Last night I was at a pub with some people (all anthropologists).
We were having a good time there, and one of us suddenly raised a question; the famous quote "Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities." is known as Kroeber's, but the source is virtually unknown.
Well... he teaches an introductory anthropology course this term, and tried to check the citation for next lecture. He could find out the phrase in Eric Wolf's Anthropology, but there, Wolf was also quoting the phrase without further information. So he searched through the internet for three hours and asked some people around him who he thought may know, but all eventually failed.
There were seven of us but no one has seen the phrase in Kroeber's works, so, we did all sorts of guesswork about the "truth" of this quote (for fun, of course).
Is there someone who knows where this quote comes from? Or is there a hidden mystery behind this, known to some but not to the others? I may win something (a cup of coffee maybe) if I can find out the "truth" first.
Many thanks in advance!! : )
Well, now I look on Google I find Eric Wolf saying that he wrote that phrase in his book Anthropology in 1964, p. 88. Sadly, there doesnt seem to be a searchable copy.
Actually, Nikos, I find your version much more elegant.
Thank you all! Google Books didn't give the answer unfortunately, and it's good that there's an alternative to the formerly known and unkown sources, which is even more enlightening and interesting for thoughts, maybe because it was for teasing students. Thank you Nikos.
It's interesting that this quote is being repeated here and there these days for some reasons we probably know, so, Izabel's intervention looks nice. But before discussing about the issue, let me write what I had in mind.
Regarding Keith's comment, I agree that there's sometimes no need to find out the 'original' source, but wonder if it's a matter of privatization of the idea. My opinion is that anybody who sympathizes with it can express it as his/her own opinion, but crediting the first author/speaker can be a nice thank-you message as well. Yet citation can be a very time-consuming work too. There in the pub, when we were talking about the quote, one friend of mine said that she got really vexed one day because she had to find out one source to put it in a paper, and the work eventually took "a whole day" from her. I think this is too much.
In fact I remembered many comparable stories during the conversation. For example, though different in many ways from the anthropology quote, evolutionary biology has an anecdote about W.D. Hamilton's classical papers on the concept inclusive fitness published in 1964 - there was a rumor that the same incorrect information about them had been reproduced in many subsequent papers written by others for a long time, which suggests that the authors who cited them did not read them by themselves and simply repeated the first wrong citation. (I must say that this itself is a "just-so story". I'm checking out this too. Hehe.)
Another example comes from the history of Korean literature. It had long been said that a genius poet who died early in 1937 at the age of 27 (Yi Sang) told his wife that he wanted to have a slice of lemon just before he died. This story was so famous that there was even a paper that analyzed what lemon had meant to him. But later, his wife wrote in her book that it was melon and she even took it to him! After hearing the lemon story, a newspaper article reports, she said that it didn't matter at all even if it were told as lemon because Yi actually liked lemon a lot. (By the way, am I the only person who think melon feels less fashionable? Probably this is why it was considered to be lemon by so many people.)
So, perhaps, what matters here is neither the source nor winning the game. I'd rather ask; why are these stories fun? Why are such stories created and circulated? I even imagined something like "The Seven Mysteries in Anthropology" when coming back home, guessing that there must be a lot of similar stories. 'Long conversation' might be another example. I don't want to be particularly cynical about these, but they are revealing in a way. : )
Dead ends indeed! Difficult to say whether Eric Wolf's quote was originally Kroeber's, since I can't find it either. It puts me in mind of the maxim attributed to Evans-Pritchard that 'there is only one method in social anthropology - the comparative method - and that is impossible'. Rodney Needham refers to it in his 'Polythetic Classification' essay, and adds that he heard E-P say it, but he couldn't find it in his writings.
As for Maurice Bloch's mention (in 'The Past and the Present in the Present') of the 'long conversation' with regard to Malinowski, I wonder whether this isn't so much a quote as Bloch's interpretation of Malinowski's method.
Rather along the lines of Heesun's deal (there's a cup of coffee in it for anyone who can help!), my own unfindable quote is something I once read about Malinowski's output (Sex and Repression and Coral Gardens, I think) which said something like anthropology's first two professional interests were 'sex and metaphysics'. Pithy and a bit flippant - I was convinced it was Edmund Leach, but no luck. This has been annoying me for a long time!
It seems that dead-ends are flourishing, and there may be more than ten mysteries in anthropology. My imagination got even more activated today - some information on the regional differences in oral tradition of anthropologists could be collected for comparison. Thank you Philip!