What is the nature of the social sciences? What kinds of knowledge can they—and should they—hope to create? Are objective viewpoints possible and can universal laws be discovered? Questions like these have been asked with increasing urgency in recent years, as some philosophers and researchers have perceived a "crisis" in the social sciences. Metatheory in Social Science offers many provocative arguments and analyses of basic conceptual frameworks for the study of human behavior. These are offered primarily by practicing researchers and (...) are related to problems in disciplines as diverse as sociology, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, and philosophy of science. While various points of view are expressed in these nineteen essays, they have in common several themes, including the comparison of social and natural science, the role of knowledge in meeting the demands of society and its pressing problems, and the nature and role of subjectivity in science. Some authors hold that subjectivity cannot be studied scientifically; others argue that it can and must be if progress in knowledge is to be made. The essays demonstrate the philosophical pluralism they discuss and give a wide range of alternative positions on the future of the social and behavioral sciences in a postpositivist intellectual world. (shrink)
Studies of human development have taken an ethnographic turn in the 1990s. In this volume, leading anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists discuss how qualitative methodologies have strengthened our understanding of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development, and of the difficulties of growing up in contemporary society. Part 1, informed by a post-positivist philosophy of science, argues for the validity of ethnographic knowledge. Part 2 examines a range of qualitative methods, from participant observation to the hermeneutic elaboration of texts. In Part 3, ethnographic (...) methods are applied to issues of human development across the life span and to social problems including poverty, racial and ethnic marginality, and crime. Restoring ethnographic methods to a central place in social inquiry, these twenty-two lively essays will interest everyone concerned with the epistemological problems of context, meaning, and subjectivity in the behavioral sciences. (shrink)
This commentary on four theoretical articles published in this issue of Emotion Review discusses the one big thing that links them all and raises some questions about the ontological status of the appraisal part of appraisal theories of emotion.
For many adolescent Kenyan males genital reshaping is a self-defining experience of enormous positive significance. The same can be said for many Kenyan females. These adolescents, male and female, do not think their bodies have been “mutilated.” Quite the contrary, by their lights the surgical procedure removes a defect of nature and is the means by which a desired state of physical integrity and social maturity is achieved. By their lights the procedure gets rid of unseemly fleshy encumbrances and protrusions (...) and helps them erase unwanted physical traces of childhood bisexuality, thereby making their genitals look smooth and clean and more gender appropriate. By their lights their appearance and... (shrink)
Stimulated by these three brilliant target essays this commentary raises a few questions about the universality of the “emotions,” the cultural psychology of “natural kinds,” and the analytic deconstruction of the idea of an emotion.
Beller, Bender, and Medin should be congratulated for their generous attempt at expressive academic therapy for troubled interdisciplinary relationships. In this essay, I suggest that a negative answer to the central question (“Should anthropology be part of cognitive science?”) is not necessarily distressing, that in retrospect the breakup seems fairly predictable, and that disenchantment with the cognitive revolution is nothing new.
Western media coverage of female genital modifications in Africa has been hyperbolic and one-sided, presenting them uniformly as mutilation and ignoring the cultural complexities that underlie these practices. Even if we ultimately decide that female genital modifications should be abandoned, the debate around them should be grounded in a better account of the facts.
The objection, rightfully noted but then dismissed by Henrich et al., that the observed variation across populations is a theoretically profound and potentially constructive criticism. It parallels Donald Campbell's concern that many cultural differences reported by psychologists Ironically, Campbell's doubt is a good foundation for investigations in cultural psychology.
In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, Stanley Katz (who now chairs the editorial board of this journal) invited the intellectual community to reflect on its own history of involvement in public affairs and to make good on its mistakes. This essay examines a single case of intellectuals involving themselves in public affairs and some of the difficulties in saying and evaluating exactly what happened. Critical attention is given to Anthropological Intelligence, a book by David Price published (...) in 2008, which concerns the involvement of anthropologists in wartime activities during World War II and argues that even that “just war” left an indelible stain on the moral fabric of the discipline. (shrink)