[Air-L] Reputation and professional degrees

Chris Hodge chodge5 at utk.edu
Tue Jan 5 09:24:14 PST 2010

I believe that the anthropologist Richard Leakey, who is currently a
Professor at SUNY Stonybrook, had no formal college education
although he's received many honorary doctorates. I don't think anyone
would question his bona fides, just as I am sure most of us envy his
education. Also, when I studied history at Columbia back in the 1970s,
I was a little surprised to learn that one of my professors, Alan
Cameron, did not have a PhD either. Cameron is currently Charles
Anthon Professor of the Latin Language and Literature at Columbia

Generally a PhD reflects a certain degree of expertise -- although,
like friends on FB, we should probably be careful not to read too much
into that -- but mostly it reflects a commitment to the academic
system and its processes.

Where this gets muddier it seems to me is in areas such as emerging
technologies, where an 18 year old dropout might have a greater grasp
of a subject that a 60 year old tenured faculty member.
Professionalization seems to be weakening across disciplines, and
trying to emerge is a more dynamic, more disperse, more ambient
reputation system. We aren't surprised any more to find out the
"person" we're talking with on the Internet is a dog, but we are still
shocked when the dog turns out to be smarter than we are.


On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 4:49 PM, Sam Ladner <samladner at gmail.com> wrote:
> Of course this begs the question: what is the <redacted> text? I must know!
> Your inquiry I think is one of professionalization. Academics in general
> haven't been as successful at that process than, say, physicians (any of you
> been called "not a 'real' doctor'"? Extra points if it was by family
> member!). Physicians monopolized a set of knowledge and successfully
> organized the socio-legal framework to their benefit. They have placed other
> professionals below them in a hierarchy (nurses, physiotherapists, etc.) and
> locked down that social convention by having exclusive legal control over
> prescriptions.
> Anthropologists have failed to do the same (as have sociologists, FWIW). The
> only occupational control anthropologists have had thus far is guarding
> entry into the academy as a professor. You can call yourself an
> anthropologist as much as you want, but you just can't teach other
> anthropologists. Heck, I've met several "economists" who "only" have an MA.
> Now that said, I happen to think the PhD matters (under 25? irrelevant). It
> suggests a certain level of expertise, and of course the ability to teach
> that expertise.
> But it makes me uncomfortable to relegate someone to "non anthropologist"
> when there is no legal provision to certify that professional status, as
> there are with engineers, physicians, and accountants.
> ~~~~~
> Sam Ladner, PhD
> Sociologist
> Toronto
> On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM, live <human.factor.one at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I actually have an inquiry that is related, and I'm highly curious what
>> the list response is:
>> I've someone I know who is calling themselves a '<redacted term>
>> anthropologist'.
>> As such, they have been invited to speak and have been presenting at
>> various conferences.
>> They do not have a PhD and they're under the age of 25, having just
>> graduated from college.
>> Is this ethical? Can a term 'psychologist' or anthropologist' be used by
>> someone not having attended graduate education?
>> What say this list?
>> On Jan 4, 2010, at 11:50 AM, Chris Hodge wrote:
>>> I can understand people misrepresenting the nature of their personal
>>> contacts for self-aggrandizement (FB body counts), and I can
>>> understand people misrepresenting associations and affiliations for
>>> professional gain (fictitious advisory boards). As sins go, I guess
>>> I'm not sure this is much worse than resume-padding.
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