Anthropological Knowledge and Scientific Fact



In 1967 Ward Goodenough described two performance-based measures that many of us use to judge the quality of anthropological knowledge. Do we understand events in another community as its members understand them? Can we act there in ways that people will accept as conforming to their expectations? Judged by these standards, the famous hoax that the physicist Alan Sokal published in 1996 in the non-refereed journal Social Text would pass as good anthropology (however shameless). I look at a different—yet similar—scientific controversy, one that began in 1998 at the editorial offices of the British science weekly Nature. This controversy, which I call “The Little Lizard Controversy,” and in which I have played a role, may show us how scientists sometimes misunderstand one another and why anthropological knowledge about the practice of science may be crucial in nurturing interdisciplinary research “collaboratories” in the twenty-first century, [science, interdisciplinary, controversies, miscommunication, symbols]