Defending Anthropology's Irrelevance

Mon, 12 Feb 1996 11:01:13 CST

How do those of us who teach anthropology make it "relevant"? I
carefully avoid trying to persuade students that anthropology has
practical value (even though it sometimes does, of course). The harder
we try to convince students of the uses of knowledge, the more we
convince them--implicitly--that the only reason to value knowledge is
for its (apparent) usefulness. This, at least at a liberal-arts
institution, is perfectly self-defeating! We hope to instill a love of
knowledge for its own sake, increasing the number of life-long learners
out there. Ultimately, I believe that valuing knowledge for its own
sake is a value with long-term survival value for our species. I
elaborate this line of thinking in a little book, *Valuing Useless
Knowledge* (Thomas Jefferson University Press, Kirksville, Missouri,
1995). --Bob Graber