This IS Anthropology!

by douglas reeser on October 13, 2011
Anthropology is a commonly misunderstood discipline. For many, it is not all that clear what anthropologists actually do, especially because there are few job positions with the actual title of "Anthropologist." Yet anthropologists work in a variety of roles in a variety of fields. We seek to understand humans and human activity in the present and the past, and more often than not, we are working toward the improvement of the lives of those we work with.

Still, the lack of clarity about what it is that we do has come to the forefront, as numerous news outlets are covering a developing story out of Florida. Anthropologists around the country are talking about recent comments made by Florida Governor Rick Scott to multiple media outlets over the last week. It's clear that Scott can be added to the list of those who don't quite get what anthropologists do. It began when Scott commented on the Marc Benier Show:
"We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here."
Later, to the Orlando Sentinel, Scott reiterated his remarks:
"We’re spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it’s not great," the governor told a luncheon crowd of the Northwest Business Association in Tallahassee. “Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”
Anthropologists, including the American Anthropological Association, have responded quickly, and most impressively by my colleagues in the University of South Florida Anthropology Department. The chair of the department, Brent Weisman, has been interviewed by numerous news outlets, and has defended the discipline admirably. In his letter from the department, Weisman explains why Scott is wrong to call out the discipline:
My colleagues and I in the Anthropology Department at USF encourage our Governor to do his homework on the modern discipline of anthropology before making another casual but ill-informed remark. Anthropologists at USF work side by side with civil and industrial engineers, cancer researchers, specialists in public health and medicine, chemists, biologists, and others in the science, technology, and engineering fields that the Governor so eagerly applauds. Our colleagues in the natural, engineering, and medical sciences view the anthropological collaboration as absolutely essential to the success of their research and encourage their students to take courses in anthropology to help make them better scientists.
And fellow students, led by Charlotte Noble and Janelle Christensen, have put together the above slideshow highlighting the diverse work of anthropologists, illustrating that anthropology is engaged with and plays an important role in our everyday lives.

And finally, in a twist to the story that would be hard to believe if it wasn't true, it has been reported that Rick Scott's own daughter received a degree in Anthropology. What can you say really, although I'm just glad my parents don't denigrate the degrees I hold to the national media!

Check out the slideshow above to learn about some of the great work that anthropologists do!

And for a comprehensive summary (with a ton of links) of the controversy check out Daniel Lende's Neuroanthropology column here >>>

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  1. Anonymous8:42 AM

    This guy has got some serious issues! Next he'll make all anthropologists pay for a worthiness test - and if they pass, the state will reimburse them.

  2. Too funny! I believe you are referring to the governor's decision to drug test all people who receive welfare from the state. Recipients must pay for the test themselves, but if they pass, they get reimbursed by the state. The governor reasoned that it would lessen the amount of people on welfare, and thus save the state significant money. However, early analysis has shown that over 95% of the people pass the drug tests, so the program has actually been costing the state more money on top of state welfare costs.
    It's just hard to believe that this type of madness and short-sightedness continue to run our states and countries!

  3. I've heard his daughter worked as a teacher. If that is true, he attacks the fields that his kids couldn't handle?


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