Friday, December 3, 2010

Science and the AAA: Five problems with the proposed changes

I have looked over the various materials at the AAA website and on various blogs, and I have heard a brief presentation by an AAA board member who is in my program. The most useful thing to look at is the actual changes in wording. You can see them here.

I find five problems with the proposed changes in wording:
  1. The term science should not be removed from AAA planning documents. If the AAA wants to be pluralistic and add interpretivist approaches in addition to science, that's fine. But many of us do social science, and many of us do biological science. For us, the concept of science is at the heart of our intellectual pursuits and it is part of our professional and personal identities.
  2. The AAA focus on research, and scholarship should not be changed to an exclusive focus on the advancement of  "public understanding." Public outreach is important and should continue to be stressed, but not at the expense of research and scholarship.
  3. The concern of the AAA should not be changed from a focus on the four subdisciplines of anthropology (ethnology, archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology) to understanding "humankind in all its aspects." The AAA should not be hegemonic and try to co-opt all social sciences and all human-related biological sciences (and perhaps all the humanities as well). The AAA should focus on anthropology as normally construed in the United States (the list of the subdisciplines does a good job of this).**
  4. The extended list of topics included in the purview of the AAA should not be changed from the list of the four traditional subdisciplines** to an expanded list consisting of three subdisciplines plus seven branches of the fourth subdiscipline (ethnology).
  5. The use of anthropology "to solve human problems" should not be removed from the statement.
** NOTE: I am amenable to adding applied anthropology as a fifth subdiscipline.


Chris said...

Here is a perfect reason why the word "science" should stay:

Or, AAA can be complicit as our country is increasingly taken over by the far right.

Michael E. Smith said...

Anthropology is sure taking a beating in the blogosphere about the science flap. See:

"Riberto's Revenge: The Implosion of Anthropology"

Michael E. Smith said...

I'm bored with this debate. Time to resign from the AAA and get on with my research.