[URBANTH-L]Re: Theory vs. Application?...

Anthony D'Andrea afdandre at uchicago.edu
Sun May 1 17:25:54 EDT 2005

There is lots of room for purely theoretical and applied 
endeavors in science. Actually, being anthropology "the study 
of", applied anthropology is the study of its applications, not 
the application itself. Application is the stuff of social 
workers, managers, and activists - not anthropologists as such. 
(Or so I learned with Max Weber).

In any case, research policies should never be determined by the 
promise of applicability. Many revolutionary contributions come 
from purely theoretical speculations. Imagine, the applicability 
of theologian discussions between Einstein and Heisenberg: bye 
bye quantum physics...

In this connection, I was surprised to see the word "pomo" 
popping up on my screen, this old scapegoat for whatever we don't 
like or understand in academics. Read some British sociology and 
we will find how socially _relevant_ "pomo" has become. Read 
anthropology journals and we will find how wasteful and 
meaningless much of our discipline has become, along with other 
social sciences and humanities... Lack of "applicability", 
maybe?... Lack of meaning, lack of impact? What is that?

Hyper-specialization is a quite serious problem. It is worse than 
publishing about technicalities that only a handful of experts 
are interested in. We limit ourselves to voice or to patronize 
our own natives. And other than minor conceptual bridges, 
anthropology is currently incapable of dialoguing with other 
social sciences and humanities at large. And that's where the 
real danger is.

Let the apple fall on the philosopher's head in peace...

Anthony D'Andrea

"Keep the lamps burning, because love
  does not come from those who sleep." (Pascal)
Anthony Albert Fischer D'Andrea
PhD Candidate, Dept. Anthropology, University of Chicago
Lecturer, International Studies Program
Research Associate, Transnationalism Project
1126 E 59th St., Chicago, Il, 60637  USA
Phone: 001 (773) 684-2535
Fax:   001 (773) 702-4503

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