A changing anthropology? Some notes and quotes.

Helping to define the “anthropology” and “change” parts of the thesis question, “how is the internet fueling change in anthropology?”:

“The intellectual history of the nineteenth century is marked above all by this disciplinarization and professionalization of knowledge, that is to say, by the creation of permanent institutional structures designed both to produce new knowledge and to reproduce the producers of knowledge. The creation of multiple disciplines was premised on the belief that systematic research required skilled concentration on the multiple separate arenas of reality, which was partitioned rationally into distinct groupings of knowledge. Such a rational division promised to be effective, that is, intellectually productive.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:6)

This much isn’t new: Being a student of anthropology has always been a pain in the !@# .

“In the course of the nineteenth century, the various disciplines spread out like a fan, covering a range of epistemological positions. At one end lay, first, mathematics (a nonempirical activity) and next to it the experimental natural sciences (themselves in a sort of descending order of determinism – physics, chermistry, biology). at the other end lay the humanities (or arts and letters), starting with philosophy (the pendant of mathematics, as a nonempirical activity) and next to it the study of formal artistic practices (literatures, painting and sculpture, musicology), often coming close in their practice to being history, a history of the arts. And in between the humanities and the natural sciences, thus defined, lay the study of social realities, with history (idiographic) closer to, often part of, faculties of arts and letters, and “social science” (nomothetic) closer to the natural sciences. Amidst an ever-hardening separation of knowledge into two different spheres, each with a  different epistemological emphasis, the students of social realities found themselves caught in the middle, and deeply divided on these epistemological issues. (p9)”

Challenging collaboration:

“The creation of multiple disciplines of social science was part of the general nineteenth-century attempt to secure and advance “objective” knowledge about “reality” on the basis of empirical findings (as opposed to “speculation”). The intent was to “learn” the truth, not invent or intuit it. The process of institutionalization of this kind of knowledge activity was not at all simple or straightforward. For one thing, it was not at first clear whether this activity was to be a singular one or should rather be divided into the several disciplines, as later occured. Nor was it at the outset clear what was the best route to such knowledge, that is, what kind of epistemology would be most fruitful or even legitimate. Least of all was it clear whether the social sciences could in some sense be thought to constitute a “third culture” that was “between science and literature,” in the later forumation of Wolf Lepenies. In fact, none of these questions has ever been definitively resolved. All we can do is to note the actual decisions that were made, or the majority positions that tended to prevail.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:14)

Working through a maze of disagreement = being an anthro student, online or off.


On a changing publishing environment where visibility and accessibility are not tied to prestige:

“The first thing to note is where this institutionalization took place. There were five main locales for social science activity during the nineteenth century: Great Britain, France, the Germanies, the Italies, and the United States. Most of the scholars most of the universities (of course, not all) were located in these five places. The universities in other countries lacked the numerical weight or international prestige of those in these five. To this day, most of the nineteenth-century works that we still read were written in one of these five locales.”

(Wallerstein et al. 1996:14

Interesting then, to look at Max’s post about the distribution of Open Access Journals listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals. He writes:

Either way, open access publishing in anthropology is primarily not a North American phenomenon, and in the case of Anthropology listings that exclude Ethnology, it is primarily not a North American/European phenomenon. Indeed, the very Directory of Open Access Journals itself is not a North American innovation, but rather a Scandinavian one, and the host for it is Lund University Libraries. The innovations in the distribution, dissemination, and circulation of anthropology are coming in large part from the so-called periphery and semi-periphery of the world system, and outside of the disciplinary centre of gravity in terms of the accumulated mass of anthropologists and anthropology programs in the U.S. and western Europe. One can only speculate about what that will mean should the predominant mode of anthropological publishing in North America (commercial print, by subscription) collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and unsustainability. Suddenly the centre of anthropological publishing would shift to currently non-hegemonic entities.

Tie this with a recent study which showed that Humanities and Social Science journals did not pay much attention to where authors came from and that most of authors came from a particular geographic region (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia) reveal one of anthropology’s “walls” so to speak. The adoption of Open Access by academics helps to deterritorialize research accessibility. Language boundaries remain.

It is also interesting to examine how a students blog can dominate certain key words on search engines, when anthropologists write so much about those words in academic journals. Does academic research need to be accessible online? If it isn’t, what takes its place?

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  1. [...] Wiltshire, A Changing Anthropology? Some Notes And Quotes The nineteenth century and [...]

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