Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?

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. Lees verder

Another Answer to the Question “What is Anthropology?”

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Photo by David Barnas on Flickr

By Matthias Teeuwen            As a student of cultural anthropology you are invariably confronted with the question: what is anthropology? It can briefly be answered by pointing to the etymology of the word: άνθρωπος (human; man) + λόγος (word; reason) = anthropology, the study of humans. However, this simple definition of anthropology soon gets swamped in the sheer diversity within anthropology: social anthropology, cultural anthropology, anthropology of crises, anthropology of religion, medical anthropology, digital anthropology, anthropology of the city, anthropology of music, etc….

Here I propose an understanding of what anthropology is based on the juxtaposition with philosophy, and with philosophy I mean that branch of philosophy that regards humans: philosophical anthropology. Anthropology and philosophy seem to share an engagement with the limits of the human:[1] What is human and what is not? Or, stated differently: what is the result of nurture and what is the result of nature? Lees verder

Confessions of a Native? Anthropologist in the Making

 

joshBy Josh Maiyo. I have not attended a single anthropology class and neither can I readily give a standard definition of it. In fact, I cannot tell for sure whether it is a distinct discipline, an overarching framework, a field of study, or a particular science of society. The simple definition, attributed to the Oxford Dictionary by Wikipedia as “The study of humankind” doesn’t sound convincing enough…and that citation shows how deeply I am not embedded within its literature. That I am doing my PhD at an anthropology department remains a paradox. I am probably more conversant with its ethnographic research methods of extended field work and participant observation, than its analytical approaches and theoretical frameworks. In this brief text, I chart my troubled journey and encounters with anthropology in its various forms, and my ongoing struggle to situate myself in the divide between its European roots and its African subject. This starting point is relevant, in case further down, you do not find familiar and high-sounding references to its heritage, or scintillating vignettes from its founding venerables whose names are vaguely familiar: Margaret Mead, Franz Boaz, Malinowski and the like. Lees verder

Don’t be a hero, just make anthropology public

wikipediaHet onderstaande blog werd eerder gepubliceerd op http://www.savageminds.org, een blog van antropologen die proberen antropologisch onderzoek meer “onder de mensen te brengen” en de maatschappelijke relevantie van antropologie te verhogen. Alex Golub geeft twee onorthoxe suggesties om dit doel te bereiken.

By Alex Golub. I really enjoyed Erin Taylor’s recent piece on SM about how to make anthropology public, and I wanted to add on to her suggestions about how to make anthropology public with a few, slightly more unorthodox ones of my own. These suggestions rub against the anthropological grain because they involve small, quiet, and steady work that doesn’t feel heroic, despite the big impact that it has. So it may seem strange at first blush, but I firmly believe the most effective way to get the best anthropology in front of the most people is to edit wikipedia and write book reviews on Amazon. Lees verder

500ste blog Standplaats Wereld!

Bron: Boogie en AJ
Bron: Boogie en AJ

Door Lenie Brouwer. Ongeveer vijf jaar geleden bespraken wij – enkele stafleden van de afdeling Antropologie – de kwaliteit van het publieke debat. Wij stoorden ons aan de negatieve toon van het islamdebat, hoe bijvoorbeeld de hoofddoek uitsluitend als een vorm van vrouwenonderdrukking werd gezien of hoe er alleen maar óver moslims werd gediscussieerd in plaats van met hen zelf. Een andere bron van frustratie betrof de discussie over ontwikkelingssamenwerking, hoe rechtse partijen dit debat monopoliseerden waardoor er weinig ruimte was voor nuancering . Wij misten een antropologische visie in deze maatschappelijke debatten en wilden onze kennis delen met een breder publiek. Maar als je een ingewikkeld maatschappelijk probleem weigert in one-liners te benaderen, dan is het niet eenvoudig je stem te laten horen in het publieke debat.
Daarnaast merkten wij dat het algemene beeld over antropologie nodig bijgesteld diende te worden. De koloniale en exotische erfenis zijn al lang geleden afgezworen en hebben inmiddels plaats gemaakt voor kritische studies over actuele onderwerpen als armoede, protestbewegingen of duurzaamheid, die niet alleen in het buitenland maar ook in eigen land worden onderzocht. Kortom, we hadden meer dan voldoende redenen om een antropologisch weblog te starten met als standplaats niets minder dan de wereld! Lees verder

Het Spinhuis: Reclaiming the Public University

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By: Touraj Eghtesad

In the first week of this academic year, a group of concerned students and ex-students squatted the Spinhuis Common Room, just two months after being closed down. This room was once the meeting spot for academics and students from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, until the University of Amsterdam decided that the profit made from real estate sales was worth more than cultural heritage.

‘I hate that I have to go to Roeterseiland now. The Spinhuis is so beautiful, it’s central and we had a real sense of community with the professors and students here.’ – Joanna, anthropology student.

The Spinhuis is a typical example of what the anthropologist David Graeber calls ‘zones of cultural improvisation’ in which ‘diverse sorts of people with different traditions and experiences are obliged to figure out some way to get on with one another’. The initial squatters were political activists, but we soon managed to include many non-activists who were delighted to witness this social space take shape. The Spinhuis Collective is not limited to anarchists: there are communists, liberals and non-political students. What unites them all is a sense of community and their drive to defend a free university, devoid of commercial interests.

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The advertisement campaign of the UvA focuses on the ‘intellectual rebel’. This powerful imagery was helpful in legitimizing the Spinhuis action.

Many students involved with the Spinhuis feel a sense of community in this space that they had yet to feel at university. Members of the collective constantly remind each other that running the Spinhuis demands hard work, but that they do not mind it because it is meaningful. Public services are being provided to students and non-students who come to enjoy a quiet study atmosphere during the day and fun, informative events every night of the week. They have been overwhelmingly popular, as universities provide too few opportunities for students to organize free cultural and political events.

‘The Spinhuis taught me a lot about being the change you want to see and how life can be different if you step outside the social norms. There are so many possibilities now that I never noticed before.’ – Jan, 26, UvA graduate.

There seems to be a widespread ‘squat stigma’, whereby people refuse to attend squatted social centres because they are an attack on private property. I invite those people to come see for themselves what they have missed out on. In fact, anyone can feel free to organize events at the Spinhuis. So far these have ranged from parties to discussion nights; cinema nights to benefit dinners; activist meetings to poetry readings. If these things are not appealing, there is the cheapest food and in all of central Amsterdam and coffee, tea and snacks are free.

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The Spinhuis Common Room.

The Spinhuis is safe for now, as the University of Amsterdam has another month to provide evidence that they have plans for the building (which they currently do not). In the most recent court ruling, the judge decided that this was an act of civil disobedience and that a speed eviction had no legitimacy as long as the space is used in the public interest.

In the meantime, the university community’s support for the Spinhuis and its principles will go a long way. The ideal of the university as a ‘community of learners’ is still worth defending. The example of the Spinhuis shows that when students are given an opportunity, they can also create amazing practical outcomes. They are not just consumers of education waiting to become working adults, but are also actively engaged in shaping the society they want to live in.

For more information, check hetspinhuis.wordpress.com