Monday, January 15, 2007


Yesterday, I asked what Tracy Chapman, George Lucas, Glenn Close, Thandie Newton, Billy Graham, Octavio Paz, Michael Crichton, Tess Gerritsen, Steve Riggio, Jomo Kenyatta, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe and Britain's Prince Charles have in common.

After a reader suggested that they may have all appeared in TIME magazine, I thought I had better qualify the question further -- or, at least, the answer that I had in mind -- by noting that the common link that I was thinking of is one that I also share with these twelve personalities. At the same time though, and for the record plus contrary to another reader's suggestion: no, it's not something incredibly general like "You can play six degrees of separation with them..."! ;b

Instead, the answer which I'm going to tender is one which I think will come as a surprise to many of you: i.e., that like Yours Truly, they all were anthropology students at some point in their life. More than by the way, filmmaker Jane Campion, singer-actress Ashley Judd and science-fiction writer Joan D. Vinge are three other individuals who studied anthropology at university! (And should you doubt this, just go ahead and check out the pieces that I've linked to them in this entry!)

At this point, some of you might (next) wish to ask: What is anthropology anyways? Well, if you go and consult an English dictionary, chances are that you will read that the word "anthropology" is derived from the Greek word anthropos -- which translates into "humans" in English -- and a suffix "-ology" which denotes "the study of". (Thus, sociology is the study of society, and psychology is the study of the psyche, etc.). Briefly then, anthropology is the study of humans. Or, as Margaret Mead would wittily have it: "the study of man, embracing woman"! ;)

The eminently quotable Margaret Mead also has described anthropology as being about "intimate interpersonal understanding". And if I could expand on that idea, it would be to go ahead and suggest that anthropology is more than merely a particular field of study but, rather, also a particular outlook and way of viewing the world that's designed to help people make sense of others plus promote cross-cultural communication, interactions and understanding.

At one level, this may all sound rather airy-fairy and theoretical. However, I'd like to put forward that on another, it's far from that. Indeed, I'd go as far as to submit that, increasingly, as the world globalizes still further, it can only benefit humanity to learn about the different and many ways to be human; and to open people's -- including our own -- minds to other socio-cultural ways of living, acting and thinking.

As if to stress this, another anthropologist, Keith Basso, noted back in 1979 that: Making sense of other people is never easy, and making sense of how other people make sense can be very difficult indeed. is something that must be done, especially when the welfare of whole societies may be at stake... (In his Portraits of "The Whiteman": Linguistic Play and Cultural Symbols among the Western Apache, Cambridge University Press).

On a personal note, I think that another of anthropology's great uses lies in its helping -- plus encouraging -- those who study plus embrace its teachings to look less narrowly at the world and, in particular, to look beyond the tried and true that we tend to somewhat automatically do.

Admittedly, I'm yet another person who no longer officially is a card-carrying anthropologist. Nonetheless, I feel that anthropology opened my mind to a whole range of possibilities which I hadn't previously considered or even knew existed. And in so doing, it's made my world that much bigger as well deepened my understanding -- and, often times, appreciation too -- of much of it.


eliza said...

I should have thought that it would be something related to antropology!

I didn't know Ashley Judd also sings (I know about her sister and mother) this is cool. I think she is very beautiful and a good actress.

YTSL said...

Hi Eliza --

"I should have thought that it would be something related to antropology!"

And yet, it is rather surprising to think/find out that some of those personalities cited had studied anthropology, huh? :)

YTSL said...

For those who came late and wonder what's going on --

I've removed a spam post -- that sbk and brian both commented on -- from the top of this comment thread.

just me said...

Ahhh... I was going to guess anthopology next... really. :)

As for Ashley Judd, I am actually very fond of her but she's often, like Jade Leung and Ada Choi, in rather awful films.

Hate spam. We get a ton of it in the Ada Cache forum. About 20-30 spam signups each day. I've pretty much given up on trying to delete them as that could take me half an hour a day to do it. :(


YTSL said...

Hi "just me" --

"Hate spam. We get a ton of it in the Ada Cache forum. About 20-30 spam signups each day. I've pretty much given up on trying to delete them as that could take me half an hour a day to do it. :("

Oh my re getting so many a day. But I think that they are all very much worth deleting. Also, trying to look on the bright side of things, guess it means that the Ada Cache forum is well known and well visited...