Re: Is a Synthesis bad?

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Wed, 1 May 1996 10:42:52 -0400

I think Deus has it about right this time. It's not so much that we need
a "grand synthesis" between the subdisciplines of anthropology but
that we
need an openess to exposure to what is happening therein. Perhaps the GS
already occurred back in the '40-'60's with the realization that to study
ourselves holistically, we needed insights from linguistics, the history
of the human past as provided by archaeology, and the placement of the
human species within the animal biological world, meaning the total of
biological concerns fron comparative anatomy and functioning to behavior.
Additionally, we needed cultural anthropology to provide in-depth foci of
what would be universal among all of the varieties of cultures throughout
the world, what varied, and how they worked. All of these concerns, and
the concerns that have grown within each subdiscipline still intersect,
but the specializations have driven fragmentation too, not too mention
how all of this is situated within a world economy that limits its resources
stringently regarding pedagogy. We are, alas, competing with each other.
As for the "science" part, well I'd rather not stereotype. I've met
outstanding cultural anthropologists who are "scientists" in the best
sense of that term, because they test their own biases, or at least
recognise that they have them, and they test, explore, reformulate, and
test again. It's more than simply critical analysis. Physical has its
scientists and escape artists too, as does archaeology. Unfortunately, I
can't speak for linguistics given how long Columbia has not had one! ;-)).
But my impression is that good science is being done there too.
R. Holloway