Anthropology: Science or Humanity?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The American Anthropological Association has stirred controversy by removing the word "science" from its long-term mission statement. Peter Peregrine, president of the Society for Anthropological Sciences, and Hugh Gusterson, executive boardmember of the American Antrhopological Association, discuss the decision, which has highlighted divisions between science-oriented anthropologists and those more focused on the humanities.


Hugh Gusterson and Peter N. Peregrine

Comments [6]

Erin Ricci from Washington, DC

I taught entry level cultural anthropology for several years and would encourage people to review Conrad Kottak's discussion of Anthropology as both a science and part of the humanities in his introductory textbooks for Cultural Anthropology and Anthropology. In my opinion an attempt to merge the two can lead to strong, useful scholarship that serves humanity.

Dec. 20 2010 02:00 PM
Gaetano Catelli from Oxford, Mississippi

Good segment, Brian.

Both sides got to present their case in their own terms, which is your specialty.

In the end, it turns out that, Hugh Gusterson's denial notwithstanding, the Times report was not *that* far off (if at all), ie, that a certain segment of the left is simply anti-science when science turns its lens on human differences.

And, Peter Peregrine made the further point that rightwing religionists are no great enthusiasts for evolutionary anthropology.

In sum, science does not support the faith-based optimism of either the left or the right about the human condition.

Dec. 14 2010 10:21 PM
Amon from Brooklyn, NY

This is ridiculous. Anthropologist use "The scientific method" to further public knowledge.. What is the big deal!? This is why he United States is falling behind in the world market. This is why we are losing jobs to India. "S.T.E.M majors in our colleges and university's are becoming an endangered species

Dec. 14 2010 10:59 AM
Vegan Vicki from Sugar Hill, Harlem

"Science" is part of European culture. Anthropologists typically see all human cultures as equally valid and advanced. Calling anthropology a "science" seems to prefer European culture.

Dec. 14 2010 10:57 AM
ann from UWS, NYC

I can't call in because I'm at work, but here's the thing: There are two sides to Anthropology, there's the side that studies culture, and there's the side that studies where man came from. The scientific side has always been at odds with the cultural side and vice versa. The people using genetic sequencing and electron scanning microscopes to try and figure out where we came from see the cultural anthropologists as a bunch of touchy feely hippies. There is a very deep rift between the two.

Dec. 14 2010 10:56 AM

My classmates and I have been debating this topic since the NYTimes article was published. As an archaeologist, I feel that scientific theories and methods are the backbone of my research, though I rely on sociocultural ideas for interpretations.

However, I see the largest schism is between physical anthropologists (especially those focusing on forensics and primatology) and sociocultural methods. Many don't see these methods and ideas applicable to their field.

It looks as though activism is a role of sociocultural anthropologists and archaeologists that work with native populations. However, I want to see how the AAA wants to bring forensic anthropologists and primatologists within the field.

Dec. 14 2010 10:55 AM

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