Comment from: Patricia
i agree with the book–anthropology has become “ethnocentric” to itself, making itself less and less relevant to the world it supposedly serves. i graduated with an MA in Applied Anthro in 2004, went to my first AAA mtg in Atlanta, and couldn’t believe what i saw. Applied anthropology is completely marginalized by the ivory-towered majority! Although the Applied degree is fairly new, its not that new, being around for atleast 20 yrs, but still the runt of the litter where anthropology itself is concerned. Why? Perhaps because Applied means to take the tools out of the tower and to the world, where anthropology’s insights are sorely needed. From what I found last year, Applied need not “apply” since many consider this area “tainted". During the Applied seminar I mentioned that collaboration is not something supported in anthropology–as in anths collaborating w/each other and other scientists to write articles and monographs, and asked why. The panelists replied that 1. Anthropology is a “solitary” occupation, and 2. Anthros don’t want collaboration with other disciplines, especially those involving anything corporate, for fear of ‘contamination’.
But why then do other scientific disciplines manage collaborations between their scholarly and clinical branches? Even collaborations between two within the same branch? Surely sociologists have been doing this for years which has generated good PR, a bonus.
I hope Eriksen’s book is the start of a trend towards dialog–which results in action. I find it ridiculously ironic that anthropology, the study of humans, is ethnocentric unto itself. This long pondering of the discipline’s navel hasn’t helped at all, the less we engage with the real world, the more irrelevant the discipline becomes, no matter how good the core ideas and information are.
Comment from: John McCreery
Just want to say, first, that I agree completely with what Patricia says. Recalling how I myself became an anthropologist, I cannot in good conscience deny that I was a solitary child often found in a longing but liminal position vis-a-vis my peers. My response was to seek exotic activities that I could pursue on my own, thus avoiding the rejection I feared.
As luck would have it, my fieldwork included my then newly married wife, and falling out of academia led to a career in an around the Japanese advertising world, where cooperation,team play, and communication with the public are very much the name of the game. I can only wish that more of my fellow anthropologists shared a similar experience.
I wrote a little bit on this subject as well:
There seems to be big differences between Scandinavia and UK / USA. Here, nearly everybody knows what anthropology is and anthropologists aren’t margenalized at all. Nearly every day, anthropologists appear in the Scandinavian media.
I think we all agree that blogs has potential to be the forum that public anthropologists have been looking for - “not mediated by a newspaper editor’s desire for a certain type of story” - as Noah Porter writes.
I think there is a great fear of being used by politicians for political ends. And I think this is not unlikely that these things might happen. Look at how for instance Unni Wikan has been simplified and used for supporting politics not of her own choosing. But we cannot cling to the exuse that we are misunderstood. We as anthropologists need to go more public, and perhaps be will grow better at it with more practice. It is difficult to get our balanced arguments through in the media, but we ought to try. A lot of people would take a great interest in what we do if they were only more aware, and it is our responsibility to make them aware.
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