Re: What is anthropology _NOT_ ??

Gil Hardwick (
Wed, 26 Apr 1995 03:23:38 GMT

In article <>, Richard Spear ( writes:
>So it isn't "everything". Biological (physical) anthropology looks for
>*cultural* origins in earlier primates. Archaeology digs for artifacts to
>explain *cultural* evolution and diffusion. Cultural anthropology does
>ethnographic studies to compare *cultures*, and linguistics (very, very weak
>in the U.S.) seeks *cultural* relationships between different groups of people.

This is interesting, Richard. I did not know linguistics was so weak
in the US. I would have thought that the American Indian languages
might have provided a substantial field of study, although admittedly
that can be as much a function of research funding priority as field
opportunity. Seems the archaeologists are getting the lion's share,

It is very highly influential here in Australia because of interest
in the vast proliferation and complexity of our Aboriginal languages;
estimated to have numbered 200 or more among as few as 300,000 people
pre-contact, with elders being fluent in as many as 10-15 at a very
high level indeed else precluded from taking their place in ceremony.

Perhaps that does tell us something about anthropology. Despite what
the academics might assert in wanting to promote their particular
lecture series, and what the many undergraduates with their noses
still in the text books might claim to want to study, the real world
out here in the field severely constrains the "market" if you will
for graduate research skills.

It is that reality which ultimately brings definition to our work.

As it is, with land degradation such a major issue here in Australia
with any progress in "Aboriginal Affairs" having entered yet another
period of political stalemate, my reasonable professional options for
example are to return to my earlier "rural" background.

Added to my own previous life experience from generations on the land,
however, are the formal research skills and critical awareness of the
anthropologist. This allows entre to either host community and common
access to the way two apparently very different cultures view the land;
the way they each come to realise abstract entities and make economic
use of natural resources.

Each is thereby revealed to have far more in common than one might at
first anticipate from reading the superficial generalities informing
the political rhetoric of the State, once the work of translating and
interpreting basic concepts has progressed sufficiently to show that
both are characteristically autochthonous (cf urban celestial).

A colleague on the other hand may well be working only among European
stock, showing how city and country people alike share common threads
despite apparent differences I myself would have set aside in order to
make my own arguments clear. While they themselves ignore indigenous
populations entirely.

That is really much closer to the point we are trying to make; not at
all free from individual bias but making our community of discourse
all the more compelling because of it.

He who refuses to qualify data is doomed to rant.
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