The following quotes are from Political Anthropology: An Introduction by Ted C. Lewellen (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1992. page 5).
First, Lewellen begins by saying “Induction, cross-cultural comparison, culture, system, and evolution are not really defining qualities of anthropology so much as various aspects of the anthropological way of looking at the world. Although these provide a unified point of view, it is at the same time replete with contradictions.”
And then, the quote of the month for ZA (by default, because I don’t run a series of choice quotes in anthropology):
“Anthropologists seek no less than an understanding of the nature of humankind, yet they are suspicious of any generalization at all. They idealize a holistic view; yet, by the very complexity of the systems they confront, they are forced to isolate small subsystems. They demand precise classification, yet may argue that typologies distort more than they clarify. In sum, anthropologists are torn between diametrically opposed demands: to be true to the intense particularity of their field experience, and to give meaning to that experience by generalizing it to the world at large.”
Good, now take this and use it to advise students doing graduate work in anthropology. Or, even better, use the quote as the opening of your Introduction to Anthropology course. It is either liberating, because the irreconcilable demands and the confusion they breed send a subtle message: you can do anything in anthropology–or it causes paralysis: no matter what you do, it will always be wrong.