The first thing that came to my mind in the discussion about the scientific/humanistic nature of anthropology is the awareness that cultural anthropology is a label which for political and historical reasons has kept together a number of sub-disciplines, some having a substantial family resemblance but others sharing hardly any characteristics at all. A categorical understanding would immediately show a difference between humanities-anthropology and social science-anthropology. And then there is also a cross-cutting continuum of methodological positions, ranging from a kind of qualitative ‘measuring’ to ‘story-telling’, which indicates a similar kind of categorization. Salman seems to me an example of trying to be in both positions at the same time. What we, in the end, share as anthropologists is a common package of methods called fieldwork. Continue reading →
Portrait of Giambattista Vico by Francesco Solimena
By Matthias Teeuwen I want to thank Ton Salman for his insightful take on the question whether anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities or the most humanistic of the sciences or both, it gave me food for thought. For one: how is it that anthropology is considered science? It seems that Ton sees the scientific aspect of anthropology in its critical function of looking past the representations and meanings of people and examining the empirical conditions in which they arose.
I very much agree with Ton on this point. But I think that this hybridity is easily misunderstood in the sense that the critical, scientific side of anthropology is emphasised at the neglect of the hermeneutical, humanistic side. Continue reading →
Still Life with Flagon, Glass, Jug and Bridle, by Johannes Torrentius, 1614
By Matthias Teeuwen The epithet in the title, commonly attributed to Alfred Kroeber, is often used to classify anthropology in-between the sciences and the humanities. Apparently we anthropologists manage to, once again, place ourselves in a position of simultaneous intimacy and distance, this time with regard to science and the humanities. Now, the question is: Is this where anthropology belongs? Even though a position between science and the humanities sounds like a very fruitful one, I would like to argue that anthropology belongs more properly in the humanities. Continue reading →