SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY THROUGH TIME - 1988


Anthropology in 1988

Angela Bratton



THE HOT DEPARTMENTS -

TOP FIVE IN FREQUENCY OF AUTHORSHIP IN JOURNALS
Mainstream

  1.  C.U. New York
  2. U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Irvine, U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. Los Angeles, U. Texas, Washington U., London U.
  3. U. Arizona, U. Utah, U. Michigan, U. Alaska, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,  Cornell U., U. Chicago, U. Toronto, John Hopkins U.,  U. College London, U. of Durham
  4. Forty-one universities with one article.

Marginal

  1. U. of Michigan
  2. U. of Virginia, U. of Florida, U.C. Los Angeles, U. Pittsburgh
  3. 31 Universities with one article

The most striking thing to me about the number of articles per department is the range of universities represented in this list.  This demonstrates diversity in authorship and richness in sub-disciplinary perspectives.  More importantly, I think this list demonstrates that an author does not have to be from one of the "hot" universities to successfully publish in either the mainstream or marginal journals.    

THE MAJOR THEMES IN JOURNALS by NUMBER OF ARTICLES

MAINSTREAM MARGINS

Kinship and Social Organization

Symbolic, Kinship and Social Organization 

Symbolic

Gender/Feminist 

Gender/Feminist

Economic

Medical 

Ethnohistory

Psychological, Political

Human Ecology

Ethnohistory

Political, Psychological, Religion

Marxist, Economic, Structuralism

Cross-Cultural Comparison, Structuralism

Hegemony, Religion, Methodology

Humanistic, Identity, Post-Modern, Demography, Medical, Praxis, Legal, Applied, Marxist, Methodology

Development,  Praxis

Ecological, Cognitive, Humanistic, Identity, Post-Modern, Demography, Interpretivism,  Cross-Cultural Comparison

 

     This task was one of the more difficult ones of this assignment.  It required an understanding of a multitude of terms that may have subtle or no distinctions, but which were more prominent in the 1980s than they are a decade later. One way around too narrowly defining an article's theme was to assign it to more than one theme when appropriate. 

    
     It is clear that Kinship and Social Organization, Symbolic Anthropology, and Gender/Feminist Anthropology were the hot topics across the board in 1988.  The marginal journals actually appear to be more restrictive in their thematic content.  The fact that the mainstream articles show greater variety could in part be due to more journals having been surveyed.  Furthermore, mainstream journals are more global and less regional in both their audience and their authorship, as is reflected in the greater diversity of topics. Also, there was a European journal in both the mainstream and the margins; therefore, I tend to think that the variety of themes they focused on were dispersed in both categories.  Consequently, the fact that they are European does not contribute to the difference seen between the mainstream and the margins in the list. 


    Another part of the assignment was to look at the length of time between an article's submission and its publication.  However, there were only two journals that posted submission dates and they were both mainstream, so I cannot estimate a difference between the mainstream and the margins. The first journal had a ten month average between submission and publication. The second journal had an average of nine months between submission and final approval and then an additional six months between final submission and actual publication. This was eye opening for me even though I had never stopped to think about how old an article is when it is finally published. While journals are clearly still fresher than books, they are somewhat seasoned by the time they reach the library.



THE MAJOR SUB-DISCIPLINES
by affiliation of Authors in 4 major Journals

1 Kinship and Social Organization

2 South/South East Asia

3 Oceania

4 Medical

5 Psychology, Religion
6 Symbolism, Europe, Africa, Social/Cultural Theory
7 South and Latin America, Development & Social Change
8 Economic, Gender
9 Ethnobotany/ Ethnoecology
10 Human Ecology, Peasants, Language, Ethnology, Native Americans


Some of the problems that occurred in this analysis included not being able to track down the author's sub-disciplines because they were not at an American university or because they were students.  I am surprised at the popularity of Medical before Symbolic and Gender, since there were more articles written about the latter two.  These differences may show a schism between current hot topics and what was commonly studied when the authors’ were in school (a time when the foundation of their sub-disciplines were laid).  Additionally, I did not consider area specialties when I investigated themes, but I hypothesize that they would be in approximately the same order on the theme list since anthropologists frequently write about their area of specialty.


KEY THEMES IN ANTHROPOLOGY DURING 1988
   
Overall among the articles of 1988 I noticed a concern for applying new categories and for redefining people and events according to these categories. This redefining is usually described in the context of kinship and social organization or of symbolic anthropology. For instance, there are articles which discuss problems with old or former descriptive terms, and the author provides reasons for their limited utility. There are articles that express concern that previous categories (especially "incorrect" ones) can mislead anthropologists into looking for things that fit the old categories, and therefore are closed to seeing new possibilities. The authors then suggest alternative ways of perceiving the people or places s/he is describing. This trend seems to be connected to the emerging discourse of identity, or what I consider to be an effort to validate different perspectives or voices.  Identity is about uncovering the ways that people classify themselves instead of how anthropologists or other outsiders classify them. These discourses are not limited to contemporary societies; there are several articles that are ethnohistorical which explore past societies with the categories and perspectives that were being offered in the mid 1980s.  


     Identity is also useful in feminist/gender studies discourse.  Articles challenge notions about gender and sexual categories, but they also question concepts about inequality and status in various societies.  Furthermore, there were several articles that connected gender studies and medical anthropology, analyzing women’s health issues and their access to medicine.  


     My perception is that the mainstream articles had a more theoretical nature, whether through their analysis of a theory or through their own theoretical suggestions to contemporary concerns.  For example, one article questioned how two anthropologists could visit the same society and yet have two different conceptions of the culture, and how in the face of this difference, they could both still have authority.  Interestingly though, the assumption was that they would still have authority. Despite all of the talk about observing and writing about changes (as seen through redefining old terms and adopting new categories) there still seems to be a concern for articulating the "rules" that govern a particular society.  On the other hand, the marginal articles provided more first person references, but I still felt distanced from the author, and I often sensed that the author was distant from his/her field work.  Overall, I noticed that there were very few articles (less than five) that dealt with anthropology of the United States, and that authors were still very much focused on non western cultures.  


     My analysis is based solely on the articles of 1988. Thanks to hindsight, I know that identity does become more of a buzzword, and it is possible that I was paying special attention to certain categories when I was carrying out my research.  Also, at the time I was writing this, I had not compared my findings with my classmates to discover what happened in the interval prior to and after 1988.  Knowing this would have helped me tie my findings together more effectively.  Finally, I became very interested in the differences between European and American journals’ themes and categories.  I think future research along the lines of this assignment could outline the convergence of these schools.  Additionally, while perhaps overwhelmingly time consuming, it would be fascinating to see who was being cited most frequently in an effort to determine if the people are citing colleagues with similar thematic emphases, or if the people being cited are influencing a broader group of researchers.  

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