REFLECTIONS

Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
California State University, Chico / Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office: Butte 202]; 530-898-6192 [Department: Butte 311]; 530-898-6143 [FAX]
e-mail: curbanowicz@csuchico.edu / home page: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban

[This page printed from http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/ANTH600Fall2005.html] [1]

12 October 2005

© [All Rights Reserved.] Placed on the World Wide Web on October 12, 2005, for Professor William Loker's ANTH 600 (Core Seminar in Anthropology) on October 19, 2005, at California State University, Chico.

ABSTRACT

I have been a member of the faculty since August 1973 and am currently in my 65th semester at this institution. These are my "reflections" after more than four decades of being involved in "Anthropology."

INTRODUCTION
ANTHROPOLOGY
ANTHROPOLOGISTS AND HISTORY
ANTHROPOLOGY AND CHANGE(S)
ON-GOING CONCLUSIONS
EPILOGUE

INTRODUCTION

"With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere." C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

To place my "reflections" into context (and hopefully demonstrate the "cumulative" aspect of life), the following should be of interest: I was born in 1942 in Jersey City, New Jersey, graduated from high school in 1960 and commuted to New York City and New York University for the 1960-1961 Academic Year. After flunking out of NYU in 1961 I enlisted in the United States Air Force for four years (1961-1965). (I show a transparency of my first-year college experience to every class I teach at CSU, Chico and the message is: "If I flunked out of college, so can you!") While in the United States Air Force I had my basic training in Texas (Lackland Air Force Base) and I then had classes in electronics at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. In 1963 I was stationed at Blaine Air Force Station in Washington state and took a variety of courses from faculty from Western Washington State College (now Western Washington University). The first course I ever took in Anthropology from a Western instructor was taught on base by Lionel Tiger (born in 1937), now the distinguished Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, New Jersey. (After a separation of several decades, Lionel and I now have occasional e-mail exchanges!) I was inspired to pursue a degree in anthropology, while still in the United States Air Force, when I took an Anthropology course on the Western campus which was offered by a dynamic Professor (Dr. Herbert C. Taylor, Jr: 1924-1991). After I was honorably discharged in 1965 I enrolled at Western as a full-time student (using the G.I. Bill) and was eventually awarded the B.A. in Sociology-Anthropology in 1967. Incidentally, I was married in 1963 to a young lady who attended Western and am still married to the same wonderful woman, Sadie, who graduated from Western in 1965 and taught elementary school for five years (1965-1970) as I attended Western and then graduate school. I wanted to become a professional anthropologist and I applied to, and was accepted into, the Ph.D. program at the University of Oregon (with Fellowships for five years). After coursework I was awarded the M.A. in Anthropology (1969) and fieldwork in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga in 1970 and 1971 (combined with archival research in Australia, New Zealand, and Hawai'i) resulted with me being awarded the Ph.D. degree in 1972 (after completing the written dissertation, 1971-1972). I taught at the University of Minnesota for the 1972-1973 academic year and joined the faculty of CSU, Chico in August 1973. I retired from CSU, Chico in May 2005 and was granted the status of Emeritus by my colleagues in the Department of Anthropology. I became part of the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) in August 2005 and plan to teach in the fall semester and do other things in the spring semester (such as being a "destination lecturer" on various cruise ships). I am now in my 65th semester at California State University, Chico.

It should be pointed out that in 1972, the year I received my Doctor of Philosophy degree in Anthropology, a total of 301 individuals also received that advanced degree in Anthropology that year: 215 males (71%) and 86 females (29%). Looking at the information for various years indicates that for the 2003-2004 Academic Year, a total of 655 individuals received the Ph.D. in Anthropology: 373 females [57%] and 282 males [43%]. The year before that there were 603 Ph. D. recipients in Anthropology and the year before that 588 Ph. D. recipients. The year before that there were again 603 recipients and for the 1999-2000 Academic Year, 641 individuals received the Ph.D. in Anthropology. The year before that, in 1998-1999, there were 616 individuals who received this highest degree in Anthropology. For all of these most recent years, the majority of Ph. D. degrees in Anthropology have gone to women and as my wife has pointed out, this is a reflection of the increase in the number of women, and the decline of the number of men, attending colleges and universities. (See, for example, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/july-dec02/college.html and the Public Broadcasting System report, entitled "Gender Gap 101" which points out that "Women now make up 56 percent of the college population.") Looking at CSU, Chico, of the 13,763 undergraduates enrolled in the spring semester of 2005 (fall 2005 data are not yet available), there were a total of 7,387 women (54%) and 6,376 men (46%) on this campus: look around your own classes. Consider the following historical information for Anthropology:

"Doctoral research in anthropology [over the years 1891 to 1930] was mainly a young man's pursuit: more than 85 percent [of the total of 124 doctorates over this time period] were men, and more than 81 percent were under 35 at graduation, with half under 30 [stress added]." Jay H. Bernstein, 2002, First Recipients of Anthropological Doctorates in the United States, 1891-1930. The American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No. 2, June, pages 551-565, page 557.

A 1991 report stated that for individuals who were awarded Anthropology degrees, the median time from the B.A. to the Ph.D. was 12.4 years. For comparison purposes, it was pointed out that for Psychology it was 10.1 years and for Economics 9.1 years from B.A. to Ph.D. (R. L. Peters, 1992, Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide To Earning A Master's Or A Ph.D. [Farrar, Strauss and Giroux], page 12.)

