Does a BA make an anthropologist?

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 23 Feb 1995 07:31:08 JST

My two cents worth: (1) Classic 4-field anthropology is liberal education in
the best sense of the term: a combination of science and humanities that is
about as good a preparation for the real world as a body can get. (2) Social/
Cultural Anthropology by itself loses a lot of the science, but can still be
good if focused on serious attention to ways of life that may be radically
different from the one the student grew up with. Especially so if the student
is invited to consider those ways of life from several intersecting points
of view that other disciplines separate: e.g., economics, politics, religion,
aesthetics (Nobody can do everything and everyone will have their own
favorites): the point is in the intersection and the interactions that go
on there. (3) Social anthropology confined to the latest academic brainstorms
is a lousy preparation for anything else but an academic career, and that only
if the particular brainstorms being taught acquire enough adherents that
they start generating jobs for each other.

What would I, personally, add to the classic four-fields curriculum? As someone
whose non-academic career is in the business world, I wish that I had taken
"Introductory Accounting" and "Principles of Marketing." Not just because
they would have been practical things to know about. Because they would also
add a lot to my anthropological education. It is one thing to maunder on
about primitive economics: another to ask how you'd go about keeping the
books, or what it means not to have books to keep at all. It helps a lot when
arguing about the nature of market economies to, horror of horrors, know what
it is that marketers actually think they are up to.

To sum up, I think that a couple of business courses (of the kind I avoided
like the plague when I did my B.A. in Philosophy--and you think anthro majors
got trouble--all those long years ago) would help students see more clearly
how their anthropological knowledge is relevant: both to the business of making
and living and to living a life examined in ways that make it fascinating.

John McCreery