Well the historic First Dinner of (some of the) ethnography.com bloggers has come and gone, and a good time was indeed had. Much of the conversation was about (surprise!) anthropology and anthropologists, and during that evening I was reminded of a theory of subfields and personality that I formed early in my graduate career.
It came to me pretty quickly that there were startling contrasts between the anthropologists I hung out with as an undergraduate (gregarious, lots of parties, good people, so nice I married one of them) with the ones I was encountering as a graduate student. Why were they not throwing parties? When would we meet for a beer instead of an espresso? Why aren’t they having more fun with all of this, anyway?
OK, so some of it was that graduate school was hard work. But some of it was this:
As an undergrad, I was an archaeologist. As a graduate student, I was throwing my lot in with socio-cultural anthropologists.
Here’s the thing: archaeologists have to work in groups, with their fellow archaeologists. They need to find a way to get along with each other because they need each other–there are methodological requirements (excavation, lab analysis, survey, mapping) that cannot be filled by a single person working alone in the field. Most socio-cultural anthropologists, however, are required to go off on their own. They must be social and human when during research (participant observation, natch), but there are no requirements for being the same when among their colleagues. They can if they want to, but it’s not institutionalized into the way we do research, the way it is in archaeology.
And wow does it ever show. Some of the most poorly socialized people I’ve ever met have been socio-cultural anthropologists. Now, now, don’t be like that…some of my best friends are also socio-cultural anthropologists. But my closest friends (including my husband), the ones I turn to for parties and other assorted human comforts, are archaeologists. Once I started meeting the archaeologists for beers, and organizing parties with them, graduate school was a much kinder, gentler place to be. I tried to throw parties for the socio-cultural crowd, too. Maybe they were throwing parties without me.
Anyone else encounter this? And what about the linguists and biological types? Where do they fit in? Do the logistics of their research encourage or discourage certain kinds of social or anti-social behavior?
Maybe it was just me?