Author Archives: Making Anthropology Public

I am a super smart person.

Functionalism – Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Gluckman

This is the link to the Prezi for Functionalism (Addendum)

All subsequent quotes are taken from the associated texts unless otherwise noted.

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942)

It is important to remember that Malinowski is a product of his times and those who came before him. His belief that society is a system of “interrelated parts” as well as the thought of the Kula as a physical system directly mirrors Spencer’s “organic analogy.” Though Malinowski was influenced by Durkheim, similar to Radcliffe-Brown; Malinowski studied behavior in cultural context, dissimilar to Radcliff-Brown who observed social structures as an abstract concept that exist separate from the individuals. Malinowski incorporated the Boasian concepts of participant observation and integration of culture in his work,  but he also vehemently opposed Boasian Historical Particularism and Marxist doctrine; respectively, focusing on the “interrelation of elements within a society” instead of the history of the group in question and his having called idea of “the primitive communism of savages” a “widespread misconception.”

A Breakdown of the Reading

 The crux of Malinowski’s discussions pertains to the Kula, which is a more ritualized form of trade that is based on a gift exchange similar to the Native American Potlatch. Unlike the regular trade forms, haggling is not present. With regard to the idea that this ritualized barter, one should not mistake it for a “primitive communism” as it is important to note that the gifts are given in the spirit that the giver intends to make the recipient look bad by giving a better gift than they expect to receive in return. Similarly, Martha said the following with regard to gift giving in her comment on “The Foundations of Sociological Thought”,

“[G]iving as you said doesn’t come out of the goodness of someones heart that there is always gratitude and acceptance from the receiving person… putting it in current context [the concept still holds] true…if you give your friend a super expensive present and she rejects it saying it’s too much…the giver get upset for the rejection causing hostility with that friend because of the rejection. However if the friend does accept the gift…the giver expects the friend to hold her in high regards, not only that but when her birthday comes that the friend do the same…”

There is also a lot to be said with regard the preparations made for the actual Kula. From the manufacture of the canoes to the festival in anticipation of the event, the use of magic is integral to the whole preparatory activities. Spells for the swiftness of the vessels themselves, spells to weaken the hearts of the partners in the Kula, and the like are examples of the magic used to positively influence the outcome in situations where they cannot physically control.

Malinowski was a Polish-born British anthropologist, known for his theories in Psychological Functionalism. He thought that culture and cultural practices fulfilled an individual’s biological needs, therefore concluding that humans can never be without culture because they would not be able to survive. From the book, these biological needs included nutrition, reproduction, bodily comforts, safety, relaxation, movement, and growth. Without fulfilling these needs, individuals would not help in contributing to a culture’s success. In his research, Malinowski looked into how people pursued their own goals while working within the confines of cultural limitations. How does he view native populations? What were Malinowski’s views on colonialism and racial hierarchy?

A. R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955)

Influenced by some of the same sources as Malinowski, but came to the conclusion that one cannot study culture as a whole, merely this the social structures. Radcliffe-Brown said unlike physical sciences that could look at an object and tell you what thing constituted its make up at the most basic of levels, Anthropology has processes that make up the “fundamental units” of the study.

A Breakdown of the Reading

The topic of this reading as per the title, Joking Relationships. Joking relationships are some of the social relations that form the basis of what Radcliffe-Brown would have anthropologists study. He dichotomizes the joking relations into both the Son-in-Law/Mother-in-Law and the Mother’s Brother.


This is the relationship where both participants in the relationship partake in the joking and teasing equally. Sons-in-Law are often stereotyped as having a certain level of teasing style of discourse with their mothers-in-law. Pauly Shore anyone?


2.)Mother’s Brother

This is the relationship where only one of the participants teases the other, who takes it with little or no protest. This is because the mother’s brother or maternal uncle is usually of a lower social standing than his nephew, and would be socially constrained to accept these abuses.


Radcliffe-Brown was a British anthropologist, known for his theories in Structural Functionalism. He believed that culture and cultural practices creates balanced cohesive society that is always maintained by the individuals within the culture. Our social laws govern our behavior and control how we represent our individualism. His research delved into the interactions between people on different levels in a structure, and how these interactions may lead to a conflict of interests which can create instability. This instability is brought back to equilibrium by what he refers to as “ritualized joking.” What is ritualized joking and how does his work relate to Durkheim’s work?

Max Gluckman (1911-1975)

As an expert in Political Anthropology, Gluckman often wrote on the various customs and political systems found in S. Africa, where the author is from. In opposition to the work of Radcliffe-Brown, Gluckman was an activist in strong opposition to “colonialism and apartheid policies in his native South Africa.” A good analogy for this situation would be the fictional Dr. Grace Augustine from the motion picture Avatar. In opposition to colonial interests of the invading force, she was also very vocal.

