Am I Anthro-gitimate?

When can you call yourself an anthropologist? I got into a bit of a squabble about what kind of degree and experience you need to qualify: A doctorate? A master’s? A bachelor’s? When can you expect anthropologists to accept you as an anthropologist?

Dear Needs-to-be-Accepted,

In the humanities, everyone knows that William S. Boroughs’ day job was as an exterminator. Agatha Christie was an apothecaries’ assistant. Anthony Trollope was a postal worker, Arthur Conan Doyle was a surgeon, and Robert Frost was a teacher (but I’ve heard he was a worse farmer). And I, AnthroVice, spent no small proportion of my graduate education handing out free swag in dive bars.

Writers seem to be capable of a kind of inclusiveness that anthropologists are not. Maybe this is because of the current climate of ever-declining job listings and ongoing lobbying against the social sciences and so we see our standing, funding, and dignity, being eroded. Being called an anthropologist—or claiming the title for yourself—is a strong statement. Within our own community, conference and departmental gossip about who is “really” an anthropologist has the quality of a Game of Thrones episode. Someone is going to die, mostly for the spectacle of dominant masculinity and bloodlust. And we are all supposed to have fun at the execution. Gross.

The world is more generous. Many “out there” continue to feel a need for anthropology and anthropologists in order to keep discussions about business, policy, politics, and social justice vibrant and real. Anthropology signifies radical alliance with the poor and marginalized; a commitment to anti-colonialism, anti-racism, ethics, and human rights. It also is fundamentally allied with the principles of scientific research and discovery.

As far as AnthroVice is concerned, if you are committed to social justice, rigorous data collection and analysis, stories, science, truth-telling, and witnessing, you’re OK in my book. I hereby bequeath you the title of “anthropologist.”

You’re welcome.
AnthroVice

Cite as: AnthroVice. 2018. “Am I Anthro-gitimate?” Anthropology News website, March 12, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.797

Comments

Good advice! I think it would be nice to combine or compare this advice with the advice you gave on TrumPhD. Here, you say “if you are committed to social justice, rigorous data collection and analysis, stories, science, truth-telling, and witnessing, you’re OK in my book.” But there you are letting someone off the hook who is against the anthropological agenda.

I agree with you here–just being in an anthro PhD program does not an anthropologist make. Some people who are outside the PhD deserve the label more than insiders.

Professionally, I guess you could follow the advice of Boas that you be employed as an anthropologist in a university or museum and that you conduct field research as your main occupational pursuit. But in today’s world that would be impractical since universities are more likely to hire part-time adjuncts to teach anthropology which prevents you from doing research of a professional quality and level. Or, you could conduct basic or applied research funded by a sponsoring agency or client, but then the data would be most likely proprietary and not publishable or you would not be asked to teach the subject of the research.

Another way to look at the question is not by your employment status, nor what you do, teach and/or research, but rather how you look at the world and human relations. I started a group called Career Anthropologist on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3940979 ) which today has over 3,900 members world wide. We define an career anthropologist as:

“A career anthropologist is someone who has undergone and completed an enculturation process in the anthropological discipline at the post secondary education level; and who is committed to pursuing a career where they expect to utilize their anthropological knowledge in a rewarding and productive career.”

This definition emphasizes the “enculturation” process, but not the degree.

Post a Comment

Want to comment? Please be aware that only comments from current AAA members will be approved. AN is supported by member dues, so discussions on anthropology-news.org are moderated to ensure that current members are commenting. As with all AN content, comments reflect the views of the person who submitted the comment only. The approval of a comment to go live does not signify endorsement by AN or the AAA.

Commenting Disclaimer

Want to comment? Please be aware that only comments from current AAA members will be approve. AN is supported by member dues, so discussions on anthropology-news.org are moderated to ensure that current members are commenting. As with all AN content, comments reflect the views of the person who submitted the comment only. The approval of a comment to go live does not signify endorsement by AN or the AAA.