Since I am beginning my 65th semester at this institution (or my 33rd year at California State University, Chico), I try to place my own "sense of time" into perspective: I arrived as a new faculty member in August 1973 and if someone had told me in 1973 that they were beginning their 33rd year at California State University, Chico, I might have done the following calculation in my mind (1973 minus 33 equals the year 1940) and would have thought to myself that "WOW, that person is old and has seen a lot of changes since becoming a member of the faculty." In 1973 I would have remembered that the United States of America became involved in what we call World War II in 1941 (although the worldwide conflict actually began on the Asian mainland in 1931 and in Europe in 1939). The faculty members joining us in fall 2005 can think back a similar time span and remember that in 1972, when I first began my professional teaching career, President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) visited the People's Republic of China (and was re-elected for a second term), terrorists murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, the Dow Jones industrial Average closed above 1,000 for the first time, and Marlon Brando (1924-2004) won the Academy Award for Best Actor in The Godfather. In 1973, a "ceasefire [was] signed ending involvement of American ground troops in the Vietnam War" and the United States ceased bombing Cambodia; in 1973 Spiro Agnew (1918-1996), the Vice-president of the United State of America resigned in disgrace and "Arab states hike[d] oil prices as retaliation for Western involvement in Yom Kippur War." The year 1973 was an interesting year and please think about what the brand new faculty who will join us in the year 2038 (or 2005 plus 33) will think about the "old timers" of the year 2005? (For a "speculative" item on Chico in the year 2027, please see http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/aStoryof2027.html and for additional information on placing things into "temporal" perspective please see the Beloit College "mindset list" for several year!) Everything is relative!

 

ANTHROPOLOGY

"Lisa, get away from that jazzman! Nothing personal. I just fear the unfamiliar [stress added]." Marge Simpson, February 11, 1990, Moaning Lisa. Matt Groening et al., 1997, The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family (NY: HarperCollins), page 22

Anthropology is constantly changing and as Dr. Loker pointed out in his excellent syllabus for ANTH 600: "In anthropology, as in other disciplines, the field of study has both expanded its scope and become increasingly specialized." Your required text, Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture (2005, edited by Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman), is an interesting book and even though Leatherman and Goodman ("Context and Complexity in Human Biological Research," pages 179-195) write that "biological anthropology thus provides a unique experiment in bridging C.P. Snow's (1959) two cultures: the scientific and the humanistic" (page 179), I am personally not sure they add anything to those who already know certain things! To contextualize: Charles Percy Snow (1905-1980) published Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution in 1959 (100 years after another individual had a major publication!) and in 1963 Snow published The Two Cultures: And A Second Look (both available in The Meriam Library at California State University, Chico). By the "two cultures: C.P. Snow meant the following:

"...I christened to myself as the 'two cultures'. For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups--comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate had so little in common [1963: page 2]....Literary intellectuals at one pole---at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientists. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension--sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike. They have a curious distorted image of each other. Their attitudes are so different that, even on the level of emotion, they can't find much common ground. Non-scientists tend to think of scientists as brash and boastful [1963: page 4]....At one pole, the scientific culture really is a culture, not only in an intellectual sense but also in an anthropological sense. That is, its members need not, and of course often do not, always completely understand each other; biologists more often than not will have a pretty hazy idea of contemporary physics; but there are common attitudes, common standards and patterns of behavior, common approaches and assumptions [page 9].... This polarization is sheer loss to us all [1963: page 11] [stress added]. Charles Percy Snow, 1963, The Two Cultures: And A Second Look (Cambridge: University Press).

How much "polarization" exists within the discipline of anthropology? How many 1000s of doctoral degrees since my own in 1972? How much communication "really" takes places between the professionals in the discipline? I believe that a gap still exists and "multi-cultures" abound!

 

ANTHROPOLOGISTS AND HISTORY

"Anthropology is the product of three great historical movements: the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment, and Evolutionism." Philip K. Bock, 1990, Rethinking Psychological Anthropology: Continuity and Change in the Study of Human Action, page 5.

Philip K. Bock wrote the above in 1990 and in 1993 Marshall Sahlins had the following:

"In the fifteenth and sixteen centuries, a bunch of indigenous intellectuals and artists in Europe got together and began inventing their traditions and themselves by attempting to revive the learning of an ancient culture which they claimed to be the achievement of their ancestors but which they did not fully understand, as for many centuries this culture had been lost and its languages corrupted or forgotten."

I am not all sorry, but I would rather have the 17 words of Bock over the 67-word-sentence of Marshall Sahlins (born in 1930): "Goodbye to Tristes Tropes: Ethnography in the Context of Modern World History" in Assessing Cultural Anthropology (Robert Borofsky, Editor; reprinted, in edited form, from Journal of Modern History (1993 (65): 1-25], pages 377-395, page 381.) I have always argued that the most important course in the Anthropology curriculum is one that deals with the history of the discipline. With historical background (blended with anthropological insight), one gets to appreciate the development of anthropological ideas and one is allowed to formulate one's own theory to deal with the interpretation(s) of anthropologists about culture(s). As the translated words of J. W. Von Goethe (1749-1832) have it, "Whatever you cannot understand, you cannot possess" or, as Colin Fletcher wrote in his wonderful 1968 volume entitled The Man Who Walked Through Time: "When you ferret out something for yourself, piecing the clues together unaided, it remains for the rest of your life in some way truer than facts you are merely taught, and freer from onslaughts of doubt" (page 109).

Although the distinguished naturalist (and twice a Pulitzer Prize winner) Edmund O. Wilson (born in 1929) was writing about human evolutionary history in his 2002 publication entitled The Future of Life, his words also ring true for the history of anthropology:

"Each culture has its own creation myth, the primary functions of which are to place the tribe that conceived it at the center of the universe, and to portray history as a noble epic. The ultimate epic unfolding through science is the genetic history both of Homo sapiens and of all our antecedents. Traced back far enough through time, across more than three billion years, all organisms on Earth share a common ancestry. That genetic unity is a fact-based history confirmed with increasing exactitude by the geneticists and paleontologists who reconstruct evolutionary genealogy. If Homo sapiens as a whole must have a creation myth--and emotionally in the age of globalization it seems we must--none is more solid and unifying for the species that evolutionary history. That is another value favoring stewardship of the natural world. To summarize: a sense of genetic unity, kinship, and deep history are among the values that bond us to the living environment [stress added]." Edward O. Wilson, 2002, The Future of Life (NY: Alfred A Knopf), page 133.

