The first series of debates fell short of the objective due to the fact that I didn’t clearly define procedures on how we should go about conducting it. I would like, therefore, to make another attempt at setting up this series. The process for selecting debaters is rather cumbersome, so I will ask for volunteers that are willing to take up or oppose a given issue. I would like to adopt the following:
1. Debate starts with the reading of the operative question and the selection of participants;
2. This will be followed by a brief period for points of clarification;
3. Debate is set to a minimum of 2 rounds but can be extended upward to four if requested by either participant;
4. Although there is no specific length to statements or rebuttal, we ask that debate be as concise and to the point as possible;
5. Following completion of the rounds, the operative question will be opened to discussion from the membership;
6. Participants may be asked if they are open to points of information following their respective rounds; and
7. Points of inquiry from the membership (to the participant) can only be made following the complete series of rounds.
8. After a period of one week, we will move to the next operative question.
We ask that all participants refrain from any sort of deliberately obstructive comments. Also, I would like to thank all the participants and those who thought this might be a worthwhile exercise.
A challenge that commonly appears in Western anthropological critique is the dichotomy that exists between the celebrated place of academic theory and the practical involvements and experience derived from fieldwork. QUES: Is this a major source of the problems and confusions in contemporary anthropology?
Keith, that was actually an attempt at rhetorical sarcasm.
Sorry, I do not mean to change the sense and structure of your questioning. I just think that it will be clearer, more focused, and somewhat profound if the question is: "Should theory (framework) dictate practice (fieldwork) or the other way around?" or something like that.
It's just a suggestion. You can ignore it if it does not make sense.
Neil Turner said:To M. Izabel and Nikos,
In reference to your comments, are these points of clarification? Please advise.
The practice of dividing themselves between the academy and the field is still a major source of contemporary anthropologists' problems. Discuss for and against.
If one sticks to the terms of the motion as re-framed by Keith, then I'd be interested to see what a defence of it might look like.
As it stands, I'm inclined to argue against it, in so far as the problem of the relation between the field and the academy is, in an important sense, what defines the project of anthropology as such. To be sure, the motion speaks of divisions and dichotomies rather than relations, but it seems to me that the 'problem' is productive and affirmative, rather than troublesome or divisive. However, everything depends on how one does the 'dividing', or on which way the relation is understood to run.
J.G. Frazer, for example, had a very clear idea of the division and the relation. In his own anthropological manifesto from 1921, he advocated a strict division between 'observers' in the field and 'theorists' in the university (no prizes for guessing on which side of the divide Frazer saw himself). The job of the observers is to go out and gather 'facts' which the theorists then examine in order to produce 'ideas'. In this set-up, ethnography on the periphery just generates data for the academic centre, in charge of determining both the problems and the solutions.
A very different notion conceives of the relation in reverse. Here, the field generates problems that scandalize academic solutions by putting them in question. This way of phrasing it is Viveiros de Castro's, but the notion is old. In 1800, Degerando foresaw that, 'while philosophers [spend] time in vain disputes in their schools about the nature of humanity' the anthropologist could actually be out there, learning from people about how they are.
Of course, there are some who think that anthropology should be moved out of the academy altogether, in which case, we would need a different vision of what anthropology might be. Perhaps anthropology can't do without the field, but maybe it could do without the academy. But that line of argument would require a different motion.