[Air-L] anthropology is not a science?

Andrew Calabrese Andrew.Calabrese at Colorado.EDU
Tue Jan 8 19:26:39 PST 2008

Apologies for the two previous blank messages. For some reason, when I
converted text from HTML to plain, it disappeared after I hit "send." At
least that's how it appeared on my screen after sending (and seeing the
blank postings). Anyway, here's what I sent:


It seems like this topic has been made relevant to this list, or least I'm
enjoying reading about it. Although I'm not an anthropologist, it's clear
that a growing number of anthropologists are contributing to the body of
research knowledge about the Internet. Moreover, scholars from a variety of
fields (anthropology, sociology, psychology, communication) have been
pushing the boundaries of ethnographic methods by studying Internet use. I'm
guessing that anthropologists and ethnographers from other fields would have
a lot of interest in this topic, given its implications for research about
such things as the impact of the Internet on immigration patterns, the
Internet's role in the maintenance of disaporic communities, how religious
and ethnic identities are sustained through the uses of the Internet, and
much more. 

As for the disagreement at hand, about whether anthropology is a "science,"
I'm skeptical that there is a compelling argument for why it is not, but
it's an interesting topic for respectful disagreement in any case. The
assertion that anthropology is "not a science" (whatever that means)
probably doesn't sit well with many anthropologists who study Internet use,
or with other Internet researchers who employ methods that originated in
anthropology, as well as with others on the list who'd simply like to be
enlightened as to what the standards are that are used to judge whether
their research is scientific. Many philosophers of science characterize
scientific theories as highly formalized arguments, and the purpose of
scientific inquiry as efforts not to prove that such arguments are right,
but rather to systematically demonstrate weaknesses and limitations in
claims to the contrary. Based on that presumption of the purpose of science,
I think it would be easy enough to show that such contributions are made by
anthropologists all the time. As to the fact that the objects and conditions
of analysis that anthropologists choose to study are often not replicable
and may not lend themselves easily to the statistical measurement of
regularities and explained variance, this does not disqualify anthropology
as "science," unless we are prepared to say the same about the work of many
astronomers, geologists and other natural scientists. 

Andrew Calabrese
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Colorado

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Barry Saunders
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 7:10 AM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-L] Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development


i'm not quite sure how the original post relates to this list, for that


Barry Saunders
PhD Candidate // researcher
ph: 07 3138 0155
skype: barry_saunders
CRICOS No. 00213J

From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org [air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On
Behalf Of Alexis Turner [subbies at redheadedstepchild.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2008 12:05 AM
Subject: Re: [Air-L] Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development

While no doubt a fascinating topic of conversation, I am not able to see
that this directly relates to Internet research and would like to politely
suggest we nip this conversation in the bud immediately.  There are more
appropriate forums.

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