The Mystery of Fuller Theological Seminary

A project that I’ve been working on from time to time for the past five years is to look for patterns in large quantities of anthropology-related data that I scrape from the web. You can see some of my past experiments on this stuff here.

Since overhauling this website, I’ve decided to revisit one of these projects, which looks at anthropology dissertation metadata from the Proquest database. The data I’ve collected includes just over 17,000 records for Ph.D. dissertations tagged with “cultural anthropology.” The records include the title, the author, the year of publication, and the institution. Newer records include abstracts and supervisor (or committee) names. The data is US-centric (ProQuest gets their dissertation data from the Library of Congress), although most Canadian universities are included, as well as a few from other countries.

If you scan the records to find the universities with the largest number of anthropology dissertations, the names that appear are not that surprising. Universities with large and old departments, like the University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, UCLA, and UC Berkeley top the list. (You can see one of my older visualizations of dissertation numbers by institution on the project page.)

Recently, I went back to the data to try and figure out other ways to think about which universities were responsible for defining what anthropology in the US. I decided to look not just for universities that produced a lot of anthropology dissertations, but also those that produced students who also supervised dissertations in anthropology. In other words, which universities are most successfully reproducing anthropologists?

The list is mostly the same as the one for the straight count of most dissertations, except for one major difference. A place called Fuller Theological Seminary in California has produced at least seven PhDs who each went on to advise at least one student who also wrote a dissertation in cultural anthropology. This makes Fuller more central to the reproduction of cultural anthropology (at least according to this measure) than UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Brown, MIT, McGill, Michigan State, the New School, Princeton, Rutgers, and a few other famous names.

Before this, I had never heard of Fuller, but Wikipedia tells me that it is a “a multidenominational Christian evangelical seminary in Pasadena, California, with regional campuses in the western United States. The seminary has 2,897 students from 90 countries and 110 denominations.”

Clicking through to their website, I arrived at a description of their PhD program in Intercultural Studies which appears to be where anthropology is taught at Fuller. I don’t know anything more about what Fuller teaches, but the webpage suggests that the degree is focused on missiology, “a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural field of study” that examines “the nature of missionary work.” (Wikipedia says that in Europe, missiology is known as “intercultural theology.” This sounds like something anthropology would be useful in, and explains why Fuller is not alone in my data as a theology school in producing anthropology dissertations.

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