To learn more about Geil, click here for the Accidental Ethnographer Resource Center
A year ago on Round and Square (20 September 2012)—Assignments: Source Letter
|[a] Planted RF|
Introduction 1-Southern Mountain Museum 2-Sacred Mountain Map
6-How to Write the Book 7-Mortarboard Man 8-Orator
9-Naming (Un)Conventions 10-Unlike the Others 11-Killed by Lightning
Julia Lacher is a proud native of Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated from Beloit College in May with a double major in Anthropology and History and a minor in Museum Studies. She is the only intern working with William Edgar Geil's papers at the Doylestown Historical Society who did not take Professor Rob LaFleur's class on "The Accidental Ethnographer," and is currently wondering what she got herself in to.
After two weeks and more than 600 scanned newspaper articles, each headline alternately more haughty and expansionist than the last, I didn't think there was anything left in the archive that would shock or surprise me. However, I was proven wrong when I came across a picture of Geil at the end of his trip along the Great Wall of China in 1908.
Take a look at Image C. Yes, that is an American flag nailed to the Great Wall of China.
While this picture made me think about issues of colonialism and nationalism that I would like to explore in a later post, it also made me think about how Geil's identity as an American -- his "American-ness" -- was intricately tied to how he presented himself, both as a speaker and as a writer.
|[c] Flagged DHS|
In fact, many reviews of his books, especially his 1908 The Great Wall of China, make allusions to Geil's American qualities. A review of On the Great Wall of China printed in the Boston Herald in 1910 reads "it must be admitted, however, that the reading matter...is charaterised by an optimistic quality that indicates what is usually regarded as the genuine Yankee temperament."
This is not the only article to point out Geil's American qualities, though it is more laudatory than some others, such as the which instead of refreshing find Geil's familiar and humorous language obnoxious. "We could, however, wish that there were not so many light-hearted Americanisms in it" writes a reviewer for the London Queen in 1910.
|[d] Consequences (of a later era) RF|
"American Invaders Will
Surely Be Defeated"
While exploiting his identity as a plain spoken, boisterous American may have made him successful in the short term, it is perhaps his lack of a serious academic mien—both in his writing and in his speaking—that relegated him from the ranks of serious academic to the level of amateur traveler, doomed to obscurity (...until now!)...