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Anthropology Weighs In On the Marriage Debate in New Public Journal

OpenAnthropology728x90_2Open Anthropology is the newest publication of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). It is a digital-only publication that will be provided to the public free of charge. This is the first AAA publication that uses responsive design and is readable on mobile devices, such as iPhones.

In providing this journal to the public, AAA is alerting its members and other interested audiences that it is committed to examining new approaches to journal publishing, and that some of these potential options include “open access” models for in-demand content.

In its inaugural issue, Open Anthropology editor Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, CUNY) curates AAA’s finest articles on marriage and other arrangements. In the issue’s ten articles and two book reviews, Waterston provides a cross-cultural sampling of the anthropological research on the subject. Waterston notes that in this issue, “Cutting through the nonsense thought and dangerous talk, anthropologists set the record straight on marriage and other arrangements.”

Content in Open Anthropology will be culled from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and will be freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue will be dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications. “We hope that Open Anthropology will help make anthropology and anthropologists more visible outside the academy and expand our role in important social issues and policy discussions” says AAA President, Leith Mullings.

Open Anthropology is available at http://www.aaaopenanthro.org.

Scientists Respond to The New York Times

For the third time in three years, The New York Times has published an article by Nicholas Wade (12/20/10, 12/13/10, and again on February 18, 2013) that includes misrepresentations of the American Anthropological Association’s views on science, ethics, and the role of debate in the advancement of knowledge. Some have found their way into the recent article by Emily Eakin in The New York Times Magazine Section (2/17/13). In light of these misrepresentations, we present for the record the exact wording of core guiding documents of the Association.

The American Anthropological Association’s Statement of Purpose (Mission Statement) last amended in 1983 reads as follows: “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.”

The AAA’s Long Range Plan, revised April 22, 2011, states: “The American Anthropological Association will support the growth, advancement and application of anthropological science and interpretation through research, publication, and dissemination within a broad range of educational and research institutions as well as to the society at large.”

Furthermore, while AAA does not take sides in intellectual disputes among individual members, the Association remains committed to ethical practice and to robust debate about disciplinary ethics. The Long Range Plan states: “The AAA will reinforce and promote the values associated with the acquisition of anthropological knowledge, expertise, and interpretation. This includes a commitment to the AAA Code of Ethics.” The new version of that code, now entitled AAA Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility, was released in 2012. The Statement reflects the multiyear efforts of two different working groups and an Association-wide discussion of draft versions. The final version was adopted by vote of the membership in 2012.

Finally, the Association continues to view lively debate as key to knowledge production. Disagreements about what is good science and what is bad science do not translate into an attack on science.

Indiana Jones is to Anthropology as Fred Flintstone is to Neolithic Life

Below is a copy of the Letter to the Editor of the New York Times Magazine by President Mullings in response to the recent article by Emily Eakin.

To the Editor,

While we recognize that the figure of Indiana Jones is attractive, it is about as useful for understanding anthropology as Fred Flintstone is for understanding life in the Neolithic. Your article perpetuates an outdated and narrow stereotype of our profession. The 11,000 members of the American Anthropological Association alone actually spend their time doing a vast array of things. Today’s anthropologists can be found in such diverse endeavors as leading the World Bank, designing health care for areas devastated by disaster, or researching  the causes of the 2008 recession or the deaths of 100 boys in a defunct reform school in Florida. The  representation of a field paralyzed by  debates about  ‘science, ’ vs. ‘advocacy ’ is similarly inaccurate, given the non-polarized ways most anthropologists today understand ‘science’, ‘advocacy’ and the nature of the field. The article also misses one of Napoleon Chagnon’s lasting legacies to our field: the reminder to engage in constant reflection about anthropological ethics. The American Anthropological Association recently did just that, releasing its new Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility in October 2012. Finally, we consider lively debate neither dangerous nor self-serving: it is a key to knowledge.

Leith Mullings
American Anthropological Association
Distinguished Professor
Graduate Center, City University of New York

AAA Members – Cast Your Vote

Have you read the memo sent to your inbox from AAA President, Leith Mullings regarding the vote on merging the Society for Economic Anthropology into the American Anthropological Assocation?

If you’ve missed it or would like to read it again, click here. Cast your vote today!

