The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) had adopted a new long-range plan that omits the word “science” from the association’s long-term plan. Not surprisingly, scientific anthropologists are upset, and the controversy is all over the internet. I think this is a VERY BAD THING, and it may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me — perhaps it’s time to resign from the AAA. My intellectual and alienation from cultural anthropology, and my professional and intellectual alienation from the AAA. go way back (I have various prior posts on this, check the index).
*** NOTE: PLEASE SEE MY CONCISE SPECIFIC OBJECTIONS TO THE WORDING CHANGES (Posted Dec. 3) ***
Check out the controversy. My favorite post is Alice Dreger’s column, “No science, please. We’re anthropoloigsts.” in Psychology Today. By the way, Dreger will shortly nail the AAA for its behavior toward Napoleon Chagnon in the Tierney Darkness in El Dorado affair in a detailed scholarly article.
Savage Minds has a post on it called: “Why anthropology is ‘true’ even if it’s not ‘science.‘ Pretty lame, but there is a lively discussion on the post.
But the best discussion is on Neuroanthropology, “Anthropology, Science and Public Understanding.” Daniel Lende points to something I missed in my initial reading. The new list of topics covered by anthropology replaces the subdisciplines with a list that includes the subdisciplines PLUS a bunch of things that fall largely within cultural anthropology. As Lende says on Neuoanthropology:
The AAAs emphasis on cultural anthropology continues, and is actually reinforced in this new document. Before there were just four sub-fields – “archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research.” Now we have a list of ten – “archeological, biological, social, cultural, economic, political, historical, medical, visual, and linguistic anthropological research.” The new additions fall largely within the domain of cultural anthropology – social, cultural, economic, political, historical, medical, and visual. Equal weighting for biology would likely demand some mention of primatology and evolutionary anthropology. I am sure an archaeologist would also have relevant additions.
So I guess we now know what the AAA board thinks anthropology really consists of: it is mostly cultural anthropology, with, oh yes, a bit of biological and archaeological material thrown in to satisfy the four-fields myth. Not very encouraging for archaeology.