torres Strait in 1889, Haddon encountered Philip Lavelle, King of Iniskea North, during a fishing survey off the west coast of Ireland. The encounter profoundly disrupted Haddon's sense of civilisation and influenced his formulation of the Irish Ethnographic Survey, the vehicle for Haddon's transition from zoology to ethnology. Haddon and Charles R. Browne set out to unravel the origins of the Irish 'race' (including a mythical race of pygmy-like people) against the background of a culture war that pitted Anglo-Saxon against Celt, a proxy for the real war that was taking shape in revolutionary circles. Largely forgotten, the Irish Ethnographic Survey is, in some ways, the 'missing link' in the early development of British anthropology. The publication of the photograph albums of Charles R. Browne in 2012 has brought it back into focus, disrupting the narrative of the early development of anthropology in Britain and challenging contemporary perceptions of anthropology in Ireland.

panel P17
Originals: The consequences of photography: reconstructing our view of the early anthropological surveys in the UK