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Anthropology is a dying discipline. Discuss. Refute. Contend. 
12th-Jan-2006 02:13 am
Anthropology is a dying discipline.

Discuss. Refute. Contend.
12th-Jan-2006 07:16 am (UTC) - Living...
We still have to find out a lot about our past as a species; also, I think we'll have someday to make anthropology of ourselves, modern humans.
12th-Jan-2006 07:34 am (UTC) - Re: Living...
We still have to find out a lot about our past as a species


also, I think we'll have someday to make anthropology of ourselves, modern humans.

Double agreed. We're changing as a species due to such things as a increasing lifespan.
12th-Jan-2006 04:04 pm (UTC) - Re: Living...
I actually don't think we're changing as a species in an evolutionary significant way, that is, it's not changing our genetics that modern medicine has come in and allowed us to live longer.
The longer lifespan is a function of better medicine and health, but when all that is taken away we'd have a similar lifespan to our ancestors.
But, I concur, I don't think anthropology is a dying discipline at all. There's so much still to study!
12th-Jan-2006 07:37 pm (UTC) - Re: Living...
I concur that we're not undergoing genetic mutation....yet. ;-)

But sciencentific and technological advances are changing us in other ways.
13th-Jan-2006 06:50 am (UTC) - Re: Living...
I totally agree. One of my really good friends wrote a fantastic paper a couple of quarters ago about mIRC culture, and she hopes to go to grad school for it.
And the thing is that it's also incredibly relevant.
12th-Jan-2006 07:55 am (UTC) - The Study of Modern Humans
I think we'll have someday to make anthropology of ourselves, modern humans.

There would probably be a lot of overlap with what sociology and social psychology have already covered.
16th-Jan-2006 11:35 am (UTC) - Re: The Study of Modern Humans
Actually...maybe I'm working from the wrong definition, but where I come from anthropology is the study of modern cultures as well as those long past (which actually would more properly be termed archaeology).
(Deleted comment)
16th-Jan-2006 11:35 am (UTC)
All right, what about cultural/linguistic?
12th-Jan-2006 07:45 am (UTC)
Completely ridiculous. Harvard's new dedicated school will no doubt lead the way for others. The harder "intelligent design" proponents push against anthropology, the harder anthropology pushes back.
12th-Jan-2006 07:46 am (UTC)
Ehh I think evolutionary anthro and its related fields like evolutionary psychology etc are nothing but growing. Pure cultural anthro with no bio/evolutionary consideration is dying.
12th-Jan-2006 08:35 am (UTC)
And maybe vice versa on modern bio anth. I really enjoyed a human ecology module one year, so after a summer in Kenya I did a report about the local school's students - exam results, nutrition, size of family, farmers v shop-owners etc etc - hoping to turn it into my dissertation topic. Admittedly there was a fair old mix in there (I was a 2nd year undergrad..), but all I remember is some joker in the back row saying I should swap my focus to soc anth if that's what I was interested in.
12th-Jan-2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
Then you're in the wrong location. Biological anthropology is probably the most in-demand field in modern anthro...and really, social and cultural anthropology are going to have a Renaissance as soon as cultural anthropologists realize that the Internet and internationalism have birthed a sea change in human culture that's just ripe to be studied.
12th-Jan-2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
12th-Jan-2006 07:46 am (UTC)
I think physical anth is growing by leaps and bounds. Cultural, not so much since people tend to think it is dying. Personally I think I society is changing so fast, with new cultures and subcultures coming into being,changing and dying within a heartbeat, that there is no shortage of material for cultural anthropologists to work with. But that seems to be a minority opinion, with so many thinking cultural work is in the past and todays work lies in soc.
12th-Jan-2006 08:22 am (UTC)
I agree completely that there is no shortage of material for cultural anthro. I tend to think that cultural is where it's at, not just because that's what I love to do, but because I've seen a rapid increase of students choosing the major in the department I came out from over the span of only a few years.
Of course it stands to debate whether they would go on to do graduate work in the field (I tend to think no).
12th-Jan-2006 12:37 pm (UTC) - See if you can find this article...it's pretty interesting.
Wallerstein, I 2003. Anthropology, sociology, and otherdubious disciplines. Current Anthropology 44:453-465.
12th-Jan-2006 04:02 pm (UTC) - Re: See if you can find this article...it's pretty interesting.
It's here, for anyone that cares:


It might be subscription only--it's hard for me to tell because I'm working through a proxy.
12th-Jan-2006 09:02 pm (UTC) - Re: See if you can find this article...it's pretty interesting.
Yeah, it's subscription only. That's why I didn't bother giving that link.
12th-Jan-2006 01:37 pm (UTC)
I imagine anthropology will only die out as a discipline, whether it should or shouldn't, depending on economics and the state of education in western countries. The fewer people who can afford to study frivolous subjects (ie, subjects that have no job guarantee, like pretty much anything in lib arts), the fewer anthropologists there will be.
12th-Jan-2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
In some ways, it's an increasingly assimilated discipline. Anthropology is continuing to influence and be influenced by other disciplines, but as a generalized discipline, this is its nature. It may come to a point where it ceases to be a fully independent discipline and becomes merely a perspective in a myriad of other disciplines.
15th-Jan-2006 02:45 am (UTC)
i agree. i know the professors at my old college have done a wonderful job of convincing other majors to incorporate some anthro courses into their degree requirements.
12th-Jan-2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
Totally wrong. Anthropology is growing all the time. I don't even agree that cultural anthropology is dying, necessarily, since there are always new developments in culture (especially our own, modern era) which need studying. The technological age has made people relate to one another completely differently. And new archaeological finds (and interpretations) are being made all the time.

