Sergei A. Kan

Academic Appointments

Professor of Anthropology
Jewish Studies
Russian Studies
Faculty Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University
Affiliated Faculty, University of Haifa, Israel

As a scholar of Native American ethnology and ethnohistory, I have been interested in ways in which Alaska Native (particularly Tlingit) cultures have changed over time while preserving some of their core values and maintaining a distinct indigenous identity.  I have also researched the history of American and Russian anthropology, particularly the interaction between Boasian and Russian anthropology from the early 1900s through the 1940s.  Recently I completed an intellectual biography of Alexander Goldenweiser (1880-1940), a porminent American anthropologist of Russian-Jewish descent. Currently I am also preparing for publication an annotated book of photographs taken in Sitka, Alaska by Elbridge W. Merrill(1897-1929). A new project in the history of anthropology that I have recently began is an intellectual biography of another major American anthropologist of the first half of the 20th centruy -- Paul Radin (1883-1959).

646-2550 646-2481
315 Silsby, Anthropology
HB 6047
Moscow State University
B.A. Boston University
M.A. University of Chicago
Ph.D. University of Chicago

Selected Publications

A Maverick Boasian: The Life and Work of Alexander Goldenweiser. University of Nebraska Press. Forthcoming in 2022.

Book  Sharing Our Knowledge: the Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors. University of Nebraska Press. 2015.,675970.aspx

Book  Vincent Soboleff: A Russian-American Photographer in Tlingit Country. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2013.

The 2015 Western History Association Joan Patterson Kerr Award for the best illustrated book on the American West.

Book  Symbolic Immortality: the Tlingit Potlatch of the Nineteenth Century.   Second Edition (Revised and expanded).  University of Washington Press. 2015.

[1990 Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award].

Book  Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries. University of Washington Press.  1999.

Edited Volume and Journal  A collection of paper entitled “Individuals and Groups of Mixed Russian-Native     Parentage in Siberia, Russian America, and Alaska.” Ethnohistory 60 (3).  2013.

Edited Volume and Journal  Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.  (Co-edited with Pauline Turner Strong).  2006.

Book  Lev Shternberg, Anthropologist, Russian Socialist, Jewish Activist.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2009.,673329.aspx


Edited Volume and Journal  Strangers to Relatives: The Adoption and Naming of Anthropologists in Native North America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2001.

Article. 2016. (Co-authored with Dmitry Arzyutov) Bernhard J. Stern (1894-1960) and the Saga of Publishing Lewis Henry Morgan's Collected Works in pre-World War II Soviet Russia. PP. 149-220 In Histories of Anthropology Annual, vol. 10. Ed. by Regna Darnell and Frederick Gleach. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 2016

Article 2016. To Study Our Past, Make Sense of Our Present and Develop Our National Consciousness: Lev Shternberg’s Comprehensive Program for Jewish Ethnography in Soviet Russia.  Pp. 64-84 In Going to the People: Jews and the Ethnographic Impulse.  Ed. by Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeffrey Veidlinger.  Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 

Article  2015.  The Falling Out Between Alexander Goldenweiser and Robert Lowie: Two Prsonalities, Two VIsions of Anthropology.  Pp. 1-31 In  From Corridor Talk to Culture History. History of Anthropology Annual, vol. 9.  Ed. by Regna Darnell and Frederick Gleach.

University of Washington Press.

Article  2013. Sergei Ionovich Kostromitinov (1854-1915) or "Colonel George Kostrometinoff": from a Creole Teenager to the Number One Russian-American Citizen of Sitka.  Ethnohistory 60(3): 385-402.

Article   2009  Alexander Goldenweiser’s Politics.  Pp. 182-199 In Histories of Anthropology Annual.  Vol. 5.  Ed. by Regna Darnell and Frederick Gleach.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.                                       

Article   2008  Evolutionism and Historical Particularism at the St. Petersburg Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.  Museum Anthropology 31(1): 28-46.

Article  2006  “My Old Friend in a Dead-end of Skepticism and Empiricism”: Boas, Bogoras, and the Politics of Soviet Anthropology of the late 1920s-early 1930s.  Pp. 32-68 In Histories of Anthropology Annual.  Vol. 2.  Ed. by Regna Darnell and Frederick Gleach.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 

Article  2006 Events and Nonevents on the Tlingit/Russian/American Colonial Frontier, 1802-1879. Pp. 310-327 In Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations.  Sergei Kan and Pauline Turner Strong, eds.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 

Article  2004 It's Only Half a Mile from Savagery to Civilization: American Tourists and Southeastern Alaska Natives in the Late Nineteenth Century. Pp. 201-220 In Coming to Shore: Northwest Coast Ethnology, Traditions and Visions.  Marie Mauzé, Michael Harkin, and Sergei Kan, eds.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 

Article  2001 Friendship, Family, and Fieldwork: One Anthropologist's Adoption by Two Tlingit Families.  Pp. 185-217 In Strangers to Relatives: The Adoption and Naming of Anthropologists in Native North America.  Sergei Kan, ed.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Article  1996 Clan Mothers and Godmothers: Tlingit Women and Russian Orthodox Christianity, 1840-1940.  Native American Women's Responses to Christianity.  Special Issue of Ethnohistory, vol. 43(4): 613-641.  Ed. by Michael Harkin and Sergei Kan.

