Planet Earth

He's Wrecking Their Brand

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 5, 2009 1:42 AM

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Anthropologists are fretting over the Jared Diamond fallout. Dudes, you can't have it both ways; you can't engage the public (which is what many of you want) without risking that your work will be interpreted in ways that you never intended. Diamond is an easy straw man because he's not a member of your club. (And, yeah, because he now might be in a heap of trouble.) I also have a hard time believing that one writer could embody a whole field, which is what anthropologists seem to believe. If Diamond is the public face of anthropology, don't blame him. Blame yourselves, blame your own field for not cultivating any cross-over scholars that know how to write for your flagship journals as well as for Harper's or The New Yorker. Historians don't have this kind of problem (or defensive posture). Nor do political scientists or biologists. So stop bitching about Diamond and start writing (especially if you have tenure) for larger audiences than a couple of dozen fellow scholars. Yes, a place like Savage Minds is a good start, but it's still an insular world. Take a look at Patty Limerick's example if you want to see how it's done. She's a highly respected environmental historian who over the years has written regularly for newspapers, including a guest op-ed stint for the NY Times. Calling all Savage Mind bloggers. I'm sure one of you can rise to the occasion.

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