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