The New AA

Tom Riley (triley@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU)
Mon, 10 Oct 1994 09:26:07 +0000

Mike Lieber and others point out that there should be some dialog between
the new editors of AA and those who are upset about the lack of
archaeological or bioanthropological content of the first issue. This is
not the beginning of the problems that archaeologists have had with the
manner in which the Tedlocks have acted since they were named editors of
the AA, however, and the archaeological community at least has felt wounded
by them right from the very beginning when their letter to TIME magazine
was, or was not, misquoted by that magazine.
The uproar at that time was brought to the attention of the Tedlocks and it
was brought to the official attention of the AA. There appears not to have
been any attention paid to the concerns of archaeologists, however, since
the first issue of the AA contains no archaeology at all. The two papers
that have been written by archaeologists are interesting pieces of cultural
anthropology, but they are clearly cultural anthropology. I am not here to
criticize either of the articles or their acceptance by the journal.
However, there is no archaeology in the journal until you get to book
reviews. The same might be said for biological anthropology, although I
wouold let them make their own arguments about this.
The American Anthropologist is work, and the Tedlocks must be congratulated
for being willing to take the journal on. They have decided, however, that
some number of papers do not deserve to go on to referees-not because they
represent shoddy work or are patently incomplete- but because they do not
fit the Tedlocks' idea of integration of the fields in the work to be
presented in the journal. Who is defining the discipline, anyway? Where is
the moderating voice of referees? Where does a refereed journal end and
HEGEMONY - writ large- begin?
This is not a matter just to be discussed with the editors. It is one
which the membership of the AAA should discuss openly among ourselves, with
the Tedlocks joining in or listening to the worries and reacting to them.
The discipline began with the concept of holism. It has broken down to
some extent into a set of isolated subdisciplines that maintain their own
boundaries. The ideal of holism is a fiction that is still posited as the
centering of the field. The Tedlocks are imposing a vision on the field,
but it is a vision into which archaeology, at least,must be constrained
before it can be considered for review. The result, if we can judge by the
first issue, is cultural anthropology by archaeologists.
The Tedlocks are very talented people. I question, however, both their
vision for the AA and the breadth of their vision of the field and their
tolerance of the subfields' ability to define themselves.