As the year comes to a close it is time to reflect on the things that are the most meaningful in our lives. Family visits will be enjoyed and lots of food and beverages consumed--mmm good. I really like pie and plan to have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. I know it’s a binge but it’s that time of year and it’s been known to sustain life.
Along with these thoughts I felt a need to continue to ponder the Is-Anthropology-a-Science “shit storm” that has played out for several weeks. The postmortems are still underway, here and here are examples. Again, I don’t care what they call themselves. I do care if the public’s perception of scholarship and research is devalued a little due to events such as this. One should never forget the social contract between scholars and the broader society. New understandings of it are here, here, and here.
My perspective on this comes from many years studying American archaeologists, and by extension American Anthropologists. For archaeologists I’ve described their power structures, critiqued their word games, and forecast the demise of their bread and butter, cultural resource management (see the list here). I am also an avid reader across the sciences, American history, art history, and philosophy. As a sociologist of scholarship I am interested in the construction of knowledge.
I’ve learned that Academic Tribes (here & here) are funny creatures. They act like families with their patriarchs and matriarchs, their crazy uncles, their spinster aunts, the kissing cousins, the identical twins, the fraternal twins, the step children, the step dads and moms, the bastards, the orphans, the abandoned and the adopted. They do their genealogies, worship their ancestors, and publish family histories, biographies and autobiographies. They have family newsletters and every year they have family reunions. Internal feuds are common, sometimes leading to outcasts. And each generation has to prove something to their elders. Academics are humans with all the vices and virtues that come with that label.
Somehow scholarship became the great quest for Truth. Scientists and humanists seem to have bought into the quest. However, I don’t think it’s enough. What I want from scholars is Wisdom because it is greater than Truth.
I also know that sets up an apparent paradox. I ask for wisdom but I do not want anyone to seek it. Wisdom, like Truth, is not an end game. You don’t find it. It is something that just happens along the way of life.
However, there are guideposts that help judge the wisdom of ideas. Knowledge that is profound, interesting, and exceptional will likely pass the evaluation. Call it pie.
I don’t expect every researcher to give me pie; I know it will be a collective effort.
The pie doesn’t have to be useful to me, just to someone.
There is no rush. Pie can be had at any time and is worth the wait.