Confusing Things

So it’s midterm time, and also time for me to do my self-check (stolen from my colleague and best pal, Cindy herself):  have the students write down the most interesting, most confusing, and most important things they have learned so far in the class.

Thus far, we’ve been reading Margaret Mead’s Growing Up in New Guinea.  So a  lot of the confusion involved cross-cousins, tabu, and the intricacies of so-called primitive life in 1920s New Guinea.  But at least two of the students were confused about just why anthropologists do what they do:  “Why did Mead go there at all?  Why did she have to go so far?  Couldn’t she learn that at home?  Why do anthropologists do anthropology, anyway?”

It’s a fair question, and I’ll try to address it in bits and pieces in classes to come–they are reading my research next, and I hope I make it clear why I do anthropology.  And perhaps we’ve addressed it some in this blog already, but I thought I’d throw it out generally.

Why anthropology?