Why is Anthropology so Critical?

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. Lees verder

Anthropology’s heterodoxy

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“Flowers” by Claude Monet

By Ton Salman            In the following blog, Ton Salman reacts to Matthias Teeuwen’s contribution to Standplaats Wereld of 13-2-2017, titled “Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Social Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?

First of all, allow me to thank Matthias Teeuwen for, once again, an intriguing and pertinent contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the nature of anthropology and its potential contribution to contemporary societal issues and challenges. The question is not a new one – but it is correct to make it a persistent one in anthropological reflection, because the –always provisional– answers have real consequences for what sort of endeavor anthropology in the end might be and what its ambitions may entail. A frequently heard characterization of anthropology is that it is something “between the sciences and the humanities”, or “the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. The phrase is indeed often attributed to Kroeber, but sometimes also to Eric Wolf or Edward Sapir. But let that be the least of our worries. The substance of the matter is of course about the métier’s epistemology, methods and relation to other disciplines and professions like philosophy and text exegesis, but also sociology, political sciences and other social sciences. Lees verder

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