AA editorial policy

Wed, 12 Oct 1994 10:28:20 CDT

First, an update to my previous postings about the new American
Anthropologist. I have written an extremely polite letter to the
Tedlocks thanking them taking on a tough job and complimenting
them on some of the changes they have made, but also clearly
explaining the problems I have with the way they have chosen to
edit the journal. I am anxiously awaiting their reply.

Second, I've had some more thoughts on why I am bothered by the way
they have chosen to edit the journal, and I'd like to run them by
the list. In their introductory essay, the Tedlocks say a lot of
very nice things about how they want AA to be a place where anthro's
"terrific tensions" "can be worked out in a constructive fashion,
not in a shoot-out." Sounds good. They also say that they don't
want to publish attacks on and dismissals of one sort of anthropology
by a practitioner of another.

Although when I first read these I liked the sentiments expressed,
I wonder if this is really the right tack to take. I wonder, for
example, whether some of what I consider the best and most useful
pieces published in AA and in other major journals would still have
been published if this policy had been in place. I am thinking,
for example, of J. Tim O'Meara's 1989 AA article on anthropology
as empirical science, a whole slew of interesting pieces on
reflexivity and related topics published in CA over the past few
years, the exchanges between Richard Lee on the one side and
Wilmsen and Denbow on the other over Kalahari revisionism, and
even a piece I don't much like, Geertz's "anti-anti-relativism"
essay from 1984. These were all, for me anyway, extremely useful
and important pieces. If they were to be submitted now, would they
be able to get past the Tedlocks' policy?

I also wonder whether discouraging critical comments by one sort
of anthropologist against another is really as constructive a thing
to do as it appears at first glance. It seems to me that, far
from accelerating the fracturing of the discipline, exchanges of
criticisms and alternative perspectives (as long as they are
civil) help to keep the discipline together. Perhaps one could
say that although very little binds us all together as anthropologists,
one thing that we do all share is our common, if sometimes heated,
discourse over central issues in the discipline. If we lose that
discourse, we may lose our center as a discipline. My fear is that
by trying to avoid fractious comments, the Tedlocks may inadvertently
hurt the one thing that we all really do share.

I'm setting these comments out for whatever they're worth. They
sound good to me right now, but I'd love to hear other people's
perspectives on this.


Lee Cronk
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4352
Office: 409-847-9254
Fax: 409-845-4070
E-mail: cronk@tamvm1.tamu.edu