Public or Perish

8 thoughts on “Public or Perish”

  1. In a rapidly changing global market place and world of competing ideas and intellectual brands, Dr. Sabloff is pointing to the major weakness in the anthropological establishment today — a failure to adapt to the public (i.e. market) demand, or need, for anthropological services.

    Margaret Mead, Indian Jones, and T. “Bones” Brennan are the public icons of anthropology today.

    One, a real person Margaret Mead, expressed the brand’s values and ideals of the mid-20th century promoting human rights, decolonization, technical change in the third world and social justice in the West.

    Two represent fictional stereo-types. One, Indian Jones presents the grave robbing archeologist in government service collecting artifacts for the museum.

    And the second, “Bones,” presents a brilliant, idealized, emotionally detached, forensic technician who makes occasional “cultural” quips and who works for the FBI.

    Of the real anthropologists presented to the public, the archeologist is probably the most well recognized by the public through PBS’ NOVA series, and the History Channel. But even here, there are no “stars” or “celebrity” personalities who can promote the brand.

    As an applied practitioner, the very lack of a clear public brand identity for modern (21st century) anthropology inhibits the marketability of my anthropological identity. Instead I have had more success marketing my MBA while using my anthropological knowledge and skills to serve my clients..

    In today’s market, “celebrity” sells. It sells products, ideas, causes and services. Anthropologists and the anthropological establishment need to heed Dr. Sabloff’s message and act on it.

  2. Thankfully someone has finally stood up and wanted the title back!
    Anthropology has been stuck in the postmodern discourse of what the *bleep* it is supposed to be. It has become a snake eating its tail. While scholars are debating what side of the fence to shit on people around the world are fighting to change the world just to be able to survive. It is the height of arrogance when you have the great possibilities as anthropologist does, to debate, when you can expose and reveal.
    Rip off the damn elbow patches and death to the corduroy jacket postmodernist debate. Time to become active.

  3. “. . .other scientific fields have their iconic scholars . . .” according to Professor Sabloff. We wonder what happened to Anthropology and its once public image of scientific authority on matters of compelling human importance? I suggest that we consider the implications of an Anthropology that now formally eschews science; the new mission statement promulgated in New Orleans by the Executive Board purges from the old statement every reference to science.Why should the public listen to us? This is but the latest instance of a discipline in which large segments within it have over the last twenty-five years made determined efforts to undermine its own authority.

  4. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And since academics have no reward or accountability for reaching out, while anthropologists outside the campus have concerns with delivering product or service to clients, there are few champions, except by serendipity rather than design (e.g. Deborah Tannen’s wide readership). Yet those few that Mead identifies who take an active interest in Public Anthro surely can make incremental, small steps that add up to wider currency for the anthro perspective. Take heart and press onward!

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