Re: Those damn humanists

Jacobs Kenneth (jacobsk@ERE.UMONTREAL.CA)
Sat, 15 Oct 1994 20:40:27 -0400

John H. Stevens writes:
[...much deleted...]
> .......... A number of
> scientific types have been deriding the Tedlocks for not being inclusive, but
> what would they say if there were nine articles on radiocarbon dating or
> forensic osteology in the first issue?

As one who doesn't flinch at being described as a "scientific type,"
I can honestly say that I would scream bloody murder if the American Anthropolo-
gist or, to keep this from verging on a political statement, if Current Anthro-
pology were to publish an issue entirely devoted to "potsherds I've known and
loved" or "why this scrap of tooth overturns every idea we've held on human
evolution since last week." That's not why I pay for both journals. I pay for
them for the diversity of approach and theme and content that *typically* have
been found there.

> .......... We need to frame the debate in a more constructive way that does
> *not* separate one "type" of anthropologist from another, but creates, if not
> common ground, at least a neutral zone for us to hash out our differences.

The differences are not there to be "hashed out" IMHO, but to be made
manifest through the publication of a wide range of articles. This doesn't
actively *separate* or define "types" of anthropologists, although it will
demonstrate that there is not a unitary idea of the minimal content, by virtue
of the possession of which an anthropological thought is accepted as meaningful.
Such evaluative differences are there and they ought to be allowed to flourish,
even if it means that some dismiss the notions of others with "by my standards,
your interpretations are meaningless," for to them the response will be, "by my
view of things, your standards are irrelevant to my observations." The neutral
zone in which this airing (*not* reduction) of our differences has taken place
frequently has consisted of a very few far-sighted journals. Let's hope that
such zones continue to be made available.

Ken Jacobs
Uni. de Montreal