Do we need to define anthropology?
toBEintheWORLD is the name of a new anthropology blog. In his first posts, anthropology student Pawel Tomasz Chyc (University of Poznań, Poland) asks anthro-bloggers to explain what they understand as “anthropology".
For, in his opinion, good anthropologists have to define the terms they use precisely - this includes also the term culture. He perceives “a lack of precision” both in anthropological articles, books and blogs. “Lack of precision", he writes, is “one of the fundamental problems of anthropological theory".
I’m not sure if I agree. I think anthropology might rather profit from being defined in many different and vague or experimental ways.
There are huge differences between American anthropology and German or Norwegian anthropology. I am no big fan of the American four-field approach and their focus on culture. I would rather define anthropology as the science of the diverse ways people live on this planet (= core definition). Its main method of gathering data is fieldwork (which also can be defined in many ways). It also relies on knowledge in other disciplines like history, linguistics, psychology, biology, archaeology etc
Pawel Tomasz Chyc’ posts remind me of a short discussion we had nearly three years ago after I had written the post The Five Major Challenges for Anthropology. Kambiz Kamrani from anthropology.net wrote that “Anthropology will never succeed until it clearly defines culture.", while Erkan Saka disagreed: “This emphasis on definition is against all I know about social sciences", he wrote.
See also the definition of anthropology on Anthrobase, the definition by the American Anthropological Association, the text “What is anthropology” by Thomas Hylland Eriksen and my post “Take care of the different national traditions of anthropology”