Below is an excerpt:

Mullings_LeithAAA has been in discussions for some time now regarding a possible incorporation of the Society for Economic Anthropology (SEA) as an AAA section. This is a terrific opportunity for both associations, and we have worked hard to make it possible. The SEA has already voted in favour; in order to complete the process our own membership must also vote by the end of this calendar year. Below you will find detailed information about the process, about the SEA, and about what a merger implies for the AAA, as well as a link to the ballot itself. The Executive Board is in favour, and we hope you will also share our view that this would be a positive step for us to take.

To access the ballot and vote,you can login through the Account/Member Profile LOGIN area at the top of the page of the AAA website (www.aaanet.org). You can access theAAA Siteusing your favorite browser. Once you login,make sure you are on the My Information Page, once there,you will see a VOTE NOW button. Click on it and you will be taken to the ballot where you can cast your vote. If you have any difficulties or questions, please email us at elections@aaanet.org Deadline for voting is December 20, 2012.

For background information and complete merger information, click here.

Top Six Black Anthropologists

The Network Journal reporter, Herb Boyd has named the top six African-American anthropologists in his recent article A Select Six Black Anthropologists. Of the six, the top five are AAA Members:

Dr. Leith Mullings Marable is a distinguished professor of Anthropology at CUNY’s Graduate Center and president-elect of the American Anthropological Association. In her research she has applied a feminist and a critical theory of race to her essays and books in a most objective and productive way. The role of women in Africa has received a considerable amount of her research time and commitment. One significant contribution in this regard is her book On Our Own Terms: Race, Class and Gender in the Lives of African-American Women, (New York: Routledge, 1997). Dr. Marable also devoted much of her immense insight and knowledge of African-American history and culture to a number of other books that she co-authored with her late husband, Dr. Manning Marable. To this end she was vitally involved in his completion of Malcolm X:  A Life of Reinvention (Viking, 2011)

For several years Dr. Lee Baker was happily ensconced at Columbia University and working in close association with Dr. Manning Marable and his wife, Dr. Leith Mullings Marable.  But currently he is dean of Academic Affairs at Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of cultural anthropology and African and African-American Studies at Duke University.  Among the many things that commend him as a scholar and author is his book From Savage to Negro—Anthropology and the Construction of Race: 1896-1954 (University of California Press at Berkeley, 1998).  The book, in effect, should have been titled Black Anthropology because it illustrates with brilliant writing and analysis the conjunction of the discipline and race.  He deftly navigates that tricky legal terrain where black life has always hung in the balance.
Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is perhaps the nation’s most celebrated black female anthropologist, having received her doctorate in science from Northwestern University with a fruitful academic stop at Oberlin College.  Several notable colleges have been beneficiaries of her considerable learning and teaching skills, which was the ballast she needed to become, in 1987, the first black woman president of Spelman College.  After a decade leading Spelman, Dr. Cole returned to the classroom as a distinguished professor at Emory University and, subsequently back into the administrative life as president of Bennett College for Women.  Currently, she is director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.   She is also the chairwoman of the board of her own Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute.  Recently, Dr. Cole received the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award, just one of a collection awards she has garnered as an author and educator.

Among his many academic duties, Dr. Arthur Spears is a professor and chair of the anthropology department at City College of New York.  In the recent past, he also chaired the college’s Black Studies Department.   A renowned linguist, he founded Transforming Anthropology, the journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists, which is affiliated with the American Anthropological Association.  He is comfortable teaching in four languages—English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, all of which served him well in his steady climb to anthropological prominence.  His most recent books include The Haitian Creole Language: History, Structure, Use, and Education (co-editor; Lexington/Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), Black Language in the English-Speaking Caribbean and U.S.: History, Structure, Use, and Education (editor; Lexington/Rowman & Littlefield, 2010).

Because she has been so productive for such a long period of time, it seems Dr. Audrey Smedley has been around forever.  I arrived too late to have her as a teacher at Wayne State University in Detroit where she was a professor in the anthropology department.  But her scholarship kept her in view across the years, especially her phenomenal work on the issue of race, and her definition of the concept has become one of the most cited.  “Race is an ideology that says that all human populations are divided into exclusive and distinct groups; that all human populations are ranked, they are not equal. Inequality is absolutely essential to the idea of race. The other part is that the behavior of people is very much part of their biology,” she told an interviewer several years ago. And it is this kind of cogent, well-thought out explication that has earned Dr. Smedley such longstanding recognition and acclaim. She is currently a professor of anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University.   


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