Since I began teaching in a program that is not called a “Department of Anthropology” three years ago (it’s the “
For a long time, it seemed to me that a major obstacle to achieving some kind of integrated 4-field anthropology was the attitudes of cultural anthropologists. The basic attitude of many cultural anthropologists I have known is that cultural anthropology is the “real” anthropology. Archaeology and physical anthropology are part of this “sacred bundle” of four fields, but they are definitely junior or inferior members of the team. Most departments need them for their undergraduate enrollments and grants, but their practitioners are not really anthropologists in the same sense as cultural anthropologists.
I recently came across information on a new anthropology magazine called Anthropology Now, referred from the excellent blog “Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in
“ABOUT THE MAGAZINE: Anthropology Now focuses on the ways that anthropological theory and research can inform and affect contemporary public discourse and public policy debates. It offers readers thought-provoking and timely content focused on contemporary issues and debates.”
The editorial statement goes on to say that other subdisciplines already do well in the popular media, but “For a variety of reasons, cultural anthropological approaches to current social issues do not often get incorporated in existing media.”
In case the orientation of the magazine is not clear, look at the Editorial Board. Not surprisingly, all members are cultural anthropologists.
Now I have nothing against a new magazine in (cultural) anthropology. In fact, I think it’s a great idea. But the text on the website just confirms my jaundiced view that cultural anthropologists consider themselves as the “real” anthropologists.
I am of two minds about whether I think this matters or not.
(1) From an intellectual perspective, I would be happy to have cultural anthropologists go ahead and appropriate “anthropology” for themselves. I am an archaeologist, and in my own research I get much more mileage out of literature in urban studies, geography and history than I do from works in cultural anthropology. I disagree VERY STRONGLY with the view that “archaeology is anthropology or it is nothing” (Binford 1962; Gillespie, and Nichols 2003; Willey, and Phillips 1958). That is just a silly statement that made some kind of sense back in the 1950s, but is completely off base today.
(2) From a professional perspective, however,
Sorry to ramble like this. I wish the new magazine best of luck. We really do need something like this. But reading the web site brought back some old resentment about the attitudes of cultural anthropologists toward archaeologists. But now that I teach in a “program formerly known as anthropology,” I don’t need to worry about such things myself. It has been intellectually liberating to be able to concentrate on my research and have lots of diverse colleagues (anthropologists and others) to interact and cooperate with. My courses, however, are still labeled “Anthropology,” which is just fine.
Binford, Lewis R. (1962) Archaeology as Anthropology. American Antiquity 28:217-225.
Borofsky, Robert (2002) THE FOUR SUBFIELDS: Anthropologists as Mythmakers. American Anthropologist 104:463-480.
Brenton, Barrett P. (1996) Four-Field Approach. In Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, edited by David Levinson and Melvin Ember, pp. 508-510. vol. 2. Henry Holt, New York.
Gillespie, Susan D. and Deborah L. Nichols (editors) (2003) Archaeology is Anthropology. Archaeological Papers vol. 13. American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC.
Segal, Daniel A. and Sylvia J. Yanagisako (editors) (2005) Unwrapping the Sacred Bundle: Reflections on the Disciplining of Anthropology. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
Willey, Gordon R. and Philip Phillips (1958) Method and Theory in American Archaeology.