Paraphrasing Wilson: each discipline has its own creation myth and if we are not aware of our own particular "evolutionary history" or "deep history" then we are the worse for it and we are not bonded together as individuals interested in the same fascinating discipline, namely Anthropology!

"It is useful to grasp the breadth of activity found in anthropological practice because it helps us to see the power of the ideas produced within the discipline. That discovery will enhance our own ability to be users of anthropological knowledge [stress added]." John van Willigen, 1993, Applied Anthropology: An Introduction (Beregin & Garvey), pages viii-ix.

I have been interested in Anthropology for more than four decades and over those ~14,600+ days, I have come to appreciate the many things that numerous anthropologists have done and have written about and I also realize that there is also a great deal of "nonsense" that numerous anthropologists have written about! For a 1970 paper, written in my third year of graduate school, some thirty-five years ago, that deals with the history of certain individuals in Anthropology you might be interested in http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/NatureCulture1970.html} "Mother Nature, Father Culture." If you wish, you might read my 1993 American Anthropological Association paper at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Darwin116.html; another item, published in 1992 and dealing with the history of the discipline appears at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Pub_Papers/4field.html). Are all of the fall 2005 ANTH 600 participants familiar with the nuances of "Tristes Tropes" for Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss, published in 1955. (For information about the history of Anthropology and Lévi-Strauss, please see my 1969 paper entitled A Selective View of Lévi-Strauss' Intellectual Antecedents. This was prepared and presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 20-24, when I was in my second year of Graduate School at the University of Oregon.) Claude Lévi-Strauss was born in 1908 and I have always been comfortable with his following words:

"It has often been said--I don't know if it is universally true but it is probably true for many of us--that the reason we took up anthropology was that we had difficulty in adapting ourselves to the social milieu into which we were born." In G. Charbonnier, 1969, Conversations with Claude Lévi-Strauss (London: Jonathan Cape Ltd), page 17. [This is a 1969 translation of the 1961 Entretiens avec Claude Lévi-Strauss.]

Other words by Anthropologists are powerful and think about the following 1972 statement by Gregory Bateson (1904-1980):

"The unit of survival [or adaptation] is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself. If, now, we correct the Darwinian unit of survival to include the environment and the interaction between organism and environment, a very strange and surprising identity emerges: the unit of survival turns out to be identical with the unit of mind" [italics in original; stress added]." Gregory Bateson, 1972, Steps To An Ecology of Mind (NY: Ballantine Books), page 483.

Please re-read the above from Bateson in 1972 and then Leatherman and Goodman in Complexities in 2005 who wrote the following:

"Thus we advocate for a different approach--one that investigates the dialectics of human-environmental interactions. Just as the environment makes humans, so the environment is human made--made by direct physical manipulation and made relevant by the cultural meanings humans assign it [italics in original]." Thomas Leatherman and Alan Goodman, 2005, Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture [Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman, Editors] (University of Chicago Press), pages 179-195, page 192.

So after 33 years, they are not only paying attention to Gregory Bateson but also Charles Darwin (1809-1882)! This is why I argue that the history of the discipline is the most important course for an Anthropology Major or for those who pursue Graduate Studies in Anthropology. If you are not aware of what happened before you were born (or while you were too young to understand what was going on), you are doomed to constantly repeat and re-invent everything and possibly really learn or do nothing new!

 

ANTHROPOLOGY AND CHANGE(S)

"....descriptions vary with the conceptual or theoretical framework within which they are couched. To evaluate a description properly one must know something about the theoretical framework that brought it into being." D. Kaplan and R. Manners, Culture Theory, 1972: 22.

In addition to this web page for the October 2005 class visit, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the page prepared for the Fall 2004 class visit: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/ANTH300Fall2004.htm. That page provides a great deal of additional information on Anthropology, from my personal perspective; also, please consider the following statements:

"[Old] Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth." The character Albus Dumbledore in J. K. Rowling, 2005, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (NY: Scholastic Books), page 564.

"Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young." (Albus Dumbledore, in} J. K. Rowling, 2003, Harry Potter And the Order of The Phoenix (NY: Scholastic Press), page 826.

"There are many things about life that do not change with age. Older people have some advantage over the young because, having been young and having been old, they know both ages. Young people, on the other hand, can only guess what it must like to be old. I know exactly what it is like to be young and what it is like to be old. I am aware of myself now and remember what I was like then [stress added]." Andy Rooney, 2002, Common Nonsense Addressed to the Reading Public (NY: Public Affairs), page 161.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Clarke's Third Law, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible by Arthur C. Clarke, 1984, page 26.  

One of the major individuals I am interested in (and his ideas and influence continue to this day and his ideas are definitely not nonsense) is Charles Darwin and another is the aforementioned Gregory Bateson. Bateson's 1972 words have already been cited but please consider his 1987 provocative words in the posthumous publication entitled Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred (by Gregory Bateson and his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson, from his marriage to Margaret Mead [1901-1978]): "Information can be defined as a difference that makes a difference [italics in original; stress added]" (page 17). In addition to the above words and ideas as well as the information in the 2004 web page for that visit to Dr. Loker's class, I also adhere to the following words of Thomas Keneally (perhaps remembered as being the author of Schindler's List (1982):

"A play [or a classroom lecture or a public presentation] should make you understand something new. If it tells you what you already know, you leave it as ignorant as you went in [stress added]." (The character John Wisehammer. In Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good [based upon the novel The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally], 1989, Act II, sc. 7, page 89.]

Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture (2005, edited by Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman) is an interesting book and has many provocative statements, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not agree with. I do, however, like the words of Kathleen Gibson as she wrote the following:

"...the increased information-processing capacity of the human brain allows humans to combine and recombine greater numbers of actions, perceptions, and concepts together to create higher-order conceptual behavioral constructs than do apes. These constructions are often hierarchical in that new constructs are subordinated into still higher-order constructs. The recombinatory and hierarchical nature of human mental constructions, as well as the human ability to incorporate large amounts of information into varied constructs, appears to account for human creative abilities.... Hierarchical mental construction underlies human creativity in a variety of realms.... [stress added]." Kathleen R. Gibson, 2005, Epigenesis, Brain Plasticity, and Behavioral Versatility: Alternatives to Standard Evolutionary Psychology Models. In Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture (Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman, Editors) [The University of Chicago Press], pages 23-42, page 34.

Life is indeed hierarchical and cumulative and we build on what we have been to become what we are and develop into what we will be! I have had an interest in Darwin since 1965 and in my classes and my writings I attempt to "humanize" Darwin and place him within the context of his times (while discussing the impacts and interpretations of his ideas on various theories in anthropology). I have presented papers about Darwin and have had some ideas published: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/DarwinDayCollectionOneChapter.html and http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/StrategiesTwo.html. As part of my interest in Darwin, in 1996 (working as part of an exceptional collaborative team) I was videotaped on this campus as Darwin in the first person over a four-day period for a total of eight hours. Over the next eight years, four instructional videotapes were created and when the four videotapes were finally finished, Ms. Donna Crowe (the Writer, Producer, and Director of the series and now retired from the Instructional Media Center of this University) remarked that "The entire project took longer than the voyage of the Beagle itself!" Darwin is important, evolution is important, and the history of how we came to be is important! (If you wish, please see http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/CELTOctober2004Darwin.html for a paper dealing with the project, including links to the four completed videos which are currently available on the World Wide Web.)

"Evolutionary theory has transformed the way humans view their past, present, and future. In domains as diverse as genetic engineering, sociobiology, race, gender, and the environmental balance of our planet, evolution affects the relationship between human beings and nature in fundamental and controversial ways. However, the controversial nature of evolutionary biology is not a recent phenomenon. The most well-known landmark in the development of evolutionary theory is the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 [stress added]." Martin Fichman, 2002, Evolutionary Theory and Victorian Culture (NY: Humanity Books), page 9.

"But what then is evolution? Although it may sound unconventional to say so, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is above all else a theory of history. While initially offered as an encompassing theory about the origin of new species by means of NATURAL SELECTION, Darwin's insights into the causes of biological evolution and persistence soon proved to be so powerful that many have sought to apply Darwinian theory to human affairs--to use Darwin's ways of thinking about history and evolution to explain not only our own origins as a remarkably clever kind of animal (see BIOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS), but also our human ways and the history of human institutions and social practices (major elements of what many anthropologists and others call CULTURE) [stress added]." John Terrell and John Hart, 2002, Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts (Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey), page 2.

Darwin connects with "evolution" as well as "history" and I also strongly believe in the following (hierarchical) statement:

"He [Charles Darwin] believed that the natural world was the result of constantly repeated small and accumulative actions, a lesson he had first learned when reading Lyell's Principles of Geology on board the Beagle and had put to work ever since. ... No one, not even Lyell himself, or any of Darwin's closest friends and supporters, accepted as ardently as Darwin that the book of nature was about the accumulative powers of the small [stress added]." Janet Browne, 2002, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place - Volume II of a Biography (NY: Alfred A. Knopf), page 490.

I attempt to incorporate "the accumulative powers of the small" in everything that I do and hence this paper and class participation in ANTH 600 on 19 October 2005. Janet Browne's publications on Darwin are wonderful, but there is one point I would like to make concerning the publication of the aforementioned Charles Lyell (1797-1875): the complete title of Lyell's inspirational 1830 volume (inspirational and perhaps somewhat controversial, because it was given to Darwin by Captain Fitzroy [1805-1865] to read while on H.M.S. Beagle) was as follows: Principles of Geology Being An Attempt To Explain The Former Changes Of the Earth's Surface, By Reference To Causes Now in Operation. Just as Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who inspired both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1917), published his 1798 item in rebuttal to Condorcet (1743-1794), and others, nothing develops out of nothing! The complete title of the 1798 item was An Essay On The Principle of Population, As it Affects The Future Improvement of Society With Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, And other Writers. As written at the beginning of this page: "With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere." In thinking about Darwin, and your own Anthropological interests and skills, I encourage you to consider the following:

"The [1937] Hungarian Nobel Prize winner [in Physiology/Medicine], [Albert] Szent-Györgyi [von Nagyrapolt] [1893-1986], once said that a scientist should see what everybody else has seen and then think what nobody has thought. Nobody did this better than Charles Darwin, who first realized that the evolution of life took place by Natural Selection. Darwin taught us all to see more clearly what everyone had seen, and Darwin also taught us to think, along with him, what no one else had thought. No branch of science is more dominated by a single theory, by a single great idea, than is the whole of biology by the idea of evolution by Natural Selection [stress added]." J. Livingston and L. Sinclair, 1967, Darwin and the Galapagos, no page number.

Travel widely, have an open mind, know your historical facts and perhaps you too will "see what everybody else has seen and think what no one else has thought!" One wonders how many individuals before Darwin were aware of the Enlightenment author Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and his 1753 Pensées sur l'Interpretation de la Nature and his (translated) words:

"It seems that Nature has taken pleasure in varying the same mechanism in an infinity of different ways....She abandons one class of production only after having multiplied the individuals of it in all possible forms." Sean B. Carroll, 2005, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo And The Making Of The Animal Kingdom (NY: W. W. Norton & Company), page137.

