Cindy, Cindy, Cindy! The problem with academic anthropology today (and I can only speak to cultural anthropology) is that the concept of culture is the most static and smothered at the hands of anthropologists! The problem is not that all these other disciplines are misusing culture, but that most academics in anthropology can’t accept that the study of culture has taken on a much wider, and more practical, role in understanding many parts of our lives from business to the military.
The most influential books that speak to cultural issues today aren’t written by anthropologists, they are written by journalists, physicists and mathematicians to name a few. Anthropologists didn’t lose culture; we started an endless string of post-modern debates about just what culture means that pushed the discipline away from relevance. The other disciplines went out and explored how culture interacted with their professions while anthro’s sat home and engaged in intellectual masturbation. When Former President Clinton made the famous statement “It depends on what your definition of is, is.” I am sure many cultural anthropologists nodded their heads believing that would be a perfectly reasonable and exciting discussion to have before proceeding further, given there is no such thing objective truth.
Anthropology can’t claim to own the study of culture anymore that MBA programs can claim to own the turf of business today. Plenty of anthropologists are working on questions of business, just as there are business school researchers working on questions of culture in the context of business. What anthropology can do is develop a point of view about cultures that are relevant to questions we (business, governments, and others) are asking. Many cultural anthropologists are still fighting tooth and nail to prevent the discipline from have any practical application. The latest example being the committee to form an official position on the use of anthropology in the military and intelligence communities. Good grief, the larger anthropology community is so anti-applied that some people were floating the idea that people that didn’t teaching in universities should just be called practitioners.
You see other fields as misusing and misunderstanding culture. I see it as pulling out of the bubble it was placed in by over-protective and elitist parents. You are right, those of us outside the academic world spend very little time debating the parameters of just what is culture. We’re comfortable with the slipperiness of the definition and figure that’s good and we can work with that.
Ok, now that all the blog software problems have been worked out, I can actually blog! Actually, they were all worked out by a very nice young lady in Baku, Azerbaijan that converts lot of blogs from Movable Type to WordPress.