[I should edit this and really distinguish cultural anthropology from “anthropology”, but instead I won’t since it reflects the confusion in my mind well.]
Call me a sucker, but I’ve always been one to jump into the “is anthropology a science?” debate. For most of my undergrad degree, being that I was in an arts program, I never assumed it was science. I met all sorts of activists talking about saving the world. But then came a challenging professor, who was adamant that it was a science. I took offense, and wondered “if this is science, can we call what used to be science something else? Because using the term for two very different things doesn’t make sense to me.” But that is exactly what was happening. I realized that anthropologists who consider it a science do not use the word science in the same way. They do not agree to definitions of science produced in the hard sciences, and instead redefine understand the word differently.
Next thing you know people are arguing about whether or not something is a science, when science itself is undefined! Does it matter if a study is scientific? What does that mean?
Here is a fantastic example of how such debates begin. The video is from Richard Feynman who wrote some great books, such as “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” which I enjoyed a lot. He is also a freakin genius who worked on various nuclear devices, inspired thousands of students, writes incredibly well etc… Did I mention nobel prize winner? I could go on, but I prefer to criticize.
So what exactly is he saying? Not a lot. He argues “he knows that it means to know something”, and that “he doesn’t know the world very well”. So on one side, we can get better at *knowing* something, but how can we also “know about the world”? Through pseudo-science and opinion? Yup. (and throw in a heavy dose of everything non-academic.)
Or better yet, let’s stop thinking and just have smoke some orange juice!
[so how do we define ‘social science’?] -> and yet if we say it isn’t a science, what does that mean?
who cares about universal laws? -> being ‘pseudo-scientific’ isn’t a problem, + he’s completely right that anthropology borrowed heavily from the natural sciences, possibly out of necessity to get funding and respect. There are also debates in the blogsphere about how peer review, and even the journal format are borrowed and possibly maladapted to anthropology.
[is “scientific” language taken more seriously? ]
[what about linguistics? So many kinds of social science!] -> just because I’m not pushing science doesn’t mean others aren’t.
[here it comes —-> anthropologist…
… as scientist
… as researcher
… as activist
… as artist
… as journalist
… as author ]