Alfred Russel Wallace as ancestor figure: Reflections on anthropological lineage after the Darwin bicentennial (Respond to this article at


  • Kathleen Bolling Lowrey

    1. Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. She has carried out fieldwork in Guaraní-speaking indigenous communities in the Gran Chaco region of South America since 1997. Her email address is
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  • The author would like to thank her mother, Bolling Puller Lowrey, for introducing her to Wallace's writings.


The article argues that anthropology might look to Alfred Russel Wallace as an ancestor figure for three reasons. First, it is under-recognized that he was an accomplished and sympathetic ethnographic fieldworker. Second, evidence is emerging that his intuitions were surer than were Darwin's as to evolutionary mechanisms. Third, he was willing to appear as a “crank” on questions of ontology. These last two issues animate anthropology as we presently know it, and Wallace's stances on both may serve as a salutary inspirations.