You are on page 1of 2

David Sparks

September 3, 2018
Dr. Colleen B. Cohen
ANTH301: Senior Seminar
Anthropology Today
Before reading these three works for the summer, I knew a bit of the history and lives of

anthropologists of the twentieth century, and having read some of their early hallmark works,

articles, and theories, I didn’t think it would be difficult for me to detail in two pages my

thoughts on anthropologists of the 20th century and what they thought. I thought when the

prompt was sent, it would be an easy endeavor; however, the novel Euphoria by Lily King,

paired with two factual accounts, provoked my mind and made me consider more clearly the

actual physical work, besides writing and publishing a book with UChicago Press, that

anthropologists do in the form of fieldwork. Something I once thought of as sheer excitement

and bliss, a rite of passage for a new anthropologist, I now see fieldwork as both “euphoric” and

as something that is complicated, confusing, frustrating, addictive, and, in some cases,

threatening to the participant. While reading, I was also working on fieldwork of my own at the

time, and the novel made me chuckle and muse as I compared some problems I encountered

interviewing estate sale attendees and tried to mesh myself into the company. I was confused at

first with the assignment, but I understand the reasoning now. And through this reading, I see

more fully stark contrasts between the anthropology of that time and the work I see others doing

today and hope to contribute to in the future.

To me, anthropology is a discipline in which I can explore ideas and thoughts about

humanity at my wishes. It serves as a means to search for meaningful alternatives and different

modes of life, trying to find out what is important in this world and how we can all live together
in more purposeful and intentional ways. Searching myself how I can myself live the most

meaningful, to be honest. One of the main reasons I was drawn to anthropology was trying to

figure out my life and my experiences, why people are the way they are in my life and how they

got to that point. Anthropology I have learned is about reflexivity—learning about the self. I feel

that both are essential to understand any culture you are studying.

While working on whatever I may find interesting or meaningful, I also think

anthropology has an important role in helping the lives of those who have been damaged and

pillaged by history and the West; therefore, working as an anthropologist, I hope to do work and

projects at the request of people or agencies to make the human experience more bearable in the

face of destruction and power. I feel anthropology is the best way to bridge human difference

and foster equitable and meaningful relationships. And I personally feel it is necessary. I have

been inspired by the works of many anthropologists in their activism, but I feel this is one feature

that has dropped a bit in works I have read and seen recently. Instead of bringing people together

for meaningful change, doing the work that they wish, I’ve read many mid-20th century pieces

that treats people as though they were birds. And while I have seen and read about anthropologist

throughout the years helping to end ideas of racism and move beyond racial determinism, not all

anthropology has been political and with a purpose. Besides finding out structures, patterns,

ideas, and systems related to a culture, anthropologists have searched to their whims. And I feel

that that isn’t wasted work, but I feel a politically and purposefully based anthropology benefits

everyone in the end, not just the anthropologist who comes in, works, and gets fame from

discovering something in Samoa or with the Trobriander.