Re: Anthropology's identity

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 00:25:54 -0500

I think Kotliar's question regarding identity is an excellent one, and I
look forward to reading discussions by my colleagues on this . I am a
physical anthrpologist pretty heavily committed to the four field
approach, who believes that the most important identity aspect of our
discipline is it's holism, or rather what used to be our holistic
approach, which examined humankind in all of its various facets,
cultural, linguistic, archaeologically, and biologically. I sincerely
wonder if this is not now a distinctly minority position, or one that
gets a lot of talk but not the walk. I am watching a tremendous amount of
fractionating, and I think the "discipline" part of our field has pretty
much vanished. I waffle a lot myself on the matter of "legislating"
course work in the "subdisciplines", sometimes believing it would best
for graduate students to have some exposure to each of the four fields,
if for no other reason than to keep our identity!! Other times, I succomb
to the reasoning that it must all be a matter of choice of the student,
and that given the economics of graduate school, lack of adequate
employment opportunities after finishing the degree, loans, etc, etc, it
is really horribly burdonsome to expect our graduate students to take
courses in each of the subdisciplines. These matters have probably been
discussed ad nauseum in the AAA Newsletter a couple of years ago, and
there was even an entire issue of Science devoted to the question of
whither the Social Sciences and the fractionation of Anthropology. I tend
to believe that our holidstic approach to humankind is really an enormous
strength over all of the other disciplines, and something worthy of
maintaining, for I still believe that in the long run it will be much to
our advantage to have the distinction of being holistically unique.
Ralph Holloway