Reading & Research:
Scholarly essays range widely in their ambitions for producing generalizable knowledge: some are primarily oriented towards reporting specific research findings, while others seek to chalk out a program of wide-ranging scope and significance.
Essays on a single subject are one of the primary vehicles through which scholars present their research and ideas to the academic community, adding to existing knowledge through innovation and debate. They are generally published in journals or in edited volumes that are focused on a single topic. Most of the essays/journal articles you will read in your classes will probably fall into a handful of categories discussed below.
What are programmatic essays?:
These essays examine one or more theoretical issues in anthropology and suggest new directions for future research. Such research reports are self-contained works of scholarship whose conclusions are intended to be applicable or illuminating in the context of other ethnographic settings.
For instance, Sherry Ortner’s (1974) essay “Is female to male as nature is to culture?” argued that the universality of female subordination across all known human societies should be viewed as a reflection of ideological preoccupaty research articles pose and address a question or problem arising from the author’s original data (generally gathered through fieldwork, but sometimes in the course of archival research).
You may find it illuminating to discern and analyze the author’s ambitions in this regard. Is she primarily attempting to account for a particular set of circumstances and/or events? Or is she seeking to develop concepts or approaches that can be applied to comparable situations elsewhere?