Anthropology

The Department of Anthropology at the College of William & Mary offers strong programs in undergraduate and graduate studies. Our faculty and focus reach around the world, fostering an interdisciplinary culture, with long-standing links to American Studies, History, Music, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. We offer course work in all four subfields of anthropology and in all the major geographic areas of the world. Recently, the Department began participating in a new minor in Native Studies.  In addition, the College has approved a new program in Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies (APIA), which may of interest to Anthropology students -- see this news article for more information

The Department of Anthropology at William & Mary is pleased to announce Gísli Pálsson's The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan as winner of the inaugural Vinson Sutlive Book Prize in Historical Anthropology. Established in 2017 at William and Mary in honor of one of the key early members of the department, the prize goes to the best book published in the prior year, in any discipline, that makes use of anthropological perspectives in order to examine historical contexts and/or the role of the past in the present.

The Man Who Stole Himself uncovers the story of Hans Jonathan, born a slave in the Danish Caribbean, who, despite his failed attempt to legally undo his bondage in Copenhagen, was able to make his way to a life of freedom in Iceland in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The story of Hans Jonathan and his descendants brings readers familiar with the story of trans-Atlantic slavery into new ground, and simultaneously enlarges our sense of northern European histories of empire and race. In turn, Pálsson bridges his archival and genealogical detective work to a sustained meditation on contemporary debates regarding origins and the remembrance of the past, in Iceland and beyond. The result is a gripping micro-historical narrative that remains grounded in an anthropological commitment to the big picture. Combining painstaking documentary research with sophisticated reflection, The Man Who Stole Himself is a moving, timely, and inspiring exploration of slavery, freedom, kinship, and memory, and one that breaks new ground in anthropological writing.  See here for a further discussion of this remarkable book.