[URBANTH-L]Feedback for Upcoming AN Issue: Biological Anthropology's Separation from the Field?

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Fri Jun 17 11:33:44 EDT 2005

Dear SUNTA folks,

Our Secretary, Elzbieta Gozdziak, wishes to receive your feedback on the
issue of the biological wing of anthropology's separation from the
anthropology department at Harvard, or in other departments (see below).
The issue will be discussed in an upcoming issue of Anthropology News.
Please email your comments to Elzbieta at: emg27 at georgetown.edu

Angela Jancius

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Anthropology News
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2005 16:27:03 -0400
From: Stacy Lathrop slathrop at aaanet.org

Dear Contributing Editors,

Earlier this month a preliminary proposal was put forth by the biological
wing of Harvard's department of anthropology to leave the department and
establish its own.  I paste below the Crimson story on this.  Currently Mary
Shenk is researching this story for AN so that we might report on it this
fall.   Yet, several individuals have suggested that AN provide a forum to
discuss the following questions:

1) Is this move by the biological wing at Harvard the wave of the future for
other anthropology departments?  If so, what are the factors that are
driving such a move.  Is it issues of recognition of different
theoretical/methodological frameworks?  Is it issues of different funding
mechanisms and needs of the different sub-fields?

2) Can anyone provide examples of where anthropologists that are split by
various issues (theoretical/methodological frameworks, areas of research
focus, different infrastructural and funding needs) are still able to
recognize, appreciate and work with each other in ways that each can see
that the other "side" can inform their own research?   I would like to find
some good examples of where this kind of synergy has a track record of

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions on this.  Please
send them to my by Wed, July 6, if possible, although I will still welcome
them at a later date.

With thanks and best wishes,

Stacy Lathrop

ps -  Just a friendly reminder that August 15 is the deadline for the
October issue of AN.  We will not publish Section News in the September
issue so that we might print the preliminary program.


Published on Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Bio-Anthro Profs Seek Own Dept.
Plan for Human Evolutionary Biology program would need Faculty
Council approval

Crimson Staff Writer

The biological anthropology wing of Harvard's Department of
Anthropology has submitted a preliminary proposal to leave the
department and establish its own.

Citing a disconnect between biological anthropology and the
focus of the rest of the 119-year-old anthropology department,
the biological anthropologists wrote a 13-page report, obtained
by The Crimson, that calls for a new Department of Human
Evolutionary Biology (HEB) with its own undergraduate
concentration and Ph.D. program.

Members of the full anthropology department met yesterday
afternoon for the first time to discuss the proposal. A
professor at the meeting, who asked not to be named, said it was
"very congenial" and that no key decisions were made.

The proposal, the professor said, "represents what I think is a
long-running desire by the biological anthropology wing to be
recognized as more of a life science and not to be subject to
review or critique by social anthropology."

The new department would report to Harvard's dean for the life
sciences, rather than to the dean for the social sciences, to
which the Department of Anthropology is accountable.

The department's current structure, the proposal argues, is
inadequate and restrictive for biological anthropologists.

"Remaining in anthropology, whose intellectual bases are rooted
in the social sciences (and, increasingly, in the humanities)
does not fully reflect the nature of the field in terms of
either research or teaching," the report reads.

The proposal also requests a "University-wide initiative to
facilitate and support research in all aspects of human
evolution," to be called the "Harvard Human Evolution

Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby said he was aware of the
proposal, and said it would have to be approved by the Faculty
Council and then the full Faculty before it goes into effect.

Reflecting the preliminary nature of the discussions, two
members of the council contacted yesterday said that they had
not heard of the proposal.

The possible division would not be unprecedented. In 1998,
Stanford's anthropology department divided into
twoanthropological sciences and cultural and social
anthropology. And the anthropology departments of Princeton; the
University of California, Berkeley; and the University of
Chicago, among others, are already without biological
anthropology tracks.

The core problem with Harvard's department, the proposal argues,
is its disparate nature.

"It is impossible for a single department structure to be broad
enough to encompass the reality of what is now included in
anthropology," it reads.

Three professors in Harvard's Department of Organismic and
Evolutionary Biologywhich is closely linked to biological
anthropologyconfirmed that the proposal had been made.

One of them, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
David Haig, said he expects the department to split eventually
along the lines suggested in the proposal.

"The anthropology department sort of functioned for quite some
time as a loose federation of social anthropology, biological
anthropology, and archeology," Haig said. "So I think in some
sense [the proposal] is just a recognition of the defect that
exists in the Department of Anthropology."

According to the report, the new department would use research
in genetics and the evolution of humans, and their close
relatives, to help explain "the genetic versus environmental
underpinnings" of how people look, act, and function. The
department would also study "what selective forces operated at
different times in human evolution."

Discussion of the structure of the HEB concentration is still
ongoing, the report says, but it would combine the existing
biological anthropology concentration with a series of courses
in biology and other sciences. The new concentration would
require 12 half-courses, rather than the 10 currently needed for
a non-honors anthropology concentration.

The professor at yesterday's meeting stressed the preliminary
nature of the report.

"It's a very real proposal," the professor said, "but it's
nowhere near a fait accompli."

Staff writer Anton S. Troianovski can be reached at
atroian at fas.harvard.edu.

Stacy Lathrop
Managing Editor
Anthropology News
American Anthropological Association
2200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201-3357
Tel 703/528-1902, ext 3005
Fax 703/528-3546
slathrop at aaanet.org

Elzbieta M. Gozdziak, Ph.D.
Research Director
Institute for the Study of International Migration
Georgetown University
3307 M Street NW
Suite 302
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-687-2193
Fax: 202-687-2541
e-mail: emg27 at georgetown.edu

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