National Anthropological Archives

MS 2004-07 David Efron Gesture Research

Collection ID:
Efron, David, 1904-
Van Veen, Stuyvesant
bulk circa 1930-1940
Physical Description:
5 Inches

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection contains fieldnotes, drawings and illustrations from Efron's research on gesture language among Sicilian and Lithuanian Jewish immigrants on the lower east side of New York City. The several hundred original captioned illustrations in the collection were created by Stuyvesant Van Veen. The collection also includes a 115-page Bibliography of Gesture and Posture, which Efron apparently never published, and one item on Native American gesture language from 1890.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
A student of Franz Boas, David Efron conducted his gesture study to examine differences in the gestural repertoire of different neighboring immigrant communities, as well as the effect of assimilation on the range of gestures used by their first generation descendants. Efron's demonstration of the cultural basis of gestural style challenged Nazi "scientific" claims that gestural style was racially inherited. The results of his research were published as Gesture and Environment (King's Crown Press, 1941), republished as Gesture, Race and Culture (Mouton, 1972).
Biographical / Historical
Efron collaborated on his gesture research with Stuyvesant Van Veen (1910-1988), a New York City artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students league and worked with the muralist Thomas Hart Benton. Van Veen is also known in anthropological circles for the illustrations he produced for Franz Boas' research on Kwakiutl dances.
Biographical / Historical
Efron's was perhaps the first ethnographic research to combine meticulous participant observation and artistic collaboration with the analysis of everyday social behavior recorded on motion picture film.

Custodial History
This collection was donated to the archives by Paul Ekman.

Using the Collection
Manuscript 2004-07 David Efron Gesture Research, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Other Archival Materials
Other Archival Materials
Stuyvesant Van Veen's papers are maintained by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, which also has a 1981 interview with Van Veen in which the artist discusses his work with Boas.

More Information
Local Numbers
Local Numbers
NAA MS 2004-07

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Gesture Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropological linguistics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Immigrants Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Language and languages -- Documentation Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York (N.Y.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Italians -- United States Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jews, Lithuanian Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746