September 1, 2009

Bugs, rocks, dinosaurs

Just the other day my wife and I were opening up a bank account, and the nice lady who was helping us out asked what we are doing our graduate work on.

Anthropology, I said.

Oh, like the study of bugs?

Nope, not bugs. That's entomology.

Is it the study of rocks?

That's geology.

Dinosaurs!

No again...that would be paleontology. Anthropology is basically the study of humanity through time. It's good stuff (my plug for the field).

Oh, ok. That sounds pretty neat. Well did you want to create a checking account as well, or just a savings account?

And that was the end of the explain-what-anthropology-is session for that encounter. What does this mean to me? The identity of anthropology in the wider public sphere has some issues. Still, the only way is forward. Maybe what we need is a TV show with two argumentative hosts, kinda like Hannity and Colmes but they could argue about homo habilis or the value of postmodernism in between commercials for Marshalltown trowels and all kinds of fancy digital recording equipment.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Note: the above conversation is a somewhat real somewhat fictional conglomeration. But it's true, in the end.

1 comment:

Stacie said...

I got this all this time from tourists when I worked at the Monacan Indian Village in Natural Bridge, VA. Dinosaurs and rocks were popular guesses, and others equated all of anthropology with archaeology. The best guess that I've heard so far came from a colleague today: that it's about "civilizations." Note that most book stores don't have a strong "anthropology" section compared to "history" and "literature" or even "cooking" and "self-help."

I honestly don't know how it could be countered except, perhaps, with more press. My community paper accepts press releases from locals all the time, but it has to, of course, be locally relevant. I don't know what it's like in larger towns. They definitely don't want to read abstract academic papers.