Perhaps some day [anthropologists] … will awake to the fact that the time spent in these armchair studies could be much more profitably occupied. Only natives can explain the meaning of the majority of designs and patterns, and not even all of them are sure as to what was meant by the artist in every case.Alfred Cort Haddon, 1909
Disciplinary Transformations after 1871
This book has argued against the misconception that early nineteenth-century anthropology was fundamentally an armchair pursuit, with minimal analytical reflection, and detached from the activities of informants who were collecting and recording data in the field. This vision of the discipline's past started to take shape after Darwin and Tylor's heyday. During the 1890s the younger generation of naturalists writing on human diversity topics began to challenge the techniques of the older generation. One of the biggest critics of pre-1890s human variation studies was the naturalist Alfred Cort Haddon (1855–1940). Initially trained in biology and zoology, Haddon became an authority within anthropology after participating in the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits (1898–1901). This expedition had a major effect on the observational practices researchers utilized in their studies of humans. In particular, it encouraged the use of new forms of technology such as sound recording and film to further enrich anthropological observational techniques.