I'm a bit troubled too (but not about AA)

John Stevens (8859jstev@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU)
Sat, 8 Oct 1994 11:43:18 EDT

A brief statement will suffice, I believe:

Mike Lieber gets my nomination for "voice o' reason" about the Tedlocks and
the new AA. "I see no need to provoke a battle until (1)it is clear that there
really is a concerted effort to do the things the Tedlocks are being accused of
and (2) before engaging in a reasoned discussion with the Tedlocks about the
issues that a re apparently being raised and dealt with. These folks just took
on this nasty, time-consuming job. Don't they deserve the common decency of
being informed of people' concerns before being backed into a corner? Does it
have to be a war before one knows whether one is facing an enemy?"

Thank you, Mike. And I might add that it is only the *first* issue, and as
I said in an earlier communique, it is also not surprising to see new editors
(esp. ones as flamboyant as the Tedlocks) put their mark on a journal right
off. Give'em time, and certainly give'em your opinions, but don't give'em
hell. . . yet. I thought that it was a pretty good issue overall; a bit too
much "reflexivity" even for my tastes, but still, a lot of good work was there.
The challenge will be to see if the Tedlocks can attract and present good
stuff from all the subfields and subinterests and subgenres. Probably not,
however; anthropology is too big. But if they make the attempt, and sometimes
pull it off, I'd be satisfied. That's all you can ask of a journal that
purports to cover possibly the most diverse and holistic academic discipline!

And as Paul Blonsky said, "just looking at the structure of the AAA" gives
you another clue as to why this happened. The Tedlocks are not only\
culturals themselves, but obviously believe that field to be the central one
(although Dennis does take his stabs at linguistics). It seems to me that I
read a debate about culture as the heart of anthropology recently, and it
makes sense; despite the increasing dissatisifaction and reformulations of
the idea of culture, it seems to me that it is an important part of the study
of MAN, which is what anthropology is all about. But it's easy to lose sight
of the many different ways to study MAN, and as Paul also said, if you think
there are too many cultural subgroups out there, start an arch or bio or
linguistic group. I'd love to see a newsletters devoted to Critical Arch
or Biocultural or whatever.

But this of course leads to the question of specialization so nicely brought
forth by Trish Clay. I think what we're talking about here is not necessarily
topic specialization, but proficiency specialization. What I mean is, there
are a lot of American Studies and Hispanic Studies and Lesbian Studies people
who don't have a disciplinary approach, and that's a problem. As far as anthro-
pology goes, you need to know where you're coming from as far as your method
and theory are concerned. I think the concern is not what you study, but
how you study it. Too many people think that by studying something they will
learn a somehow, but that only works if you already have an idea of where
you're coming from, both in a cultural/positional way and in a methodological
way. I study history, literature, the rhetoric of human rights, epistomology,
and North American cultures and society, but I call myself a (budding)
anthropologist. That centers me in the knowledge whorl; it gives me an
orientation, so that whether I take a cultural-historical, postmodern, anti-
positivist, or whatever stance, I still know that in the end I default to the
assumptions, or describe behavior under that aegis, and that's fine and
dandy with me; that's why I'm an anthropologist; I know what I want to get
out of the world.


Best regards,

John H. Stevens, Jr.
University of Massachusetts at Boston