Potential student to TC anthropologists: what is anthropology good for?

Today, I am trying something new–at least for me in my place [role?] as agent of a degree granting university dependent on student tuition to survive.  We are told to “involve students” in our deliberation about the future of the university, or of our niche (node?) within its network (web?).  So I am trying “crowd sourcing” the revisions we want to make to the general introduction of the anthropology programs at Teachers College, Columbia University, that are currently available on the web, and of the current description of the Masters programs .

The goal is to attract more students to our Masters programs.  Whatever my intellectual and political doubts about the wisdom of this evolution, disciplinary research based departments and programs are getting caught in a (neoliberal?) world (ecology?) where their survival is dependent on the tuition paid by people who are not apprenticed into the research communities (polities?) of their disciplines, but are still interested in that discipline as such.  In clear, the Doctoral Programs in Anthropology need more Masters students who have been admitted as students in anthropology (and not another program at Columbia).  We are not currently very successful at attracting these students.  Other programs at Teachers College are good at it.  There may be a “market” we are not “tapping” into.  One of the reasons may be the packaging.

So we are trying two things.  One is re-writing the general statements about the place of anthropology at Teachers College.  The other is advertising some of our strengths by proposing to students that they “specialize” in “Ethnographic Analysis,” “Global Education,” or “Leveraging Informal Education.”  Such specializations have been successful in attracting students to other programs as they seem to give a more concrete form to the general labels.

So I am asking for your help.  Check the current draft for a general introduction, and then following the links to the Masters Programs and then the specializations: “Ethnographic Analysis,” “Global Education,” “Leveraging Informal Education.”

And then, please, comment, make suggestions for edits, editorialize.

Actually, the whole exercise is multiply interesting.  What, after all, is anthropology good for?  The American Anthropological Association itself is aware that this is an issue that we can not discuss solely among ourselves, in ever more abstract ways.  The question is of concern when people outside anthropology ask it as a preliminary step towards possibly entering its worlds, or deciding whether to follow what it suggests be done in the policy realm, (or funding it).  So, what should faculty in small programs in anthropology located in a professional school say?  What is anthropology, in 200 words?  Compare and contrast two answers from the American Anthropological Association: 1) the classical one as it appears on the main site for the association, and 2) a new version being tested.

So, we are trying our hand at composing 200 word statements about Anthropology And Education and Applied Anthropology that, we hope, are more sensitive to our current environment.  But, perhaps, you may be more in tune with this environment than I may be.  So try you hand also: what is the field in which you are moving towards fuller participation good for? It is not quite an exam question, but it is one you may be asked by representatives of the institutions where you are trying to be employed (or one you may have to answer when applying for research funding).

[and I hope you enjoy the mixed metaphors, and the implied conceit (more on that later)]

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