Re: The Hoopla over the AAA

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Sat, 24 Feb 1996 12:43:23 -0500

On Sat, 24 Feb 1996, Marie E. Seitz wrote:

> I agree with Graber in that grad programs are currently "downsizing" their
> general anthropology requirements, which are an essential part of our
> education. I want to know that if I am asked to teach a course called, say,
> "Introduction to Anthropology," I would be able to and not feel like an
> idiot. My qualifying exam covered only physical anthropology. Are we moving
> in a direction that will be beneficial to the anthropologists of the future?
> Should we be moving in this direction?

I have very strong feelings about Anthropology and its identity. The
fragmentation and specialization that are taking place at even the
undergraduate level is a mistake, and will not serve the discipline well.
Graduate students bemoaning requirements that they have some EXPOSURE to
the four fields will do much more long-term harm than can balance
the short-term gain in reducing time to the PhD, and supposedly
yet more"expertise" in their narrow area of today's fads, e.g.,
fetish...( substitute whatever the recent crase might be). One question
might be how far has the process already gone and can it be reversed?
To the degree that Anthropology has no commitment to studying humankind
in all of its manifestations, and no identification with that commitment,
to that degree does Anthropology weaken itself and leaves itself open to
such dilution to place itself on the vanishing species list.
So, if you are lucky enough, Marie, to secure a job with any
academic identity, and find yourself suddenly confronted with teaching
"INTRUCTION TO...", don't worry, you'll get by just as have countless
numbers of soc/cultural anthros who have had to teach INTRO to
Archaeology and Physical, or INTRO to Human Origins, etc., etc. You'll do
it by being one or two paragraphs (or perhaps a chapter) ahead of the
students, and by the end of the semester, you will havegone through yet
one more anthropological rite. What will be missing, most likely, is a
certain sense of surety and conviction that you might have received from
someone with a real enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge for the special topics
under consideration, be they biological, linguistic archaeological or
soc/cultural. Multiply those personal losses by the hundreds, and pretty
soon there is no any ANTHROPOLOGY, beyond what someone with a degree in
any social science can teach...
Ralph Holloway