Re: Disappointed student

Machelle R Lee (
12 May 1995 15:52:00 GMT

In sci.anthropology Escribano write:

: > I'm a Spanish Erasmus student in the U.K.C., studying
: >anthropology. I thought that anthropology, as a science that studies
: >humankind, was over the particularisms and so on of the social system of
: >our Modern Western Culture. I thought anthropology was able enough to
: >objectivate them, to see them as a relativist thing more in this
: >multicultural world. Now I see that the situation is not like that. I
: >realize more than ever that anthropology is part or the Modern Western
: >Society dynamics, and thus, it cannot be withdrawn from it; I see that
: >anthropology is at the present under the rules of such society, as any
: >other aspect. I see that if you really want to understand humankind, the
: >whole world, the true history of men since a very open point of view, you
: >cannot, you'll find a lot of obstacles, since the restricted point of
: >view of your teacher to the fact that new fields of study are not very
: >well accepted, to the fact that our own society avoids certain points to
: >be touched, with the help of anthropology teachers.
: > I see that anthropology is more short-sighted than what anthropologists
: >think, at least in the U.K..
: > I see that anthropology is unable to study itself, unable.
: > It is unable to look at itself, how will it then look at the rest
: >of the world???

: > I am really disappointed.

: >Maria Escribano

: >(PD.: I apologize for spell errors)

This is something many of us struggle with. We can never escape our own
cultural preconceptions, and anthropology as a field cannot reach its
idealized ivory tower kind of goal.

But there is no academic field that is truly achieving its perfect goal,
so I see no problem with this as long as we understand and admit our
faults (which we don't always do so well, but we are learning) and allow
ourselves to change when we admit we have been wrong.

I like anthropology best, though, out of the fields I have tried majoring
in in the past. I was a chemical engineering student for awhile, but I
became angry at the scientific world's inability to admit its downfalls -
one of which being that the entire scientific outlook is constructed, not
derived from an "ultimate order". I also majored in English (literature)
for awhile. I became angry with both fields because they fail to treat
other cultural ideas with real equality. They might say that those
cultures have some good ideas, but they won't admit that their ways of
approaching science and art are equally valid. So I like anthropology
because at least if that's not our reality, it is our goal (in my opinion).

I define anthropology for myself as: Trying to understand what it means
to be human.

This is a good definition for me instead of something like: the
scientific approach to understanding different cultures blah blah blah

I don't think we can take a purely scientific approach, or always even an
organized approach, to reaching other people. Science is only one
religion in a world of religions.

Anyway, my advice to you is to get out and do some research...esp.
applied research which is designed to study people while helping them
socially, politically, economically or however at the same time. This
will help you see better both how anthropology is faulted and how it is good.

As far as not being able to study ourselves, I have heard of several
recent proposals of studying the Academic Anthropology Culture as an
honor's project. I hope someone follows through soon. This kind of
ethnography would be a great tool to help us understand what we're really

M Lee

% Maybe that's all that we need, is to meet in the middle of impossibility, %
% Standing at opposite poles, equal partners in a mystery. -Emily Saliers %