Or in another translated version:

"It seems," says Diderot, "that nature has taken pleasure in varying the same mechanism in a thousand different ways. She never abandons any class of her creations before she has multiplied the individuals of it in as many different forms as possible. When one looks out upon the animal kingdom and notes how, among the quadrupeds, all have functions and parts-especially the internal parts-entirely similar to those of another quadruped, would not any one readily believe (ne croirait-on pas volontiers) that there was never but one original animal, prototype of all animals, of which Nature has merely lengthened or shortened, transformed, multiplied or obliterated, certain organs? [stress added]" [from: http://spartan.ac.brocku.ca/~lward/Lovejoy/Lovejoy_1904_2.html} Arthur O. Lovejoy: Some Eighteenth Century Evolutionists II]

 

ON-GOING CONCLUSIONS

"One who makes a close study of almost any branch of science soon discovers the great illusion of the monolith. When he [or she] stood outside as an uninformed layman, he [or she] got a vague impression of unanimity among the professionals. He [or she] tended to think of science as supporting the Establishment with fixed and approved views. All this dissolves as he [or she] works his [or her] way into the living concerns of practicing scientists. He [and she] finds lively personalities who indulge in disagreement, disorder, and disrespect. He [and she] must sort out conflicting opinions and make up his [and her] own mind as to what is correct and who is sound. This applies not only to provinces as vast as biology and to large fields such as evolutionary theory, but even to small and familiar corners such as the species problem. The closer one looks, the more diversity one finds [stress added]." Norman Macbeth, 1971, Darwin Retried: An Appeal To Reason (NY: Dell Publishing Co.), page 18.

Roger M. Keesing (1935-1993), son of the Anthropologist Felix Keesing (1902-1961), has an article entitled "Theories of Culture Revisited" in Borofsky's volume entitled Assessing Cultural Anthropology (pages 301-312) and Keesing writes as follows: "I am saying that what anthropologists and other social theorists need is a concept of the cultural that adequately characterizes both complex modern ways of life and those of small-scale communities, past and present [stress added]. Roger Keesing, 1994, Assessing Cultural Anthropology (Robert Borofsky, Editor), page 309. I think this is impossible: past and present, traditional and modern? In 1974 Keesing wrote of the need to "narrow the concept of 'culture' so that it includes less and reveals more.'" (Roger M. Keesing, 1974, Theories of Culture. pages 73-97, Bernard J. Siegel, Editor, 1974, Annual Review of Anthropology (Palo Alto, CA), page 73.) I'm sorry: I do not know what that means: including less and revealing more?! To paraphrase myself: I have been interested in Anthropology as a student and a professional since 1965 and since then I have come to appreciate many things that anthropologists have written about but also realize that there is also a great deal of "nonsense" that anthropologists have written! Please consider the following illustrative statements:

"Modernism is a term drawn from the study of literature and art. Applied to anthropology, it broadly refers to the years between the 1920s and the mid-1970s.... Analysts suggest that that some of the attributes of modernist writing in anthropology were detachment, the assumption of a position of scientific neutrality, and rationalism. ... Postmodernists challenge these assertions. They maintain that such claims are distorted or, at best, true in only a very limited sense. They believe that objective, neutral knowledge of another culture (or any aspect of the world) is impossible. The postmodernist challenge has led anthropologists to examine the basis of their discipline and engage in a rancorous debate between the two points of view. Post-modernism has been one of the most controversial developments in anthropology....[stress added]." R.J. McGee & R.L. Warms , 2002, Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History (Second Edition) (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co.), page 517.

"Some anthropologists complain that the use of the term modernism is simply a valorization of aesthetics over social science, and in a sense that objection is undeniable. However, so symbiotic has the relationship become between artistic theory and anthropology that a focus upon modernism can no longer be seen as the privileging of literature, say, over social science [stress added]." Marc Manganaro, 1990, Textual Play, Power, and Cultural Critique: An Orientation To Modernist Anthropology. Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text, 1990 (edited by Marc Manganaro), page 5.

"If there is one word which summarizes the anthropological recognition of a postmodern mood, it is irony. And the current rediscovery of irony indicates all the differences between the 'free play' which some descriptions of postmodernism hint at and postmodernist 'play,' if it exists, in anthropological writings. Irony involves not a scrambling but a deliberate juxtaposition of contexts, pastiche perhaps but not jumble [stress added]." Marilyn Stratherhn, 1990, Out Of Context: The Persuasive Fictions Of Anthropology. Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text, 1990 (edited by Marc Manganaro), page 113.

"I take irony to be the central trope of modernism. But just as modernism is no monolith--as Marc Manganaro properly notes in his Introduction, there are many modernisms to consider--neither is irony; there are many ironies to consider, as well. Among ironic figures, let me name four: antiphrasis or negation, aporia or doubt, oxymoron or paradox, and catachresis or misuse [italics in original but stress added]." Arnold Krupat, 1990, Irony In Anthropology: The Work Of Franz Boas. Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text, 1990 (edited by Marc Manganaro), page 136.

"What makes Strathern's reading work is what we might call a double chiasmus, signified by the double juxtaposition Frazer/Malinowski and Malinowski/Frazer. If we were formalists, we might write <F x M> x <M x F>. Or, more hieroglyphically, perhaps...." Stephen A. Tyler and George E. Marcus, 1990, Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text, 1990 (edited by Marc Manganaro), page 125.

"Partly under the influence of Geertz [born 1926 ->] and interpretive anthropology, a more recent heuristic theory, postmodernism (Marcus and Fischer 1986 [Editors, Anthropology and Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences]; Clifford and Marcus 1986 [Editors, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography]; Marcus 1998 [Ethnography Through Thick and Thin]), rejects a scientific approach and all empiricism and positivism in anthropology as false and politically suspect, and rejects any 'master narrative' as one sided. Postmodernism stresses the subjectivity of the researcher and the injustice in treating the subjects of research, the people being studied, as objects. Rejecting any formulation of scientific, substantive, middle range theories, postmodernism has stressed giving 'voice' to the subjects of research so that they can tell their own stories rather than have our theories or interpretations imposed on them. So postmodernism too goes directly from heuristic theory to 'voice,' with no intermediate theoretical formulation [stress added]." Philip Carl Salzman and Patricia C. Rice, 2004, Thinking Anthropologically: A Practical Guide For Students (NJ: Pearson/Prentice-Hall), page 34.

"Postmodernism (Pomo) is an intellectual movement or orientation that promotes itself as the antithesis of modernism. The term itself was introduced by architects in the late 1940s. Of the many intellectual strands that run through postmodernism, the most prominent and important is the disparagement of Western science and technology [stress added]." Marvin Harris, 1999, Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times, page 153.

So much for "modernism" or "post-modernism" in Anthropology. I truly appreciate the translated words of Montaigne (1533-1582): "Just as in dress, any attempt to make oneself conspicuous by adopting some peculiar and unusual fashion is the sign of a small mind, so in language, the quest for new-fangled phrases and little-known words springs from a puerile and pedantic pretension" (Essays, translated by J.M. Cohen, 1958, page 80). I also like the 1994 words of Robin Fox (born in 1934) who wrote on the "literary criticism" model in Anthropology:

"In the reshuffle, a new leaner and meaner anthropology might reconstitute itself, and in doing so it will look to those who kept alive the torch of the synthesizing, holistic science of mankind that is not just an echo in old memories. Truth will be back in fashion; evolution will remain the paradigm, as it must, because it is all there is in the end; science will have advanced on so many specialized fronts that the new anthropology will be able to pick up information beyond its wildest present dreams. It will be there because no other science offers a vision (and a science must offer a vision to succeed) of a unified account of man both in time and space: evolution, history, ethnography. This has always been its claim to uniqueness and remains its only claim to distinction among the sciences. Yet it will have to be reconstituted from the present mess. But the madness will pass in time. What I can't predict is how long this will take [stress added]." Robin Fox, 1994, The Challenge of Anthropology: Old Encounters and New Excursions (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction), page 379.

In the Second edition (2003) of their A History of Anthropological Theory, Paul Erickson and Liam D. Murphy have a section entitled "A Postmodern Dilemma" wherein they point out the following:

"...in a 1999 [sic.] essay published in American Anthropologist [entitled "The Misrepresentation of Anthropology and Its Consequences"], [Herbert] Lewis alerts anthropologists to the discouraging fact that, as much as we might have hope otherwise, those at the helm of postmodernity and disciplinary critique in anthropology have--for all their purported insight--failed to substantially advance their field or even to suggest news [sic.] ways to address those issues that had, until the disciplinary critique became the vogue, been the focus for 'modernist' anthropology. Adding to this bleak evaluation, Lewis subsequently argues that an even bigger problem for the next generation of anthropologists might derive from a growing failure to adequately 'dialogue with the ancestors.' Thus, contemporary undergraduates, and even graduate students, are seldom required to really confront the work of their disciplinary forebears in other than a cursory fashion [stress added]." Paul . Erickson and Liam D. Murphy, 2003, History of Anthropological Theory (Canada: Broadview Press), page 174.

In his own 1998 words, not the wrong date of 1999 as Erickson and Murphy had, Lewis had the following:

"Critiques of anthropology from within the discipline and from without have been a major feature of our intellectual life since the late 1960s. The theoretical and empirical bases of cultural and social anthropology have been under attack since the Marxist and New Left critiques of the 1960s to those coming more recently from poststructuralism, postmodernism and literate theory, and postcolonial and cultural studies. As a result, several academic generations have been educated by reading the attacks on the field but rarely dealing with the actual theoretical works and ethnographies of earlier anthropologists. This article deals with several of the most common charges leveled at anthropology, notably that it has regularly and necessarily exoticized 'Others,' has been ahistorical, and has treated each culture as if it were an isolate, unconnected to any other. It demonstrates how inaccurate and easily falsifiable such claims are and recommends a critical reevaluation of these unexamined and destructive cliches [stress added]." Herbert Lewis, 1998, The Misrepresentation of Anthropology and Its Consequences. American Anthropologist, Vol. 100, No. 3, pages 716-731, page 716.

Aside from the fact that Erickson and Liam (#1) failed to provide the reference to the specific article Herbert Lewis wrote (which would allow the reader of their volume to check the actual article itself and (#2) gave the wrong date of the article in their 2003 History of Anthropological Theory textbook), please note their pointing out (#1) the failure of modernism and (#2) the lack of reading older anthropological writings! Erickson and Liam then go on to quote from a 2002 item in the American Anthropologist by Regna Darnell and Frederick W. Gleach: "We agree with Regna Darnell and Frederick W. Gleach, who, in their introduction to the centennial edition of American Anthropologist, write that we are living in and passing through a 'Janus-faced' moment, in which we are 'looking both to the past and to the future for inspiration [stress added]." (Paul Erickson and Liam D. Murphy, 2003, History of Anthropological Theory (Canada: Broadview Press), page 178.) Please note, the actual wording that Darnell and Gleach wrote introducing the special edition was "...there is a sense of standing at a moment in time to take stock--looking both to the past and to the future for inspiration. It is this Janus-face moment that we celebrate in 2002." Not only did Ericksom and Liam (#1) slightly paraphrase Darnell and Gleach but, again, (#2) they failed to provide the actual reference for their article which is entitled "Introduction" and may be found in the American Anthropologist, Volume 104, Number 2, pages 417-422, page 417.

Alas, sloppy scholarship aside, to this reader Darnell and Gleach and Erickson and Liam strike me as re-stating what Fred Eggan wrote in 1974 concerning Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855): "Kierkegaard says somewhere that life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards...." (Fred Eggan, 1974, Among The Anthropologists. Annual Review of Anthropology, edited by Bernard J. Siegel, Alan R. Beals, and Stephen A. Tyler, pages x-19, page 17.) Almost thirty years after Fred Eggan (1906-1991) said essentially the same thing as Darnell and Gleach in 2002, Erickson and Murphy agree with Darnell and Gleach (and yet they write of the failure to "adequately dialogue with the ancestors" of the discipline!). Anthropology is an important discipline with a great many diverse individuals involved in it and it is a changing discipline; if one is not aware of the past.... As Lewis began to conclude his 1999 essay:

"The followers of Foucault, Edward Said, and Johannes Fabian have managed to do to anthropology what Said says Westerners have done to the Orient or to the Other: invent something that never existed in order to dominate it. Their version of anthropology--their invented anthropology--has served to 'otherize' and marginalize anthropologists and anthropological knowledge [stress added]." Herbert Lewis, 1998, The Misrepresentation of Anthropology and Its Consequences. American Anthropologist, Vol. 100, No. 3, pages 716-731, page 726.

There is an excellent book by Léo F. Laporte about George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) entitled George Gaylord Simpson Paleontologist And Evolutionist (2000). In the body of the text, Laporte has a quote from another fascinating individual, Ernst Mayr (1905-2005), as follows: "Actually most scientific problems are far better understood by studying their history than their logic" (page 195) and this is definitely true when it comes to trying to understand the "history" of the "science" of Anthropology! Please consider, if you will, the words of the prominent American Anthropologist Leslie A. White (1900-1975) when referring to another equally prominent American Anthropologist, namely Franz Boas (1858-1942):

"Boas is like the Bible, you can find anything you want to in his writings. He was not a scientist. Scientists make their arguments with an explicit logical framework. Boas was muddle-headed. Better to read clerical literature, at least the priests know why they hold their opinions! [stress added]." In Lewis R. Binford, 1972, An Archaeological Perspective (NY: Seminar Press), pages 7-8.

Please consider the above words when you read the following statement by Robert Carneiro (born in 1927), of the American Museum of Natural History, who wrote about Leslie A. White (and think about the statement after Carneiro, by William J. Peace):

"Leslie White was, without question, one of the intellectual leaders of contemporary anthropology. But he was more than this. He was one of the major instruments by means of which anthropology became a full-fledged science. When he entered it, anthropology was dominated by a negative and critical particularism. When he left it, it had become a positive, expanding, and generalizing discipline. And this transformation was due in no small part to White's own efforts. He gave anthropology powerful concepts and invigorating theories. In a word, he gave it propulsion [stress added]." Robert l. Carneiro, 1981, Leslie White. In Sydel Silverman [editor], Totems and Teachers: Perspectives on the History of Anthropology (NY: Columbia University Press), pages 209-252, page 210.

So, what does a person believe? The "logic" of the statements or the "history" of the argument? If one does not know of the history, how can one question the logic of the written statements? As John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) once stated in a 1962 commencement address: "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived, and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic." Please consider all of this (as well as the words of Hortense Powdermaker immediately below) when you read the following 2004 statement by William J. Peace:

"Writing a biography about any figure in the history of anthropology is a difficult endeavor. As a group, anthropologists deeply care about their scholarship and the people they study. They also tend to have prickly personalities. In conducting research about the life and career of Leslie A. White [1900-1975] I often felt as though I were traversing a minefield: I never knew when someone was going to blow up in a fury over a question or even the mention of White's name. This was made quite clear to me early on in my research when I contacted an individual who I knew had a serous falling-out with White. I already knew White's belief's about why the friendship had ruptured: I wanted to ask this scholar his interpretation. When several letters went unanswered I decided to telephone, assuming the person did not want to reply in writing. When I identified myself there was a long silence, and then the reply came: 'I have two words to say: Fuck you!' With that he slammed the phone down [stress added]." William J. Peace, 2004, Leslie A. White: Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology (University of Nebraska Press), page xiii.

The anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker (1900-1970) once wrote the following:

"The anthropologist is a human instrument studying other human beings and their societies. Although he [and she!] has developed techniques that give him [and her] considerable objectivity, it is an illusion for him to think he can remove his [or her] personality from his work and become a faceless robot or a machinelike recorder of human events [stress added]." Hortense Powdermaker, 1966, Stranger And Friend: The Way Of An Anthropologist, page 19.

We all have our own unique personalities which influence how we see and interpret the world and my current reflections, completed on October 12 (for discussion on October 19) 2005, are these: (#1) know your history and do your research and read widely and form your own opinion and be willing to change your opinion when you are exposed to new ideas and evidence; (#2) become excellent at something: become the best possible you that you can become not a second-hand somebody else; (#3) be honest with yourself and know your own strengths and weaknesses and have passion in what you do: passion, patience, and persistence and a positive attitude are all important in what you attempt to do in life! If you are a cultural anthropologist, read some original ethnographies; if you are into archaeology or forensic anthropology or museum studies, read some original works by the pioneers of those areas in the fascinating field that is Anthropology! Be prepared to change your opinion and avoid what David Dobbs referred to, in commenting on the opinions of the distinguished Swiss-American naturalist Louis Aggasiz (1807-1873), namely that someone stated that towards the end of his life Aggasiz had "something worse than ignorance" namely "calcification of both mind and ego" (David Dobbs, 2005, Reef of Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Aggasiz, And the Meaning of Coral [NY: Pantheon Books], page 95); and have that positive attitude!

