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My Favorite Anthropology Subfield

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My Favorite Sub-field Response Paper

Jeremy R. Lowther

ANT 101-103

Being a veritable lover of the humanities (though I've not actually had much study of them and as such are studying them now) and all social sciences really, it is no surprise that I would choose cultural anthropology (ethnology) as the sub-field I chose to write on. There is a more in-depth reasoning behind this however, and that is the fact that I am quite a generalist and ethnohistory in many ways is the culmination of the efforts of all other sub-fields of anthropology and the application of the gained knowledge from each. It is my view that ethnohistory is the study of the ethnographic and historically documented knowledge about a culture. A more in depth explanation is that it focuses on the history and understanding of cultures as they are discovered through the efforts of forensics and archaeology, then brought together and studied as research for a deeper understanding followed by further, more specified research of that same culture. It is that pivot point on the cycle of that symbiotic anthropological journey between the researchers among each sub-field. As Harkin (2010) claims, ethnohistory was very much a part of the bringing together between history and anthropology in the late 1900s of social science.

The field rose in the U.S. out of the interest in American Indian communities and the interest in debating (both for and against) Indian claims. The anthropological studies were actually required by the Indian Claims Commission during those times, however I feel that those politics fueled a more personal interest among those who studied the tribes around the U.S. and Canada and as such we have now many ethnologists knee-deep in unraveling all sorts of information about these marvelous cultures who once controlled North America. I also think that among all of the sub-fields of Anthropology that cultural (especially ethnohistory) is the most inclusive and holistic of the four. As defined by Fenton (1966), the field involves "the critical use of ethnological concepts and materials in the examination and use of historical source material." (p. 75)

A man who has made great progress over the last twenty or so years in this field (who I cited earlier) is Michael Eugene Harkin. An American anthropologist who focuses on the Western U.S. and Canadian indigenous tribes, Harkin had conducted two years of research on the Bella Bella tribes from 1985-1987 and more recently has worked with many tribes of the northern Great Plains. He has written many dialogical essays and books concerning the history of many Native American groups and does quite a bit of work as well on revitalization movements. In one of his essays in the Ethnohistory journal, he writes that Ethnohistorians have long been interested in missionization as it is one "most sustained and intensive" exchanges of so many ideas and stories, material goods, technologies, etc. (1993)

These exchanges can cause such fascinating



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