Mirrored Images: American Anthropology and American Culture, 1960-1980

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Intellectuals Shift

Since the inception of Anthropology as an academic discipline in the United States, there have been debates about its identity as a science, social science, or a humanity. On a broader scale these concerns are, as noted, part of epistemology and method and the narrowness or scope of their definitions. Specifically, they have significance as part of the content and structure of fieldworker ethnographies.

Fieldwork ethnographers were educated in an intellectual and academic world in which science and interpretation were already seen as conflicting, even competing, paradigms of practice. This chapter focuses on the shifting and overlapping intellectual frames of Anthropology, especially as they permeated the intellectual milieu in which fieldwork ethnographers began their undergraduate education and to which they returned following their fieldwork experience. Discussions already in place in the 1950s regarding rules and roles of science and scientists (e.g., Barzun 1961; Toulmin 1961) were engaged with new intensity as politics, population, specialization, and fragmentation in a shifting and disrupted political, social, and economic setting pressed on viewpoints and perspectives. While fieldwork ethnographers were away in the field in the late 1960s, exchanges between anthropologists holding differing views of paradigms of practice and their constituent elements changed from discussion to argument. By the 1970s the fragmentation of the discipline's intellectual underpinnings was claimed by anthropologists with divergent viewpoints in terms familiar in other realms, as a crisis, this time, intellectual.

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