chapter  3
38 Pages

Demarcating anthropology

The boundary work of Alfred Kroeber
ByJohn P. Jackson, David J. Depew

This chapter claims that an accurate view of Kroeber depends on making central his interest in providing anthropology with defensible disciplinary boundaries. His self-imposed mission was to establish, protect, and grow a Boasian four-field anthropology department at Berkeley and use the field's professional associations and journals, especially American Anthropologist, to propagate this model more widely in universities. Identifying disciplinary demarcating – "boundary work", as Thomas Geiryn calls it– as the core of Kroeber's lifework helps explain why, despite advancing a number of big ideas, including idea that anthropologists study the "superorganic", he denied that he had any theoretical ambitions or abilities. Gieryn makes the interesting suggestion that disciplinary formation exhibits three characteristic lines of demarcating argumentation: expulsion of foreigners, assertions of autonomy, and expansion into neighboring territory. Gieryn spots the rhetoric of expansion whenever "two or more rival epistemic authorities that have secured their own territory square off for jurisdictional control over a contested ontological domain".