The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Do biological anthropologists have an ethical obligation to identify themselves as anthropologists? Reflections at the AAPA x AAA intersection


Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Saturday 10:45-11:00, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Many biological anthropologists identify more strongly with subfields in the biological sciences than they do with other areas of anthropology. This affinity with biology reflects longstanding similarities in our theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, which are quantitative and comparative and permit us to engage in the empirical testing of falsifiable hypotheses. Yet despite references to “the sciences” and “anthropological science” in the current (May 2011) version of the Long-Range Plan of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), biological anthropologists do not flock to the AAA like they do to the AAPA. For some this is due to limited time and financial resources that preclude participation in yet another professional society of interest, but for others it is demonstrative of a pervasive skepticism about the relevance of non-scientific anthropology to biological anthropology in general. Nonetheless, the AAPA Code of Ethics is based on that of the AAA, suggesting that at least some shared standards of conduct have persisted amidst the ongoing tensions within anthropology and the array of alternative responses that have been adopted to reduce these tensions. All of these responses have consequences for our undergraduate majors and graduate student training, and ultimately, for the future of biological anthropology as a discipline and the ethics by which we abide.

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