Re: On distinguishing anthropology from sociology

James Carrier (James.Carrier@DURHAM.AC.UK)
Tue, 14 Mar 1995 08:08:48 +0000

Just a passing observation on M.S.'s note, from one who was trained
through the PhD in sociology, published in sociology journals and taught
in a sociology department (and even belonged to the American Sociological
Association and British Sociology Association for several years), but who
also did classic anthropological fieldwork in that classic anthropological
fieldsite (a Melanesian village), has taught in a joint department, is a
member of the AAA, the RAI and the Association of Social Anthropologists,
and now teaches in an anthropology department (good heavens, what a long
sentence -- did it maintain its structure through to the end?).
One way to look at the difference between the two disciplines
(and I am convinced there is a profound difference, though I find it hard
to articulate and recognise that things get fuzzy very quickly) is to
compare mainline journals. Reading American Ethnologist and Man (soon to
be JRAI) reveals something very different from reading the ASR, the AJS,
the BJS or Sociology.
Perhaps it would make sense to talk about two core positions, one
called anthropology and one called sociology, and consider that people
string themselves out along the dimension(s) those positions define, while
recognising that the individual's label does not in fact reflect in any
straightforward way just where they are relative to the two positions.
Is this making sense, or is it too early in the morning for such


James G. Carrier
Durham Anthropology / 43, Old Elvet / Durham DH1 3HN