Monday, December 13, 2010

"For the very first time the young are seeing history being
 made before it is censored by their elders." 
-Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist

Anthropology Group Addresses Furor Over Deleting ‘Science’ -

The American Anthropology Association has engulfed itself in a furor over its supposed redefining the mission of the discipline. Some have said that Anthropology has retreated from calling itself a science. The anthropologists have responded with (what else?) a paper clarifying the position. Called "What Is Anthropology?" it reads like a tedious ANTHRO 101 paper. The first paragraph:

"Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Anthropologists often integrate the perspectives of several of these areas into their research, teaching, and professional lives."

The Times article may exaggerate the differences between the more scientifically oriented anthropologists and the more humanistic ones. It is a description of a tempest in a teapot.  However it must be understood that Anthropology is concerned with nothing less than the full range of human behavior and development through all time and space. Much of this interest, it must be admitted, is impervious to the scientific method as we know it. And I think, on a certain level, every anthropologist must admit this, even the physical anthropologists who spend their time extracting bones from the earth.  Anthropologists, even the most scientifically oriented, must be concerned with interpretation and extrapolation, which, in my opinion, is an art, not a science.

No comments: