In today’s New York Times Mark Leibovich writes on the contrasts between Republican and Democratic events in “At Rallies of Faithful, Contrasts in Red and Blue.” Differences in dress, behavior, language, music and more are highlighted, with some recognition of the similarities too. But it was really this line from Leibovich that got my attention:
What can we learn from a close-in view of Democratic and Republican events at the end of a bitter, exhilarating campaign? It has become a cliché to say that the country is “divided,” but the anthropologies displayed at 11 campaign stops in recent days offer glimpses of partisan America.
I have never seen “anthropologies” used in that way, as a noun to capture what generally anthropologists try to gloss under the rubric of “culture.” For US anthropologists, “anthropologies” might mean the four or five different fields we say fall under the discipline of anthropology – biological and sociocultural, linguistic and archaeology, with applied often thrown in for good measure.
I really like this use of “anthropologies,” and the fact that it got past the copy editors at the Times must mean that they assume it has enough common meaning for people to grasp some general concept behind it.
“Culture” has been a contested concept in anthropology for several decades now, but we haven’t really been able to settle on a better term for a holistic understanding of a way of life. Anthropologies seems a lot closer, especially when we can then evoke all the different fields to understand the lived anthropology of a place and time and people. No longer is it the -ology receiving emphasis, it is the anthro-.
With anthropologies, we can talk about ways of life and practices and embodiment and meaning, and not keep assuming that somehow a symbolic structure or an inequality or a set of genetics is the thing to use to understand that way of life. Rather, it demands the sort of interdisciplinary engagement already seen in the word itself – anthropologies.