Re: Generalists & Specialists

David DeGusta (degusta@UCLINK.BERKELEY.EDU)
Thu, 6 Oct 1994 23:50:15 -0800

jobrien wrote:
>In private e-mail, I've heard from doctoral candidates at Eastern
>Ivy L. universities that they are told that to specifically attempt to
>obtain a 'generalist' perspective or to cross-disciplines and master
>more than one or two fields is becoming the `kiss of death for anthro
>and soc. I wonder what the general thinking on the list is as to if we have
>simply moved too far toward specialization ...
I think I'd make a distinction between two types of generalism. The
first is knowing a little bit about a lot of things; being a dabbler. This
might well be a "kiss of death," then again, you might be able to apply for
a wider range of positions than otherwise. The type of generalism I
personally think is really important is understanding how different fields
and techniques can contribute to work in your particular specialty. A
person interested in fossil hominid evolution, for example, doesn't need to
also be a molecular biologist, but should probably understand what
molecular studies can contribute to their work on fossils (and vice versa).

The real kiss of death, IMHO, is not producing original, quality
research. Much of that seems to be done by applying methods or ideas in one
field to problems in a different one.
Just my two cents.
David DeGusta
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley