anthropologies Issue 1: What is anthropology?

The first issue of the new project "anthropologies" is up!  Thanks to Alyson O'Daniel, Megan Maurer, David Picard, Stacie Gilmore, and Keith Hart for helping me get this first issue up and running.  Check it out and (more importantly) comment and post your responses to the conversation.  This is definitely meant to be a project that invites collaboration, participation, and input--so fire away.  Things get most interesting when they turn into a conversation, and I look forward to seeing what develops.  For that reason, I have added an Open Thread for this issue where I hope some people will share their ideas of what anthropology is all about.  Check out the about page to see some of the ideas for upcoming issues.  This project is just starting to take shape, so who knows what shape it will take?  The next one is going to be about anthropology and tourism.  If you're interested in participating in a future issue, or have ideas about particular themes or issues that should be tackled, post a comment here, or send me an email (here at the OAC or at ethnografix at gmail dot com). 


Here's the contents of this issue:


Issue 1:
What is Anthropology?
March 2011


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Comment by Francine Barone on March 16, 2011 at 12:29am

I might add that the problem is not "theories and theorists", which pervade because they serve a useful purpose in helping us to think about this diverse subject with some common points of reference, but rather the way that theories can often be yielded in place of ethnographic comparison. It's always refreshing to see new ideas stripped of the old theoretical frameworks that can confine our ability to capture an ethnographic moment as a unique experience while embracing all of anthropology's loose ends.

I'm pretty certain that yet more defining of divisions, tools, fields or sects won't much help to make sense of what we do.

Ryan, I really like this project and wish I had been able to contribute to the first issue. Maybe I can put together some ideas on tourism for the next one.

Comment by M Izabel on March 15, 2011 at 10:41pm
Another thing is that I  don't  see a thesis that writes  and  explains about macaques   from  beginning  to  end  as anthropological.  There  are zoologists  who  can do  such kind  of  animal study.  It can be anthropological if the macaques  are studied  behaviorally with an intent to compare them to humans, their primate cousins, or to relate them to human economy or  ecology.  We  can meaningfully understand hoarding among humans, for instance, if we have an additional knowledge that even monkeys do  hoard.  Therefore,  primatology is  not anthrooology,  but it can be an anthropological  tool to study ecology, behavior, and  even organizational dynamics, besides being specimens for medical/clinical/psychological experiments.
Comment by M Izabel on March 15, 2011 at 10:14pm
You're  right.   The  best  example I  can give is the  "culture shock" among Filipino elder immigrants of Missouri. Instead of wasting time and dwelling on Turner's liminality,  hofer's "homesickness,"  postcolonialist nostalgia, and diaspora theories, the  said problem can easily  be compared to  the Filipino elder immigrants  in  California  considering racial demography, sense  of community, and social avenues  for networking.  The problem is that most  anthropologists are so much  into  ethnography, the production of  a case study, not into  using and applying it  and  comparing  it  to other ethnographies to find solutions and explanations helpful in solving  problems.
Comment by ryan anderson on March 15, 2011 at 9:42pm

Thanks, M, for the comments.  It's a work in progress, and I think it has some potential.


You wrote:


Anthropology and anthropologists should rely more on case or comparative studies than on theories and theorists.


I definitely agree with you that it's critical not to let preconceived theoretical ideas get in the way.  Sometimes we just have to step back from all the frameworks so that we don't erase what's really happening.  This is a case of confusing the explanatory framework or tool with the situation itself, no?


Thanks again for the comment.

Comment by M Izabel on March 15, 2011 at 9:15pm
I forgot  to include environmental anthropology as the  fourth division, human environment, and humans  as  environmental  animals.  Anthropology should include non-human  animals and plants that sustain human life; ecology, biodiversity  and  ecosystems that define humans; and climate, geology, and physicality of the universe that affect how humans live.
Comment by M Izabel on March 15, 2011 at 9:03pm

Nice project, Ryan. I like how a review of literature is absent. It makes an article more readable and free of academic paranoia.


My two cents:


Anthropology, to me, is the study of humans, plain and simple. Also, humans, to me, are biological, social, and cultural animals. So, if anthropology were a religion, and I were its chief priestess, I would decree biological anthropology, social anthropology, and cultural anthropology as the three divisions of anthropology. I would treat physical anthropology, archaeological research, case studies, linguistic analysis, field ethnography, review of literature, media  production, statistical method as anthropological tools.


Medical anthropology would fall under biological anthropology, economic anthropology under social anthropology, and visual anthropology under cultural anthropology. Anything that involves human body (mind, feelings, perception included) is biological; human society (like in political and economic activities), social; and human culture (material and abstract like architecture and music), cultural. I would treat human body, society, and culture anthropologically the way cardiologists study and treat hearts or pediatricians, babies. I believe like a human body, a culture or a society also gets "sick". It should be the job of anthropology and anthropologists to make that society or culture better.


Example, Albino killings in African region can be attributed to globalization/globalism, which is in a current surge. They use albinos' body parts as business lucky charms. A fisherman at Lake Victoria weaves albino hairs into his nets, so his catch will be plenty and can supply a high demand, maybe, from surrounding African countries or from local or foreign companies that export and import. Anthropologists should not just study the albino killing phenomenon; they must solve it.  Since it is a new phenomenon brought forth by another foreign phenomenon that is globalization/globalism, they can offer explantions  and solutions foreign to the locals. Maybe management anthropologists should introduce business concepts and strategies to the local entrepreneurs. Maybe development anthropologists should work on other industrial alternatives to  implement  in the area. Maybe economic anthropologists should help the locals understand and respond to the excesses of easy money from irresponsible greed.


Anthropology and anthropologists should rely more on case or comparative studies than on theories and theorists. In the case of albino killing and Lake Victoria fishermen, the problem is real and about senseless murder not what authors say in seminars or write in books. We need to emulate how medical doctors give importance to cases to understand a certain disease. A developmental anthropologist, for instance, can cite how South Koreans farm tuna in their waters as one of the solutions instead of wasting pages and pages on Marx and his concept of alienation or Foucault and his idea of state power. Those individuals are dead. They are not the problem. Let's focus on the living who have problems that need to be solved.


Back to reality, I don't think my wishes will happen. Simply, I am not a chief priestess, and anthropology is not a religion.


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