Comfort Zones and Their Dangers: Who Are We? Qui Sommes-Nous?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Presidential Address examines contemporary U.S. anthropological rhetoric regarding the profession of anthropology and related habits of professional self-understanding that warrant a second look. It is most concerned with aspects of our widespread self-understanding that often function (esp. in conversation and in writing) to assert and reassert a truth we tell ourselves about ourselves, even in the absence of sustained research. Arguing for moving beyond comfortable zones of self-understanding and dwelling instead on "zones of discomfort" (and not just in "the field"), it specifically queries the common notions (1) that anthropologists constitute a "progressive" (or liberal or left-of-center) discipline, (2) that anthropology is in decline or on the verge of disappearing (what I call the "doom and gloom" scenario), and (3) that the AAA exists to serve anthropologists in the United States yet is open-minded enough, liberal enough, globally oriented enough, and anti-imperialistic enough to keep its "Americanness" at bay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-405
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Comfort zones
  • Disability
  • International(ism)
  • Racism
  • The profession of anthropology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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