Along with the high price tag (and the regressive dues structure), several "what the hell, AAA?" moments have dampened my enthusiasm. The most notable was the removal of the word "science" from the AAA's long-range plan in 2010. I'm an anthropologist, an archaeologist, and a scientist. It doesn't thrill me that the AAA apparently finds the word "science" too prickly to embrace.
Here's another one for the "what the hell, AAA?" pile. This morning on Facebook, one of my biological anthropology friends posted a photo of a new poster printed by the AAA to celebrate World Anthropology Day:
That definition in no way reflects the objects of study or the questions of physical/biological anthropology. It is so dumb, in fact, that it's hard to even dissect how wrong it really is.
The last time I checked, multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia (aka "animals") originated over 600 million years ago. Perhaps that has changed, however, and I'm not up to date. I wouldn't know, you see, because I'm an anthropologist AND ANIMAL ORIGINS IS NOT WHAT I STUDY.
I don't know what percentage of physical anthropologists would say they are studying the "biologically determined nature of humankind," but it certainly would not be large. Does the study of the origins and meaning of human variation constitute the study of the "biologically determined nature of humankind"? What about the study of human evolution? What about the study of health, demography, fertility, mortality?
I don't do physical anthropology full time, but I've done it in the past (as both an undergraduate and for my M.A. thesis) and I teach aspects of it in my undergraduate classes now. I chafe at the definition on that poster, and I'm betting a lot of my physical anthropology friends will also not look kindly upon it. How did it get on there? How in the world does the AAA produce a poster, apparently intended to educate the public, that says that physical anthropologists study the "origins of animals" and the "biologically determined nature of humankind"?
I just don't get it.
I'm glad I didn't help pay for it.