Backing into the Future

Abstract

The professionalization of anthropology was grounded in a naturalistic tradition of field research. The empirical particularism of fieldwork wedded aesthetic and humanistic concerns with those of science in a discipline that assumed a species-wide and long-time perspective while focusing on the description and comparisons of local variations. Scientific progress has occurred in anthropology over the past century despite the distortions of colonialism, the Cold War, and other historical circumstances. Controversies about good and bad scientific work and about the humanistic character of anthropology have been an ongoing aspect of our discipline. The historical development of medical anthropology and important recent publications in this specialty illustrate the nature of the encompassing discipline and provide the ground on which 21st-century scholars will carry the science forward.