The Rift between Science and Humanism: What’s Data Got to Do with It?

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Wiessner, P.
Year of Publication: 2016
Journal: Current Anthropology
Volume: 57
Issue: S13
Pagination: S154 - S166
Date Published: 06/2016
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 0011-3204

The greatest division in our field between a more scientific anthropology and a humanistic one lies largely along theoretical lines. However, the debate over the use and value of etic data, observer-oriented objective data measured from the outside for explanation, and emic data, actor-oriented subjective data from the inside for interpretation, has also been vehement. Here, a case study comparing violence among the Ju/’hoansi (!Kung) Bushmen of the Kalahari and Enga of Papua New Guinea is used to show (1) how cultural institutions structure aggression and violence, for better or for worse, and (2) how the complementary use of data from the inside and outside is essential for understanding cultural institutions and their effect on cognition, motives, emotions, and corresponding actions and social selection pressures. A challenge for anthropology will be to work out how to collect and apply data from the inside so that it can be used systematically to help interpret and contextualize data collected by external observers. Such efforts will require understanding of how knowledge is generated, distributed, exchanged, and controlled.


doi: 10.1086/686017

Short Title: Current Anthropology