Why Stephen Colbert’s Job is Safe: Dirimens Copulatio

Not only am I not arguing what you say I am, I’m arguing some of the things you say I’m not.

Your title, “circling the wagons,” implies the exact opposite of what I was suggesting. This metaphor suggests insularity and defensiveness, at best. In fact, my essay could easily be interpreted as a call to anthropologists to come out of the closet and start insisting on their relevance not only to the academy, but to the world. If your response were actually about my essay, it might more accurately be called “Maintaining the four fields is not the way to improve anthropology’s relevance” – a point you might or might not actually agree with – readers can’t tell.

Furthermore, absolutely nothing in my essay implies that applied anthropology is lesser than academic anthropology. In fact, nothing would please me more than to see the military, the government, public education, business, entertainment, sports, hell, the hospitality industry – you name it – FILLED with anthropologists. My point precisely was… I think that the results would be better if they were trained as anthropologists – REAL anthropologists. That’s right, I said it: real. And by real I do not mean those with PhDs, I mean all those who have studied and understand the core principles of holistic, four field anthropology.

All anthropologists in today’s world have career trajectories that compel them to engage in the application of their research to real world problems and peoples – regardless of whether a university writes their paycheck. Similarly, all anthropologists have an obligation to be analytically rigorous, well-versed in both the strengths and weaknesses of their discipline, and to make informed, deliberate decisions about the theoretical concepts that underpin their work – regardless of whether a commercial enterprise writes their paycheck.

You’ve also thrown in a total red herring in the form of post-modernism, utilizing a manipulative rhetorical device popular with political pundits called ad populem: “Everyone hates post-modernists. I’ll imply that her opinion would please them and thus avoid needing to use sound reasoning to disagree.” Suggesting that the strength of anthropology lies in the intellectual tensions created by dialogue and negotiation among the four fields is hardly a post-modern concept!

In fact, as you specify in your blog when you purport to “only speak to cultural anthropology,” you reveal that it is you who writes from an academically provincial viewpoint. This is particularly absurd when you are accusing someone else of having a narrow vision of the discipline.

If anyone in (on?) this blog should be tsking and shaking her head in disbelief it is I, Cindy, not you. No amount of posturing or rhetorical misdirection on your part is going to turn me into your anti-applied, holier than thou academic straw-chick. And sorry, we all know you chose to get an advanced degree in anthropology, not business. Maybe next time I’ll choose to respond to your self-serving distortions of my opinions with an anthropological version of “The Word.” For now I’ll settle for giving you a wag of my finger, and letting you know – you’re on notice, Dawson.

Anthropology’s strengths lie in the combination of attributes that make it unique: these include commitments to the concepts of extended fieldwork and cultural relativism, a comparative perspective that encompasses all of human space and time, a humanistic perspective that views individual variation and difference as objects worthy of study, and the holism that is embodied in a thorough consideration of how the four fields can bring insight to any given question about the human condition – even if they yield contradictory data!

Every anthropologist I have ever known is passionate about his or her vision of the discipline in one way or another. My call to arms is both a call to share the object of that passion and to insist on its value – don’t take just culture – take anthropology, and anthropologists, too.