Understanding humankind is always going to be important, I feel, not only the past but also the present.
12th-Jan-2006 05:22 pm (UTC)
Though I believe you're right on most counts, it's the unfortunate fact that despite accelerated globalisation within the past ten years, many societies have adopted quite an ethnocentric attitude toward developments in other cultures; in other words, "They're not us, they're weird, who cares?"

Which is heartbreaking, because there's so much material out there to analyse -- and only a few individuals (with credentials to match) are willing to explore it for the wealth of information it could contribute to the human race as a whole.
12th-Jan-2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
If you mean declining that's possible, I really don't know. But no scientific discipline is going to die unless it's subject matter is shown not to exist. That strikes me as pretty unlikely with something as general as anthropology.
12th-Jan-2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
I think postmodern deconstruction is a dying theory.
12th-Jan-2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
Amen to that - I hope so. Pomo is going out of fashion, or will in the next couple of decades.
15th-Jan-2006 01:04 am (UTC)
What (if anything) do you think is replacing it?
12th-Jan-2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
My econ prof just told me that he suffers from "anthropology envy" and thinks that anthropology is the last bastion of the social sciences. Completely different impression than I get from the anthropologists. He was referring mainly to cultural anth.
16th-Jan-2006 11:38 am (UTC)
Oh man, if I'd known the Econ profs at OSU were so cool, I would have stayed in Ohio for college...
12th-Jan-2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
The concept of disciplines is dying. Make nice with your fellow social scientists, because they are going to be adopting some of our research tools, methods, practices, etc. (and vice versa), and university departments may eventually be lumped together to enhance research and do more than ever before possible. Same thing is happening in the humanities.
12th-Jan-2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
Since you don't offer any support whatsoever for the contention, I'm guessing you're looking for a huge outcry of "nuh-uh!" I suppose I'll add mine to the pile.
12th-Jan-2006 09:12 pm (UTC)
I second id_42's conjecture. Additionally, 2 questions:

Respondants: Many of you seem to be going with the Sociology = modern and here, cultural/social anth only studies 'primitives' and esoterica (i.e. 'long ago and far away')

1. I thought that dichtomy was dead?

Questioner and Respondants:

2. What are your statuses, as to this position? (i.e. Students, applied anthropologists, market researchers, professors, researchers, adjuncts, advanced degree holders, or 'majored in the field but employed elsewhere?)
16th-Jan-2006 11:40 am (UTC)
1. That dichotomy was incorrect before it was dead, but it's definitely dead.

2. College freshman and prospective Anthro major, at a school losing most of its star Anthropology professors.
13th-Jan-2006 12:09 am (UTC)
it'll only die if we allow it to remain stagnant.
16th-Jan-2006 11:40 am (UTC)
So how do we push it forward?
16th-Jan-2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
through action i believe. those who pursue anthropology must continue testing theories in addition to making more in regards to human evolution, society, and the like. Moreover, as the needs for humanity changes so will our duties. Perhaps Anthropology in the academic sense is not the best way to go anymore; we need to apply what we know through medical anthropology and other applied subgroups of the discipline. Anthropology is in demand if you ask me, be it in forensics (and I am not just talking CSI-type things, but also in situations of genocide, as forensic anthropology was used in the aftermath of the Rwanda massacres to try and match surviving family members with their dead loved ones). I see anthropology as an evergrowing field that is becoming more interdisciplinary as time goes on: be it in the environmental, linguistic, biological, historical, or geological/archaeological sense. Anthropology is taking over the natural and social sciences, however subtly, because of the monopoly humans have on their world.
14th-Jan-2006 03:05 am (UTC)
Reinventing Anthropology by Dell Hymes is also not bad for this discussion.

I sort of think that anthropology is cyclical, though. Like it waxes and wanes. It almost died out after colonialism ended.. :)
15th-Jan-2006 02:52 am (UTC)
i think it's interesting how so many people have asked me if my degree in anthro has anything to do with ants. so frightening!

with that said, i think the more anthro demonstrates its usefulness in practice, the more people will value it as a resource. i think we've only just begun ...
16th-Jan-2006 11:41 am (UTC)
How are we, in this moment, demonstrating its usefulness in practice?
17th-Jan-2006 01:59 am (UTC)
applied anthropology is the best example i can think of. much of my undergrad program was designed around "real world" problems. i am still able to apply what i learned from my classes to my daily experiences.
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