What is anthropology? A Carnival of Answers.

Looking purely at this blog would be a terrible way to understand the question “what is anthropology?”. I will shed light on the question, usually by making it extremely complicated. A better way to learn about anthropology would be to read the “Four Stone Hearth” posts that circulate along blogs. It is a collaboration between anthropology bloggers of all kinds – scientists, activists, archaeologists, linguists, etc. If you want to see what interdisciplinary can do for you, this is a great way to learn.

Check out the 58th edition of Four Stone Hearth at Moneduloides.

It’s very cool to see what the biology side of anthropology is up to, and Modeduloides’ about page hooks cultural anthropologists brilliantly:

Corvus moneduloides, or the New Caledonian Crow, is endemic to New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands of Melanesia. This particular species of Corvid is the only non-primate organism believed to pass on the knowledge of tool manufacture and manipulation from one generation to the next. It is argued that this could be considered “culture,” but this crow knows better than to argue culture with anthropologists.”

Not only that, but the author is a poet,  (and on open access, i love it!)


2 responses to this post.

  1. My simplest definition of anthroplogy: the study of human diversity.
    Works for both 4-fields North American anthropology and for European anthropology. In North America, I can elaborate this a bit more: the study of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity through time and space.
    I like simple definitions, as you might know. I don’t think it’s simplistic and I don’t think it’s vague.
    Now, as with any concept, we can go from defining to describing. In that case, we could not only describe the academic subfields but also the importance of public, applied, and academic anthropology; the looming issues through the discipline (nature/nurture, universalism/particularism, science/humanities…); the kind of people who go into anthropology (curious and not that concerned about jobs); distinctions from other disciplines (broader approach than sociologists); and the matter of ethnographic disciplines (including parts of economics, history, sociology, etc.).
    Maybe I should write a “four stone hearth” post of some kind.


  2. A four stone hearth contribution sounds like a great idea. I need to write one myself.

    But for now I’m having quite a bit of fun diving into the “what is science?” question, without derailing my thesis completely.

    Thanks for an effective definition. The focus on difference is interesting. I have lots of data on different reasons for blogging. And I’ve collected a lot of data dealing with different motivations behind academic publishing – differences in expected audiences, different experiences with peer review, etc.

    I think I’ve established the ‘ethnography’ side of my research, and beyond that your comments help tie my research into the ‘anthropology’ side, (without stating the obvious that I am studying anthropologists, which wouldn’t necessarily make it anthropological).


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