Charles King

The Reinvention of Humanity
  • The Reinvention of Humanity

  • The Reinvention of Humanity tells the story of a small circle of renegade scientist-explorers who changed something profound: what it means to be normal.

    In the early twentieth century, these pioneering anthropologists, many of them women, made intrepid journeys that overturned our assumptions about race, sexuality, gender and the nature of human diversity, paving the way for the civil rights movements that followed and sparking a debate that continues to this day.

    From the Arctic to the South Pacific, from Haiti to Japan, they immersed themselves in distant or isolated communities, where they observed and documented radically different approaches to love and child-rearing, family structure and the relationship between women and men. With this evidence they were able to challenge the era’s scientific consensus – and deep-rooted Western belief – that intelligence, ability and character are determined by a person’s race or sex. In the end, they showed how the roles we play are shaped not by these crude ‘biological’ categories but according to the immense variety of human cultures.

    Theirs were boundary-breaking lives, filled with scandal, romance, rivalry and tragedy. Those of Margaret Mead and her essential partner Ruth Benedict resulted in fame and notoriety. Those of Native American activist Ella Deloria and the African-American writer and ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston ended in poverty and obscurity; here their achievements are brought fully into the light for the first time. All were outsiders, including the controversial founder of their field, the wild-haired professor, German immigrant and revolutionary thinker, Franz Boas.

    The Reinvention of Humanity takes us on their globe-spanning adventures and shows how, together, these courageous and unconventional people created the moral universe we inhabit today.

RELEASED 07/11/2019

Charles King is Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University where he teaches a popular course called ‘Ethnicity, Race, and Nation'. His many books include Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul, a 2014 New York Times Book Review Notable Book, and Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams, winner of a National Jewish Book Award in 2011. He reviews books in the New York Times and the TLS, and writes for Foreign Affairs and The New Republic, and op-eds for the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.