Article  1991 Shamanism and Christianity: Modern-day Tlingit Elders Look at the Past.  Ethnohistory 38 (4): 363-387

Article  1989 Cohorts, Generations, and Their Culture: the Tlingit Potlatch in the 1980s.  Anthropos 84:405-422.

Article  1987 Memory Eternal:  Russian Orthodoxy and the Tlingit Mortuary Complex.  Arctic Anthropology  24 (1):32-55. 

Article  1986 The Nineteenth-century Tlingit Potlatch: a New Perspective.  American Ethnologist  13 (2):191-212.  [American Society for Ethnohistory 1987 Robert F. Heizer Prize for the Best Article in the Field]. 

Article 2017        (Co-authored with Dmitry Arzyutov) ' The Concept of the "Field" in Early Soviet Ethnography: A Northern Perspective.  Sibirica: Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies, vol  vol. 16, no. 1: 31–74.

Article  2018 Was Lev Shternberg Just Another Classical Evolutionist. Pp. 267-279 In Jochelson, Bogoras and Shternberg: A Scientific Exploration of the Russian Far East and the Shaping of Soviet Ethnography. Ed. by Erich Kasten. Verlag der Kulturschiftung Sibirien. Furstenberg/Havel, Germany.

Article  2018        Unites States, Anthropology. International Encyclopedia of  Anthropology. pp. 6280-6309. Ed. by Hilary Callan.  Wiley-Blackwell.

Article  2019  Raymond D. Fogelson's "The Ethnohistory of Events and Non-Events."  Ethnohistory 66 (1): 170-177. 

Electronic article 2019 .  Mainstream or Marginal Boasian? An Intellectual Biography of Robert H. Lowie.  In Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l’anthropologie, Paris, IIAC LAHIC, UMR 8177.  URL:

Electronic article. 2020. “True Heirs to a Heroic Russian Past” or “Russians in Name Only”:

     Sitka Creoles as Seen by the Late Nineteenth Century Russian Orthodox Clergy. Journal of Frontier Studies 5 (4): 12-37.

Bernhard H. Stern, an American Apologist for Stalinism. History of Anthropology

Review. February 25, 2021 (online).

Frants Boas i Sovetskaia Rossiia: 25 Let Ambivalentnosti [Franz Boas and Soviet  Russia: 25 Years of Ambivalence]. Sibirskie Istoriheskie Issledovaniia 1: 40-61. 2021.

[Siberian Historical Studies] (In Russian).

Orthodox Church Brotherhoods of the Sitka Creoles, 1870s-1910s. Alaska History, vol. 36(1): 54-71. 2021.

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Speaking engagements

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, October 14, 2020

"Alexander Goldenweiser: An American Anthropologist with Russian Jewish Roots."

Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory, Nashville, TN, 2016

"Moisei Krol's Return to the Jewish People via Ethnographic Research among the Buryats."

Paper presented at the 2020 Meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Lisbon, Portugal, July 22, 2020.

Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Denver, 2015

Fr. Andrew Kashevaroff (1863-1940), an Ethnologist of Alaska Native Cultures.

Paper presented in the Americanist Seminar, Moscow, Russia, November 21, 2020

International Conference “Going to the People: Jews and the Ethnographic Impulse.” Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, 2013

Fifth International Conference on Russian America,  Mariehamn, Finland, 2012

Tlingit Clan Conferences;  Sitka, Alaska, 2012; Juneau, Alaska, 2017, 2015, 2013

Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory, Indianapolis, IN, 2014

Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, 2012

Annual Meeting, American Anthropological Association, Vancouver, Canada, 2019

American Society for Ethnohistory, Annual Meeting, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2018

A Russian Amercan Photographer in Tlingit Country: Vincent Soboleff in Alaska

Lecture (in Russian) Sponsored by the United States Embassy, Russia. Moscow, Russia, May 17, 2017

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Works in progress

Book: A Multi-Ethnic Alaska Town: Sitka as Depicted by Elbridge W. Merrill's Photographs (1890s-1920s) (book)

A Russian translation of my 2009 book Lev Shternberg: Anthropologist, Russian Socialist, Jewish Activist. Academic Studies Press.

An intellectual biography of Paul Radin (1883-1959), a major figure in American anthropology of the first half of the twentieth century.

Selected works and activities

As a member of the Organizing Committee: preparing the Fall 2021 Conference "Sharing Our Knowledge": a venue that brings together academic and tribal scholars and activists working on Tlingit culture and history