Schism in the American Anthropological Association?

I found an early post on this subject last week but pulled it at the author’s requested.  I post this here because the NY Times posted it and, as it is put in the article: “…the cat’s out of the bag and is running around clawing up the furniture,” This post will be updated periodically. See also the overflow discussion in “AAA Schism Redux.”

12/19/10

Anthropology Without Science, November 30, 2010

A new long-range plan for the American Anthropological Association that omits the word “science” from the organization’s vision for its future has exposed fissures in the discipline.

The plan, adopted by the executive board of the association at its annual meeting two weeks ago, includes “significant changes to the American Anthropological Association mission statement — it removes all mention of science,” Peter N. Peregrine, president of the Society for Anthropological Sciences and professor at Lawrence University, wrote in a widely circulated e-mail to members. The changes to the plan, he continued, “undermine American anthropology.”http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/11/30/anthroscience

Anthropology, Science, and Public Understanding

By daniel.lende, Posted: December 1, 2010

During November’s annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, the AAA executive committee made significant changes to its long-range plan statement. By choosing to drop “science” as the main qualifier of the field of anthropology, the executive committee has kicked up a firestorm among anthropologists as well as created a wider reaction in the higher education community.

http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2010/12/01/anthropology-science-and-public-understanding/

Anthropology and science

For the past weeks or so my Mayanist colleagues of US descent have been upset by the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) decision to drop the word science from their long range plan. This decision has now reached New York Times as well. They write that “the decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.” The long-range plan has been “to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects.” Now the purpose of AAA is to “advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects.”

http://haecceities.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/anthropology-and-science/

AAA Responds to Public Controversy Over Science in Anthropology

http://www.aaanet.org/

And for historical background go to http://alicedreger.com/Science_Darkness.html

Anthropology a Science? Statement Deepens a Rift

By NICHOLAS WADE, Published: December 9, 2010

Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan.

The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.

During the last 10 years the two factions have been through a phase of bitter tribal warfare after the more politically active group attacked work on the Yanomamo people of Venezuela and Brazil by Napoleon Chagnon, a science-oriented anthropologist, and James Neel, a medical geneticist who died in 2000. With the wounds of this conflict still fresh, many science-based anthropologists were dismayed to learn last month that the long-range plan of the association would no longer be to advance anthropology as a science but rather to focus on “public understanding.”

Until now, the association’s long-range plan was “to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects.” The executive board revised this last month to say, “The purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects.” This is followed by a list of anthropological subdisciplines that includes political research.

The word “science” has been excised from two other places in the revised statement. The new long-range plan differs from the association’s “statement of purpose,” which remains unchanged, Dr. Dominguez said. That statement still describes anthropology as a science.

Peter Peregrine, president of the Society for Anthropological Sciences, an affiliate of the American Anthropological Association, wrote in an e-mail to members that the proposed changes would undermine American anthropology, and he urged members to make their views known.

Dr. Peregrine, who is at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, said in an interview that the dropping of the references to science “just blows the top off” the tensions between the two factions. “Even if the board goes back to the old wording, the cat’s out of the bag and is running around clawing up the furniture,” he said.

He attributed what he viewed as an attack on science to two influences within anthropology. One is that of so-called critical anthropologists, who see anthropology as an arm of colonialism and therefore something that should be done away with. The other is the postmodernist critique of the authority of science. “Much of this is like creationism in that it is based on the rejection of rational argument and thought,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 10, 2010, on page A16 of the New York edition. Read more here…

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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