Anthropologist Peter Wood, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, reports that the AAA Executive Board is proposing a new mission statement that deletes the term "science" and replaces it with "public understanding," as in this marked up paragraph:
Section 1. The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies public understanding of humankind in all its aspects. through This includes, but is not limited to, archeological, biological, ethnological, social, cultural, economic, political, historical, medical, visual, and linguistic anthropological research; The Association also commits itself and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge, expertise, and interpretation. and its use to solve human problems.Note that they have also deleted the term "ethnological," which has always referred to the comparative study of human cultures with the goal of developing broad general theories about Human Culture.
This is a disturbing development for a discipline that has, since the days of Franz Boas, the founder of American academic anthropology, seen itself as linking the sciences and humanities to gain the broadest and deepest knowledge of what humans are, where they came from, and so on. But it's not entirely unexpected, as for the last several decades people who call themselves "postmodernists" and "interpretivists" have gradually taken over the field, bringing with them a rejection of the empirically based, objective, systematic, logical, and rational methodologies developed by Boas and those who followed him.
One of the most dangerously bogus claims that these folks have made is that science cannot help sort out immoral from moral aspects of cultures. This is wrong, because we need good, empirically based, objective knowledge if we want to make valid assertions about who is doing what to whom, to what ends, and at what cost. Fuzzy-minded "interpretations" of, say, female genital mutilation may be useful and even necessary, but if all knowledge is contingent then any claims we make about the harm this does can always be contested and anthropologists become, essentially, over-educated journalists.
I have a feeling I may be writing more about this...