How was it? Brutal [even if it was accepted with minor revisions!] !!! I’ll do my best to summarise the experience, and issues raised, over the next few posts.
The biggest issue that came up: Chapter 2.
Why, I was asked, would I present anthropology in such a negative light? What does such a negative portrait hope to accomplish? Why would I want to participate in such a horrible world? [real question] Why not lead from the strengths the thesis can make to the discipline? Why did I reference Vine Deloria Jr and why did I reference James Hunt?
To paraphrase the question: Haven’t people pooped on anthropology enough? Is it really necessary to select particularly nasty examples of anthropology to describe what anthropology is and how it has changed? Have anthropologists not changed enough already that you could just cite what they do NOW?
My answer: it hasn’t helped to shove anthropology’s dirty laundry under the rug. The history of anthropology shocked me to the core, and I wasn’t about to ignore it. Vine Deloria’s arguments, that I cite in chapter 2, are the best definition and critique of anthropology I’ve ever read. I stand by that reference 100%.
James Hunt? Well sure he isn’t representative of all anthropologists. And I’ve been told I cannot say that “his work is seen as biggoted and racist” in a thesis, even if his work IS.. But the reason I chose James Hunt was that he founded the Anthropology Society of London with the intention of mixing politics and science, and he promoted public engagement. Anthropologists aren’t all saints, and when they engage the public, it isn’t necessarily virtuous. That was my point. My bigger point was that anthropologists get things wrong, and that we need to give people a place to respond and interpret anthropologists interpretations.
Finally, while I probably didn’t express this well enough in the thesis, chapter 2 was NOT a “complete” representation of the discipline. I was looking at the history of the discipline to find breaking points, frictions, that pushed the direction in different directions. The point I wanted to make in chapter 2 was that there are arguments for 1) increased collaboration with non-anthros, 2) increased public engagement, and 3) to “open the social sciences”.
Now say what you want, but I think the examples I give do back that up. I’m not sure I did that well enough in chapter 2 though. The reactionary response I received from one reader has forced me to correct this, to somehow open up chapter 2 with recognition that the points discussed are very selective and not trying to represent the discipline as a whole.
Many more posts to come…
I also learned the proper definition of “reactionary”. I used the word to represent a person “reacting”, which it is not. This has since been corrected, and I did my best to use it correctly in the paragraph above!!! Reactionary is restricted to a conservative backlash, someone defending the status quo, and not to someone getting pissed off by your actions.
When given the option to select your thesis committee, give it a lot of thought. Don’t allow faculty members to turn your thesis into a battleground, even if that’s what social science is all about.
Next post: Issue #2 – Why didn’t you include the following works? [list included]