Ain't I an Anthropologist: Zora Neale Hurston Beyond the Literary Icon (New Black Studies Series) (Paperback)

Ain't I an Anthropologist: Zora Neale Hurston Beyond the Literary Icon (New Black Studies Series) By Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall Cover Image

Ain't I an Anthropologist: Zora Neale Hurston Beyond the Literary Icon (New Black Studies Series) (Paperback)


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Iconic as a novelist and popular cultural figure, Zora Neale Hurston remains underappreciated as an anthropologist. Is it inevitable that Hurston’s literary authority should eclipse her anthropological authority? If not, what socio-cultural and institutional values and processes shape the different ways we read her work? Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall considers the polar receptions to Hurston’s two areas of achievement by examining the critical response to her work across both fields. Drawing on a wide range of readings, Freeman Marshall explores Hurston’s popular appeal as iconography, her elevation into the literary canon, her concurrent marginalization in anthropology despite her significant contributions, and her place within constructions of Black feminist literary traditions.

Perceptive and original, Ain’t I an Anthropologist is an overdue reassessment of Zora Neale Hurston’s place in American cultural and intellectual life.

Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall is an associate professor in the Department of English and Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University.
Product Details ISBN: 9780252087103
ISBN-10: 0252087100
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication Date: February 28th, 2023
Pages: 272
Language: English
Series: New Black Studies Series
"As the public, scholars, writers, and creatives continue to engage with Hurston through ongoing book releases, studies, documentaries, and festivals, Freeman Marshall’s work provides an important intervention that calls us to think about how we reconstruct and deploy Hurston as not only a talented storyteller and incisive ethnographer but also a consummate intellectual." --Another Chicago

"Freeman Marshall makes clear that Hurston’s reputation as an anthropologist has been undermined by the glamour of her rediscovery and subsequent literary 'canonization' . . . . Freeman Marshall also compellingly argues that 'Hurston’s anthropological work has not been more fully recognized within the field of anthropology in part due to the marginalization of American folklore and in, in particular, African American folklore within the discipline.' Hopefully, with this new study, Hurston’s contributions to anthropology will finally be recognized." --Southern Review of Books

"Doomed to obscurity, Zora Neale Hurston was then resurrected as a 'founding mother' of Black literature and folklore. Yet her pioneering work in African diaspora ethnography and anthropology, especially her work in Haiti, remains little-known. . . . Marshall concludes that Hurston’s refusal to be defined as 'tragically colored' formed her genius as she 'embraces . . . the right to feel and be herself, idiosyncratic and sometimes puzzling, like any member of the human race.'" --Booklist starred review

"An insightful read about how academic obscurity can pigeonhole the legacy of Black women thinkers. Hurston’s fascination, esteem, and passion to capture, preserve and return to the African diaspora their new world folk traditions used academic methods and Africana means to share our interior selves. . . . Freeman Marshall contends that 'contextualization and a commitment to interdisciplinarity remain central' to excavating Hurston. This excavation serves as a prism through which collective literary and cultural works can contribute to transformative ways of reading and understanding the hybrid Black feminist agency and legacy crafted by Zora Neale Hurston by her people for her people and humanity writ large." --Black Perspectives

"A fascinating examination into the work of Zora Neale Hurston as an anthropologist, which has been all but forgotten, especially in comparison to her work as a writer and cultural icon. " --Ms. Magazine

“Jennifer Freeman Marshall combines razor sharp analysis and clear prose that compel the reader to think carefully and critically about why Zora Neale Hurston is lionized in literature and marginalized in anthropology. Like a quilt, Freeman Marshall’s book has a strong frame, an aesthetically pleasing design, and an impeccable yet creative logic.”--Lee D. Baker, author of Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture