Since I am in the middle of a road trip across the country (and since my hotel check-out time is looming oh so near), I am going to keep this one short. Ya, I know all about the clashes between the different sub-fields of anthropology. I have heard all about the histories of the departmental split at Stanford, and how biological anthropologists, linguistic anthros, archaeologists, and cultural anthropologists sometimes just can't seem to get along. Some of the biggest divisions and clashes--whether philosophical, methodological, or even personal--exist between cultural anthropologists and biological anthropologists. I understand the arguments between these two children of anthropological thought, but I have never really felt that they were so insurmountable as to warrant outright disciplinary meltdowns. Some folks seem to argue that biological and cultural anthropology have certain irreconcilable differences, and that they therefore belong in completely different spheres. But I don't buy it. Maybe it's because of the fact that I was trained in more than one four-field program, but I really do not see the need (or the use) for all of the discord between the different anthropological perspectives and approaches. In fact, I still think that having all of these perspectives is incredibly valuable--and productive.
Now, don't read me wrong. I am not saying that there are no differences between cultural, biological, archaeological, and linguistic anthropology. There are plenty of differences, and this is precisely why there is so much potential for conversation, collaboration, and dialog. Sometimes it's good to look at things in a completely different manner of perspective. Productive collaboration and dialog can indeed come from very different--and even competing--perspectives. While the majority of my own training has been in cultural anthropology (with archaeology coming in second), I have always gained immensely from keeping up with what's going on in the other territories of anthropology. I think it's pretty fascinating to see how different anthropologists approach similar or overlapping problems. Being open to different ways of looking at and thinking about human behavior has immense benefits.
Granted, I am coming from from a particular US-based, four-field perspective. In other parts of the globe, what I would call sub-fields of anthropology are arranged in some pretty different ways. But my argument still stands: even if all of the fields of anthropology are considered completely different disciplines, I still think there is plenty of room for synergistic collaboration. Does this mean that all anthropologists need to sit around a campfire and start singing sappy songs together? Nope. My argument is that actually listening to one another--and taking the time to really understand different perspectives and arguments--would be a lot more interesting than maintaining personal and academic divisions based upon self-imposed disciplinary boundaries. Even more importantly, creative, productive dialog does not require complete agreement. It can, in fact, benefit tremendously from the knowledge that arises from intersecting--and divergent--points of view.
This issue features essays by Kristina Killgrove, Kristi Lewton, Britteny Howell, Amanda Ellwanger, Nicholas Ellwanger, and Erin Blankenship-Sefczek. Britteny Howell also put together a good selection of readings in biological anthropology--feel free to add more references in the comments section if you want! Thanks to all of you for taking part!