H. G. Wells

There is much discussion about what anthropologists should do or should not do with their knowledge and skills. Indeed this is not an easy issue to deal with. When it comes to anthropologists working for the industry, or even for governmental institutions, a plethora of ethical and moral controversies arise. Due to the complexity and manifoldness of the problem there can not be a simple solution, a recipe which covers all. My own position varies a bit from case to case, but I am convinced, that the stance of complete negation is fundamentally wrong. By complete negation I mean the opinion, that anthropologists should completely stay out of every association with the industry and governmental institutions. Time and again I hear this very notion voiced. Its consequence would mean that anthropologists and anthropology stays within the ivory realm—and that would be just as bad as an all-encompassing sell out, I think, because that stance ignores vast parts of empirical reality. In China Miéville‘s brilliant introduction to H. G. Wells“The first men in the moon” (1901) I found a sentence which sums it up perfectly: “It is not only commerce, but science, Wells implies, which untethered from social reality reifies human beings with incidental cruelty.” (Miéville 2005: xxiv)

“First men” addresses a lot more topics of burning interest for anthropologists, hence I urge everybody in the profession to read it. My advice is to get a copy of the new edition by Penguin Classics, because that way you not only get the main text in a state-of-the-art edited form, but although the additional material by Patrick Parrinder, Miéville’s introduction, and the comprehensive notes by Steven McLean.

MIÉVILLE, CHINA. 2005. “Introduction,” in The first men in the moon by Herbert George Wells, edited by Patrick Parrinder, pp. xiii-xxviii. London: Penguin.

Sidenote [from Wikipedia]: China Tom Miéville (born September 6, 1972, Norwich) is a British “fantastic fiction” writer. He is fond of describing his work as “weird fiction” (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. […] Miéville acquired a B.A. in social anthropology from Cambridge in 1994, and a Master’s with distinction and PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics, the latter in 2001. Miéville has also held a Frank Knox fellowship at Harvard.[1] A book version of his PhD thesis, titled Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law, was published in the UK in 2005 by Brill in their “Historical Materialism” series, and in the U.S. in 2006 by Haymarket Books. [emphasis mine]