Anthropology: unity through diversity?

Jacobs Kenneth (jacobsk@ERE.UMONTREAL.CA)
Thu, 13 Oct 1994 19:53:15 -0400

On 13 October, M.R. Kleindienst writes (apropos of my concern over the
implicit homogeneity lurking in a view of anthropology as "a way of life"):

> Re "noble sentiments": no unity implied. 40 anthropologists, is 40
> people going off in 40 different directions.
> Most of the time "anthropologists" are not, in fact, DOING
> anthropology--in my opinion. We do all sorts of other
> "standard"research. We DO anthropology only when we are acting to
> syntesize multidimensional/multidisciplinary information/theories/whatever.
> At least that is a proposition to explore.
Put in this form, I have no quibble. As I think I implied in my
comments, anthropologists often are immigrants from other disciplines who,
arriving under our banner, continue to pursue many of the same thoughts they
previously entertained, just in a manner which wasn't acceptable "back home."
As stated here, that manner includes synthesizing multidimensional...........
and so on. I've often thought that anthropologists frequently treat of the same
data as do epidemiologists, historians, geologists, biologists, or whatever, but
do so with a peculiar slant or spin. (Or, to agree with MRK, they do *when* they
in fact are DOING anthropology). I know faculty in other departments to whom
I send my Master's students for cognate course work feel the same and often end
up scratching their heads in wonder at the *intriguing* questions these non-
historians (to take only one example) are able to raise, when the historically
trained grad students sit there baffled.

Ken Jacobs
U de Montreal