The American Anthropological Association recently decided to exclude from its new long-range plan the description of anthropology as a science. Instead of saying that the association's aim is 'to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects', the plan now reads that 'The purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects'.
This may seem like a minor matter of terminology and of not much interest to anyone other than those doing battle within the American Anthropological Association itself. But it strikes me as a retrograde move. Of course, on one common notion of what science is, anthropology isn't a science because it doesn't belong to the natural sciences. If science is 'the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment', then the social sciences aren't sciences. But there is another common meaning of the word: 'science' can also mean 'a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject'; or 'a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study
The change reflects a long-standing and growing divisiveness within anthropology between those who stick with the classic conception of studying humanity by means of systematic, rigorous, and ideally objective forms of inquiry, and those who see anthropology as inextricably and profoundly tied to the subjectivities of its researchers and their admitted epistemological limitations.
An old story: profoundly tied to the subjectivities of its researchers work in anthropology may well be, but that doesn't prevent it from systematically advancing the cause of knowledge, available in principle to those with other subjectivities. Even a mathematician can only see through her own eyes. (Via Kenan.)