Thanks to all the members for their participation and comments during the first series of debates. I would like to open the second in this series of debates by inviting the next motion from the membership. After a few days, if I do not get any suggestions, I will post the next operative question and invite members to argue for or against, and for any suggestions on how the question could or should be reframed.
Again the rules for the debate are as follows:
1. Debate starts with the reading of the operative question and the selection of participants;
2. This will be followed by a brief period for points of clarification;
3. Debate is set to a minimum of 2 rounds but can be extended upward to four if requested by either participant;
4. Although there is no specific length to statements or rebuttal, we ask that debate be as concise and to the point as possible;
5. Following completion of the rounds, the operative question will be opened to discussion from the membership;
6. Participants may be asked if they are open to points of information following their respective rounds; and
7. Points of inquiry from the membership (to the participant) can only be made following the complete series of rounds.
8. After a period of one week, we will move to the next operative question.
It is hard to argue with the proposition that one of the major challenges of anthropology is the redefinition of the concept of society. The redefinition of society in light of forms of social life unfamiliar to the larger audiences to whom the anthropologist hopes to speak has long been part of the discipline's stock in trade. We are, as Mary Douglas once put it, the people who read a sociological proposition, raise our hands and say, "Not in Bongo-Bongo."
Keith points, however, to a deeper problem, i.e.,
an attempt to make the national model of society universal by finding its principles everywhere, even in so-called primitive societies. These principles included cultural homogeneity, a bounded location and an ahistorical presumption of eternity.
Few here would disagree that the principles listed here are demonstrably false in a world of multicultural nations, global diasporas, and what at least appears to be accelerating change.
The question is, then, what anthropologists have to contribute to a larger conversation about what society is and properly demands of its members. Keith suggests that we need to,
renew our engagement with the discipline's 18th and 19th century antecedents, with a humanist philosophical critique aiming at democratic revolution and a world history adequate to our current planetary dilemmas.
This is certainly one possible approach, but not the only one. I think of the renewed interest in the relationship of human biology to human behavior exemplified by sites like Neuroanthropology or the current Edge debate "The New Science of Morality." These look forward instead of backward, to current science instead of dusty philosophies. The same might be said of the social network analysis in which I am currently engaged.
Philosophy, or science, or both? An what can we, as ethnographers or as scholars with a broader than usual awareness of the range of human possibilities contribute to these enterprises? These, I suggest, are the questions to which this discussion points us.
I am not in debate but when I think about society redefinition or try to adapt the traditional concept to the current times in which globalization (different ethnic backgrounds) and increasing numbers of different "communities" (sub-cultures of a society maybe? common status?) that one can belong.
Our current "society" or "community" definitions, especially as a person's identity or to refer to a nation/town/community in whole, have grown much more complex, especially when one is now part of many different societies/communities in different levels... I would like to hear what you guys have to say about that.