August 24, 2011

the search for anthropology in public, part II

Whenever I go into a bookstore, I always check out the anthropology section (see part I here).  A curious habit, or custom, or something like that.  What can I say?  I have my routines.  I like to see what happens to be on the shelves and compare that to my own understandings of what contemporary anthropology is all about.  I imagine that this is some sort of litmus test that tells us something about the state of anthropology in the public sphere.  Maybe, maybe not.  More about that shortly.  So, the last time I did this informal empirical investigation, the results were similar to past experiences: not phenomenal.  The most "anthropological" books included:

1. Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson
2. The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond
3. 1491 by Charles Mann
4. Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna

Bateson's was the only book I saw that was written by an actual anthropologist.  How it is that only one anthropologist happens to be in the anthropology section is beyond me.  This was a particularly skewed sample, I'll admit--usually there's at least a Wade Davis, Margaret Mead, or even Sir James Frazier in the mix.  Not this time.  The rest of the section was incredibly eclectic, and included everything from books by Drew Pinsky to one by Maira Kalman (which does look pretty cool, though not what I would define as anthropology).  Some of this eclectic-ness had to be due to some restocking malfunctions, undoubtedly, but overall the section on anthropology was, as is often the case, a strange and somewhat askew reflection of the discipline.  Yes, that is an opinion.  And now, it's time for some questions...

Read the rest on Savage Minds, here.

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