Interdisciplinary Madness: Anthro and the Biocultural Approach

Interdisciplinary Madness: Anthro and the Biocultural Approach

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Anthropology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Drawing from evolutionary theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, it compares within and between primates. Anthropologists exist in biology, sociology, psychology, community health and education departments; in businesses, hospitals, museums, zoos, and non-profits, and countless other places. There are four fields within anthropology: biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology, and archaeology. Within those four fields there are subfields: within bio we have human biology, primatology, paleoecology, morphology, genetics to name a few, and even within those are sub-sub-fields. Then there’s biocultural anthropology. Biocultural anthropology is not actually that new, and there are some truly excellent practitioners. But more recently there has been a spate of work in anthropology claiming to take a “biocultural approach” that does not appear to be derived from these folks. Some work that claims to be biocultural doesn’t really appear to be biological, nor is it cultural, because it is atheoretical and happens to use biological and cultural methods. Some of it leans in some sort of theoretical direction, but then the methods are inscrutable.

How is it that a field that is so good at being interdisciplinary cannot do a good job interdisciplinary-ing itself?

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