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  • Applying Anthropology

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  • understanding OURSELVES

    ch ap

    te r

    o ut

    lin e


    Early Applications

    Academic and Applied Anthropology

    Applied Anthropology Today






    Indigenous Models



    Urban versus Rural




    search, which employs a good number of

    anthropologists, is based on the need to ap-

    preciate what actual and potential customers

    do, think, and want. Smart planners study and

    listen to people to try to determine locally

    based demand. In general, what’s working

    well (assuming it’s not discriminatory or

    illegal) should be maintained, encouraged,

    tweaked, and strengthened. If something’s

    wrong, how can it best be fi xed? What

    changes do the people—and which people—

    want? How can confl icting wishes and needs

    be accommodated? Applied anthropologists

    help answer these questions, which are crucial

    in understanding whether change is needed,

    and how it will work.

    Innovation succeeds best when it is cultur-

    ally appropriate. This axiom of applied anthro-

    pology could guide the international spread

    of programs aimed at social and economic

    change as well as of businesses. Each time an

    organization expands to a new nation, it must

    devise a culturally appropriate strategy for fi tting

    into the new setting. In their international ex-

    pansion, companies as diverse as McDonald’s,

    Starbucks, and Ford have learned that more

    money can be made by fi tting in with, rather

    than trying to Americanize, local habits.

    I s change good? The idea that innova-tion is desirable is almost axiomatic and unquestioned in American culture— especially in advertising. According to poll results, in November 2008 Americans

    voted for change in record numbers. “New

    and improved” is a slogan we hear all the

    time—a lot more often than “old reliable.”

    Which do you think is best—change or the

    status quo?

    That “new” isn’t always “improved” is a

    painful lesson learned by the Coca-Cola Com-

    pany (TCCC) in 1985 when it changed the for-

    mula of its premier soft drink and introduced

    “New Coke.” After a national brouhaha, with

    hordes of customers protesting, TCCC brought

    back old, familiar, reliable Coke under the

    name “Coca-Cola Classic,” which thrives today.

    New Coke, now history, offers a classic case of

    how not to treat consumers. TCCC tried a top-

    down change (a change initiated at the top of

    a hierarchy rather than inspired by the people

    most affected by the change). Customers

    didn’t ask TCCC to change its product; execu-

    tives made that decision.

    Business executives, like public policy mak-

    ers, run organizations that provide goods and

    services to people. The fi eld of market re-

    Applied anthropology is one of two dimen- sions of anthropology, the other being theo- retical/academic anthropology. Applied, or practical, anthropology is the use of anthropological data, perspectives, theory, and methods to identify, assess, and solve contemporary problems involving human behavior and social and cultural forces, conditions, and contexts. For example, medical anthropologists have worked as cultural interpreters in public health pro- grams, so as to facilitate their fi t into local

    culture. Many applied anthropologists have worked for or with international develop- ment agencies, such as the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Develop- ment (USAID). In North America, garbolo- gists help the Environmental Protection Agency, the paper industry, and packaging and trade associations. Archaeology is ap- plied as well in cultural resource manage- ment and historic preservation. Biological anthropologists work in public health, nu- trition, genetic counseling, substance abuse,

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  • Chapter 4 Applying Anthropology 81

    applied anthropology Using anthropology to solve contemporary problems.

    epidemiology, aging, and mental illness. Forensic anthropologists work with the police, medical ex- aminers, the courts, and international organiza- tions to identify victims of crimes, accidents, wars, and terrorism. Linguistic anthropologists study physician–patient interactions and show how di- alect differences infl uence classroom learning. The goal of most applied anthropologists is to fi nd humane and effective ways of helping local people. Recap 4.1 lists the two dimensions and four subfi elds of anthropology that were fi rst introduced in Chapter 1. One of the most valuable tools in applying anthropology is the ethnographic method. Eth- nographers study societies fi rsthand, living with

    Anthropological theory, the body of fi ndings and generalizations of the four subfi elds, also guides applied anthropology. Anthropology’s holistic perspective—its interest in biology, soci- ety, culture, and language—permits the evalua- tion of many issues that affect people. Theory aids practice, and application fuels theory. As we compare social-change policy and programs, our understanding of cause and effect increases. We add new generalizations about culture change to those discovered in traditional and ancient cultures.

    Like other forensic anthropologists, Dr. Kathy Reichs

    (shown here) and her alter ego, Temperance Brennan,

    work with the police, medical examiners, the courts,

    and international organizations to identify victims of

    crimes, accidents, wars, and terrorism. Brennan is the

    heroine of several novels by Reichs, as well as of the

    TV series Bones, which debuted on Fox in 2005.

    living anthropology VIDEOS

    Unearthing Evil: Archaeology in the Cause of Justice,

    This clip features archaeologist Richard Wright and his team of 15 forensic archaeologists and anthropologists working “in the cause of justice” in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998. The focus of the clip is the excavation of a site of mass burial or reburial of the bodies of some 660 civilians who were murdered during the confl ict that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Wright and his colleagues worked with the international community to provide evidence of war crimes. This evidence has led to the convictions of war criminals. Why was Wright nervous about this work? Compare the forensic work shown here with the discussion of forensic anthropology in this chapter.

    and learning from ordinary people. Ethnogra- phers are participant observers, taking part in the events they study in order to understand lo- cal thought and behavior. Applied anthropolo- gists use ethnographic techniques in both foreign and domestic settings. Other “expert” partici- pants in social-change programs may be content to converse with offi cials, read reports, and copy statistics. However, the applied anthropologist’s likely early request is some variant of “take me to the local people.” We know that people must play an active role in the changes that affect them and that “the people” have information “the ex- perts” lack.

    RECAP 4.1 The Four Subfi elds and Two Dimensions of Anthropology


    Cultural anthropology Development anthropology

    Archaeological anthropology Cultural resource management (CRM)

    Biological or physical anthropology Forensic anthropology

    Linguistic anthropology Study of linguistic diversity in classrooms

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  • 82 PART 2 Appreciating Cultural Diversity

    baby boom, which began in 1946 and peaked in 1957, fueled expansion of the American educa- tional system and thus of academic jobs. New ju- nior, community, and four-year colleges opened, and anthropology became a standard part of the college curriculum. During the 1950s and 1960s, most American anthropologists were college pro- fessors, although some still worked in agencies and museums. This era of academic anthropology continued through the early 1970s. Especially during the Vietnam War, undergraduates fl ocked to anthro- pology classes to learn about other cultures. Stu- dents were especially interested in Southeast Asia, whose indigenous societies were being disrupted by war. Many anthropologists pro- tested the superpowers