The Secret Society of Anthropologists

In the book Engaging Anthropology, Thomas Hylland Eriksen writes:

In spite of its considerable growth, anthropology still cultivates its self-identity as a counter-culture, its members belonging to a kind of secret society whose initiates possess exclusive keys for understanding, indispensable for making sense of the world, but alas, largely inaccessible for outsiders. (...)Anthropologists simply did not want their subject to become too popular.

Recently, I had to think of this quote several times. As noted, I've registered for the conference Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology. As the conference fee is cheaper for members of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, I thought: Why not have a look at the organisation.

On the homepage section Membership, the first thing you read is this here:

Not a member? Why not lend your support to the discipline? If you would like to join, and fulfil the requirements below, use the NEW online form to apply.

Requirements?? Read on:

The ASA offers membership to persons of academic standing who, by virtue of their training, posts held and published works can be recognised as professional social anthropologists. Nominations and applications are considered once a year, at the Annual Business Meeting of the Association. These must be submitted by December 31st in the academic year in which they are to be considered.

But that's not enough. You can't just apply by yourself:

Applications may be made by nomination through a member of the Association or by a person applying in their own right. In the case of the latter the names of two members of the Association should be provided to whom the committee may refer if necessary.

You should also take a look at the detailed membership application form

In contrast, there are no such "requirements" when applying for membership in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) or in the Norwegian Anthropological Association.

By the way, some days ago, the first conference papers were published on the website. Try to download them and see what happens when you (try to) open them...


Comment from: orange. [Visitor]

The conditions to become a GAA (German Association for Anthropology) member are comparable. Can’t remember though, if I read anything on a “consideration” of applicants, but one needs two GAA members to recommend your application.
I am a CASCA member now.

22.03.06 @ 17:45
Comment from: [Member]

Interesting! Thanks. I’ve checked it on their website. Seems to be less formal than becoming member in the ASA, though. It’s sufficent to have the recommendations of two members, that’s all.

22.03.06 @ 17:57
Comment from: orange. [Visitor]

In the case of the GAA I think the obligatory recommendation is just a formalism, which means I don’t believe anyone will be rejected, as it sounds to be possible with ASA.
Nonetheless these formalisms signify difference. Compared with the procedure that is practised by the CASCA in both cases of GAA and ASA less openness is demonstrated.
[Don’t get me wrong: This is not meant to be an expression of great insight, its notions of open- or closedness like that that keep me going in regards of fixing national differences.]

22.03.06 @ 23:55
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, of course. Here in Norway there’s no difference between joining the Anthropological Association or a sports club. Seems also to be the case with the CASCA (The Canadian Anthropology Society). Maybe there are historical reasons for these differences? Or maybe these difference reflect the social structures in the respective contries?

23.03.06 @ 00:06

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