Proving Anthropologists Have A Sense of Humor – Or At Least Putting It In Context

English: I can't vandalize... ...but I have go...
English: I can’t vandalize… …but I have got a sense of humor! Upper Bilson Street, Cinderford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the dialogue on the American Anthropological Association LinkedIn forum continues (was intended to be, in part, a shameless plug for my blog but ended up driving more commentary than viewers…which is more than i really could have asked for),  I thought I would share some updates.

The question I posed was “do anthropologists take themselves too seriously”. Many many debates have ensued…gloves have come off, been put back on, had the fingers snipped off, initiated some high fives and even spawned a few jokes. I thought I might share a couple of the jokes, as the bulk of the remaining robust dialogue really needs to be taken in on it’s own:

From Archaeologist Rick Richardson, “A three-legged dog hobbles up to the bar in an old west saloon. As the canine takes a look around, the barkeep asks what it is doing in his saloon. The dog replies “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

And in reply from Archaeology Tech Daniel Eliseuson: “To follow the scenario, the dog has beer or two, goes outside lifts his leg and fall on his butt! The liquid inside the fire hydrant is H2O, the liquid outside is of course, K9P”

Now don’t get this all twisted. I said that I could prove anthropologists have a sense of humor. I did not, however, say that they are actually humorous.

And i don’t mean to be too hard on my fellow practitioners. Anthropology is a field that has been integrating itself into the private sector for the last several decades. The issue presented here is that, even though the goal of academic study is to find ways to apply what we find to solving problems in the real world, the human nature of the study of Anthropology makes that work hit very close to home. We scrutinize culture for a living, forcing objectivity at all costs to ensure we do not misinterpret what is going on based on our own ethnocentric set of values and beliefs.

The problem that arises is we tend to get stuck in “seriousness” and also tend to be very protective of what we find, lest human culture be exploited for the wrong reasons. That and, most anthropologists in the academic space don’t earn great financial reward for their work, so the ego is where their satisfaction needs to come from.  Also, as with most humans, moderation is difficult so we tend to over-compensate with obnoxious ego indulgence.

Hence, the phenomenon of stuffy anthropologists who turn their noses up to “every-day” anthropology. And given the context, I can understand the inclination.

After getting my MA, I ran from academia like it was on fire. I wanted to see where I could take what I had learned about how to look at the world and apply it to the understanding and development of popular culture…landing in the consumer culture space.

I find that most days, human culture makes me laugh, cry, pull out my hair and gives me hope. If we look close enough we find seriousness and humor in the every day patterns of human life.
Applying an empirical understanding of human life, lifestyles, organization and action IS serious business. But we will only get so far if we don’t take a minute to find humor in our predicament. That predicament being, living , breathing and trying to make sense f something that, at the end of the day, might very well be beyond our understanding, which is either extraordinarily hilarious or not even a little bit funny.

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2 thoughts on “Proving Anthropologists Have A Sense of Humor – Or At Least Putting It In Context

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