The rift between science and humanism: What’s data got to do with it?

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15 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S154-S166
JournalCurrent anthropology
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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