February 2, 2009

The relevance of anthropology?

Is anthropology relevant in today's world? Read this selection from professor John L. Jackson's recent post "Coming of Age in Economia":

I am helping to plan this year’s American Anthropological Association conference, and the title for the meeting is “The End/s of Anthropology.”

That is not simply meant as a cheeky way to argue that the field has outlasted its usefulness. Not at all. If anything, it is a call for anthropology to recast itself as an important perspective from which to engage some of the most pressing questions of the day. For example, as Congress votes on Obama’s choice for Treasury Secretary today, I’ve been trying to think about all the many reasons why anthropology could be a useful voice in the deafening debates about a “global economic crisis” that he is being enlisted to help fix.

Anthropologists aren’t highlighted or invoked in such conversations, at least not as much (or as often) as they could be. Economists debate the merits of various fiscal vs. monetary policies, and our new President has assembled an experienced team of them to help him figure out the government’s next few moves. But where are the anthropologists?

Be sure to travel to the comments section, where the debate really gets going. The rest of the post is here.

Hat Tip: Jay Sosa over at Savage Minds.

1 comment:

Ben Hernandez said...

Sometimes just "numbers" won't do. I don't know anything about anthropology except that it's the "study of people".

Ok? so let's study people and their [bad] spending habits. People take out loans that they can't afford to buy houses that they can't afford. They purchase big, fat luxury cars that they can't afford because, although they can't see their own car while driving it, I guess they hope someone else will (I never understood that mentality. You can't see your car while you drive so why go crazy with buying insane cars when all you really spend your time looking at is the speedometer and the road.)

I just watched a documentary about a guy pretending to be an evangelist who traveled around the country with his "Stop-shopping Choir" visiting big-box stores like Best-Buy and Walmart during Christmas to convince people NOT to shop themselves into debt. It was disgusting to see people in these stores fighting, clawing, and trampling each other so they can buy more crap made by kids in third world countries.

So yes, we can have economists with spreadsheets trying to figure out some of the "technical" aspects of our economy, but when it comes down to it we need to have committees made up of psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists trying to figure out how to improve folks' crazy spending behaviors.