"The most important word in the English language is attitude. Love and hate, work and play, hope and fear, our attitudinal response to all these situations, impresses me as being the guide." Harlen Adams (1904-1997)

Charles Lyell had an interesting phrase in his 1830 Principles of Geology which I believe is true to this day. Reminiscent of the American Poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), who wrote of "The Blind Men and the Elephant," Lyell wrote of creatures which lived within the earth and creatures who lived on the surface of the planet: when the two came together to discuss the world as they knew it, Lyell wrote: "The tenets of the schools of the nether and of the upper world would partake of the prejudices inevitably resulting from the continual contemplation of one class of phenomena to the exclusion of the other" (Principles of Geology, page 82.) We all get accustomed to seeing the world as we believe it to be and there is, indeed, a wealth of information to be had by reading older works and other works than we are accustomed to reading and thinking about. I truly believe that one cannot predict the future but one can certainly prepare for the future; and one prepares for the future by knowing about the past as well as the present!  

 

EPILOGUE

"The secret of being tiresome is to tell everything."
Voltaire [François Marie Arouet] (1694-1778)

These are indeed my personal reflections after more than 40 years of being interested and involved in Anthropology. Many of you are hopefully familiar with the words of Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his immortal 1859 words which begins The Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." And 1859 is the year that Charles R. Darwin published the first edition of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (This is a on-line version of the 1859 edition of "Origin" and please keep in mind that Darwin published five additional editions of "Origin" in his lifetime and every-single-one-is-slightly different!) Another appropriate quote that I like to end this brief paper comes from the American author Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) and we should also keep his words in mind:

"The enormous multiplication of books in every branch of knowledge is one of the greatest evils of this age...it presents one of the most serious obstacles to the acquisition of correct information, by throwing in the reader's way piles of lumber in which he [or she!] must painfully grope for...scraps of useful matter.... [stress added]." Edgar Allen Poe,

Reading the above, I am reminded of the (translated) words of Alphonse Karr (1808-1890): "The more things change, the more they remain the same" (or Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose). One wonder what Poe (or Darwin) would say and do with all of the information (including that which is valid and false and questionable) available on the World Wide Web for those who have access to it! I also appreciate the words of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third President of the United States when he wrote the following:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it."

Jefferson, who had a set of the twenty-eight-volume Encyclopédie compiled by the previously mentioned Denis Diderot, then went on to say: "He who receive an idea from me, receives instruction himself [or herself!] without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receive light without darkening me." I like sharing ideas and information and this is why I teach (and participate in classes such as this.) Please think about all of the information in this page and, if you can, read the 2004 web page and any other items I have provided above. For additional information you might be interested in my web Guidebook prepared for ANTH 496 this semester: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/syllabi/SYL_496-FA2005.html (Proseminar in the History of Theory and Method in Anthropology).

Incidentally, there did not seem to be an appropriate spot in this "reflective" piece until now to bring in the following important information: our son Tom was nine months old when we came to Chico in 1973 and on October 12, 2005, we celebrated his 33rd birthday! Tom, who graduated from CSU, Chico in 1994, was married in 1993 to Julia Murray (who also graduated from CSU, Chico in 1994) and my wife Sadie and I have two wonderful grandchildren ("Lisi" age 9 and Andrew age 7): it is fun to interact with the grandchildren and learn about the world through their young eyes. In addition, although I have been a member of the faculty since August 1973, I have not always been involved in full-time teaching at CSU, Chico. In addition to two sabbatical-type leaves (one for the entire 1988-1989 Academic Year, after I resigned from my administrative position and one for the spring of 1997), for several years I was involved in administrative positions at this institution. For the 1975-1977 Academic Years I was the Social Science Coordinator in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and this meant that I only taught half time each semester. In 1977 I applied for the position of Associate Dean in the Center for Regional and Continuing Education on this campus and I was selected and held that position for the 1977-1988 Academic Years. For the first few years as Associate Dean I taught one course each semester but then became an Administrator for 100% of my time while Associate Dean. Both positions, for a total of thirteen years, taught me quite a bit and contributed to make me the person I am today. Sometime in the 1980s, while in Continuing Education, I created a phrase and shared it with all that I interacted with: I remember this phrase to this day (and I believe the words are appropriate for students, staff, and administrators or all sorts of people): "Believe not thine own bullshit lest thou fall victim to it." (The translated words of the Greek orator Demosthenes [384-322 B.C.] are much more civilized: " Nothing is so easy as to deceive oneself; for what we wish, we readily believe" or in another translation: "Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.") It is truly important to know your own strengths and weaknesses and watch out what you believe in! Avoid "calcification of both mind and ego" or "hardening of the categories!"

Finally, to end with the translated words of the French philosopher and essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1553-1592): "I quote others only the better to express myself" or, in another translation: "I only quote others to make myself more explicit." (Essays, translated by J.M. Cohen, 1958, page 52). I began these "reflections" with C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and end with him:

"What C.S. Lewis called the 'snobbery of chronology' encourages us to presume that just because we happen to have lived after our ancestors and can read books which give us some account of what happened to them, we must also know better than them. We certainly have more facts at our disposal. We have more wealth, both personal and national, better technology, and infinitely more skilful ways of preserving and extending our lives. But whether we today display more wisdom or common humanity is an open question, and as we look back to discover how people coped with the daily difficulties of existence a thousand [or less!] years ago, we might also consider whether, in all our sophistication, we could meet the challenges of their world with the same fortitude, good humour, and philosophy" [stress added]." Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger, 1999, The Year 1000: What Life Was Like At The Turn of the First Millennium - An Englishman's World, page 201.
# # #


1. ©[All Rights Reserved.] Placed on the World Wide Web on October 12, 2005, for Professor William Loker's ANTH 600 (Core Seminar in Anthropology) on October 19, 2005, at California State University, Chico.To return to the beginning of this paper, please click here.

# # #

 [~9,597 words]


To go to the home page of Urbanowicz, please click here;

Department of Anthropology;

to California State University, Chico.

[This page printed from http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/ANTH600Fall2005.html]


Copyright © 2005; all rights reserved by Charles F. Urbanowicz

Modest cosmetic changes on 19 October 2005 by cfu

# # #