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The Art and Science of Anthropology

            The debate surrounding the nature of anthropology has been omnipresent in the discipline for numerous years, although no clear answer has been materialised as of yet. This contention gave rise to Wolf describing anthropology as "the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities" (Wolf, 1964:88). This debate raised significant controversy in 2010 following the decision of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to remove all mention of the word "science" from their mission statement. The obvious motive was to characterise the AAA in non-scientific terms, through the replacement of the word science with "knowledge disciplines." .
             Carrithers states that as of present, a romantic argument towards the debate is generally accepted among sociocultural anthropologists (Carrithers, 1990:263). Anthropological knowledge is regarded as being interpretive, hermeneutic and relative to specific time, place and author as opposed to being conclusive and universal as is the case for scientific knowledge. From this argument, Carrithers states that anthropology cannot be regarded as a scientific discipline as anthropological knowledge is in no sense scientific (Carrithers, 1990:263). Carrithers appears to regard the role of science in anthropology with a negative attitude, stating a particular advantage of anthropological knowledge is that a richer understanding of other humans is conceived through human engagement in research as opposed to "unthinking minerals" in reference to scientific research (Carrithers, 1990:263). Carrithers goes on to make reference to the societal expectation, particularly in the North Atlantic, that scientific knowledge is impersonal. It is universally accepted, however, that anthropology is a dialogic discipline and knowledge is acquired through personal experience (Carrithers, 1990: 263). From Carrithers' definitions, anthropology cannot be considered a scientific discipline, and therefore, must be categorised as an art.

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