Re: Whither Anthropology

hjmartin (hatch@RICHMOND.INFI.NET)
Fri, 1 Dec 1995 15:20:07 -0500

Edwina Taborsky wrote:

>specific role of the anthropologist (as researcher of non-western
>societies) may need to be changed. I think that Sociology's
>confinement to industrial-style societies is too narrow for its good,
>and equally, Anthropology's confinement to non-industrial, or small
>group ethnics within industrialism - is narrow...

>The clear-cut distinctions between the two
>disciplines seem to be disappearing, and trying to maintain them
>might simply harm research.

Edwina's points are well-taken, particularly with regard to disciplinary
boundaries and what this might mean for future research. (BTW, I did almost
3 years of fieldwork among Chinese in industrial Taiwan).

However, what I am interested in discussing is the state of anthropology
departments in their concrete institutional settings.

Participants in the AAA session I mentioned in the original posting
discussed responses to declining numbers of students, resurrecting moibund
programs, suffocating intra-departmental specialization, the problems of
survival at open-admissions universities, and other mundane topics.

I think that answers to questions about the place of anthropology
departments in colleges and universities are important to discover. Not
only is this so for the discipline to survive, if not thrive, but it is also
so for the many thousands of students and faculty who spend their lives in
earnest study, teaching and research. In other words, if the discipline is
in trouble in its natural home, then the battle is half lost. Devising ways
to encourage its growth, to sustain its presence, to demonstrate its worth
to administrators and so on seems like the simplest of exercises in