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The Oxford Bibliographies

Today’s guest blog post is written by AAA member, John L. Jackson, Jr. John is a Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Oxford University Press has created a new and ambitious online project, Oxford Bibliographies, which attempts to provide scholars, students, and other interested readers with introductions to important topics and themes from many academic fields/disciplines. Anthropology’s module was launched last month, and I have agreed to help edit that particular module. Oxford was able to put together a strong editorial board for the project, which included scholars from all four of American anthropology’s major sub-fields: archaeology, linguistic anthropology, physical/biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. These nine scholars helped to select and vet the entries on various topics (including applied anthropology, cultural evolution, public archaeology, language ideology, globalization and many more). All in all, OB’s Anthropology site contains 50 entries penned by scholars from across the country and the world, including Tobias Kelly on Legal Anthropology, Vernon J. Williams on Franz Boas, Jeremy Sabloff on public archaeology, Neni Panourgia on interpretive anthropology, Kudzo Gavua on ethnoarchaeology, John Trumper on ethnoscience, Judith Irvine on Language Ideology, and Christina Campbell on primatology (just to name a few).

Although I don’t consider anthropology’s four fields a “sacred bundle” never to be disassembled under any circumstances, I am intrigued by the idea of forcing myself to learn more about the four farthest corners of this sprawling and hubris-filled discipline that imagines itself to cut across the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Oxford’s new initiative will allow anthropologists to think about how much we might really gain from conversations across the intradisciplinary domains that often divide us. Oxford’s intervention will help us to see how physical anthropologists and cultural anthropologists might differently approach topics. For example, we can determine what kind of reviewer an urban anthropologist working in contemporary Latin America would make for a piece on “the histories of cities” crafted by an archaeologist. Or we can ask a physical anthropologist and a cultural anthropologist to pen two different entries for, say, “race” or “gender.” I’m intrigued to see what (hopefully productive!) sparks might fly from such four-fielded contact, and I’ve already learned so much about those other anthropological spheres during the build-up to this year’s launch. Check out the new site. 50 new entries will launch every January, and current entries will be revised and updated throughout the year.

Also, please feel free to let me know if there is a topic/entry you’d like to suggest and/or author.

Bookmark Oxford Bibliographies, today: oxfordbibliographiesonline.com

How can archaeologists improve the prospects for a sustainable world?

The following is an extended column by Archeology Division Contributing Editor E Christian Wells. A shorter version appears in the March 2011 AN. Comments are welcome.

In this editorial, I invite readers to contribute articles to the AD column throughout 2011 that address archaeology’s role in making the world a more sustainable place and helping us understand what is and what is not sustainable.

The question posed in the title of this essay is one considered by Jerry Sabloff in his highly popular book, Archaeology Matters (Left Coast Press, 2008), which outlines some of the ways in which archaeologists are addressing contemporary global problems with historical data from pre-modern civilizations. A similar issue was raised in a recent (2010) issue of The SAA Archaeological Record (10[4]) by Mike Smith, who asks “Just how useful is archaeology for scientists and scholars in other disciplines?” Sabloff and Smith are not alone in their interrogations. Archaeologists are increasingly exploring how their research can be action oriented and integrated into other knowledge seeking enterprises.

My impression from examining some of these contributions over the past few years is that many such efforts can be characterized as various forms of outcome-driven sustainability science, in which the goal is to better understand changes—both adaptive and resilient—in the human trajectory. For archaeologists, this means applying the insights that we uncover from our shared past to engage the large questions of the human condition. And, importantly, this also means finding new and effective ways of communicating how our research is relevant to these global grand challenges.

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