Anthropologist Eric Gable to Speak on ‘Jefferson’s Ardor’

| February 23, 2012
Discussions about race and culture figure prominently on Sweet Briar’s calendar this season — whether it’s “TestingTolerance,” this year’s Honors Program theme, or two women’s “Entangled Lives.” But what was Thomas Jefferson’s take on these issues? Professor of anthropology Eric Gable attempts to answer this question from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, March 1, in the 1948 Theater in the College’s Fitness and Athletics Center.

“Jefferson’s Ardor: Sex, Race, and the Invention of Cultural Relativism” is sponsored by Sweet Briar’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology in collaboration with the Lectures and Events Committee.

While at Sweet Briar, Gable, who teaches at University of Mary Washington, will attend classes and meet with anthropology and archaeology students.

The lecture will explore Jefferson’s ideas about race and culture, and how these relate to American ideals of egalitarianism and present forms of inequality. Focusing on Jefferson’s writings, particularly his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Gable will discuss “how race and ‘civilization’ allowed Jefferson to talk about sources of inequality that were very different, and how such differences shape ideas of moral obligation,” said professor of anthropology Deborah Durham.

“It also will challenge us to think about the concept of culture, what we mean by culture, and especially what we do with [it],” Durham added.

Gable will also mention the visit of a group of Sally Hemings’ descendants (who are also believed to be Jefferson’s descendants, born as slaves) to Monticello and the misunderstandings that occurred in the encounter.

Gable received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Virginia. He has studied village-level politics and religion in Guinea-Bissau and Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the politics of heritage in the United States.

He is the author of  “Anthropology and Egalitarianism: Ethnographic Encounters from Monticello to Guinea-Bissau” and (with Richard Handler) “The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg.” He is currently a managing editor for Museums and Society and book reviews editor for American Ethnologist.

For more information, email [email protected] or call (434) 381-6229.


Contact: Janika Carey

Category: Anthropology, Uncategorized