A Breakdown of the Reading

Gluckman begins his discussions by introducing the idea of ritualized role reversals as a cultural universal. He uses the Christmas practices of various armed forces( e.g. Boxing Day) where the enlisted personell, who serve their superior officers, are in turn served by the officers, particularly at a meal. Gluckman shows that though these role reversals “obviously include a protest against the established order”, they actually work to strengthen the established social order. The Zulu are Gluckman’s second example, where the women adorn themselves in male clothing and weaponry during the marriage ceremony; other cultures even include lewd behavior in their approximation of the masculine identity basing the need to reverse roles with men for reasons varying from agricultural rites to honor a goddess, or to just pest riddance. Reversals of political position exist as well, and these help to “iron out the kinks” or otherwise diffuse conflict in a way that is non-violent. This is not to say that such rituals are always practiced. Gluckman states that in situations where the relationships are weak, such rituals are not performed, per his discussions regarding the rabbinate of Polish ghettos and boy-kings as well as situations where the social conflicts are irreconcilable.

Gluckman was a South African/British anthropologist and contributed work towards Structural Functionalism. With his experiences in researching colonialism in Africa, he was known for his criticism of colonialism and believed it to be a failed form of integrating culture. He believed that natives and other controlled groups would still keep their culture even when oppressed by opposing culture, and how this created conflict. He also believed that rebelling was more of a way to solve problems and bring a system to balance, rather than rebellion causing instability. What are the gender differences to Gluckman? What are the similarities and differences between individuals and groups in Gluckman’s view?


Final Clue for May

 Clue Four:  OK, for anyone still working on this months picture, here is your last clue.  This castle is located in wine country even though this country is known for their beer.  This castle is located along a river and was strategically place were it was constantly under attack, but could withstand long term sieges.  This castle also as a famous bridge over the river adding to its romance and important history.  Good luck with all the clues and I will have the answer next month, give or take a few days since I will be on an Archaeology dig the next few weeks.  Enjoy.


To read this months picture clues and make your guess go to: Where is the Anthropology? May 2008

Active Archaeology Project with California State University of Fresno

The next few weeks might be a little crazy here at the blog since I will be gone on an archaeology dig for a few weeks.  I plan to continue writing and having another picture for June, but this might be a little slower then when I have full computer access.

The past week I have done some traveling and officially graduated with my BA in Anthropology and History, so sorry for the personal distractions in May and June.  I plan on having several more posts up before the end of the month so keep a look out for new food for thought, theory insight and information.  Maybe this June I will tell you about the dig and lab work that archaeologists do at one of the few colleges west of the Mississippi that allow students to gain first hand experiences as “grave Robbers” and historical detectives of our civilizations past.  Stay tuned for tails of the GRANDDAD site in California Sierra foothills, between Yosimite and Fresno.


A Piece of Anthro Theory: Morgan’s “Ethnical Periods”

Lewis Henry Morgan piece called Ethnical periods showed social context of what people thought of other races and cultural that differ from westernized understanding of human civilized development.  Morgan’s argument, I found, was reasonably rooted in some truths, but his nineteenth century racial bigotry shines through his work and shows how clunky new ideas can be within such social constrains.  I did find his seven levels of “primary institutions” still rings true as a good foundational analysis within modern modifications.  One of his focuses was primitive verse complex.  Yet, other would argue that speaking sign language or English as simply two different languages, no less complex or unimportant.  Morgan’s definition of this statement would be that spoken words are more complex, therefore more advanced than hand gestures.  Over all, I think this is a piece that others should be read and uses as a reflection of where we have come and categorizing and labeling are not an exact science.  A more holistic understanding of cultures existing or existed is the best way to understand such steps in human cultural development. 


For a general summary or abstract of this article by Morgan read “Anthro Theory” page.  Click on the link to read the article.

Spotlight Article-appiled anthro-Interdisciplinary Teams Win Big

This was something that I was e-mailed that I thuoght helped show anthropology being applied in the modern tech world.  Enjoy!


On Saturday, May 3, an interdisciplinary team of engineering, entrepreneurship, and anthropology students from Fresno State traveled to San Jose State University to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Region 6 Central Area Meeting.  There, competing against teams from UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and University of Hawaii and elsewhere, the Fresno State team won the Design competition and a prize of $500 for their re-design of a voice activated TV remote control.  The team, composed of Hitender Sidhu, Nino Viray and William Hyatt of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Brent Estrada of the Craig School Entrepreneurship Program, and Jennifer Jones of the Department of Anthropology, has been working on the project this academic year in a new interdisciplinary course offered jointly by Electrical and Computer Engineering, Anthropology, and Entrepreneurship.  They will continue on to the national IEEE design competition this August.


A second interdisciplinary team from the same course competed on May 2 in the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) competition at Illinois Institute of Technology.  The team, with Julio Alvarez and Cynthia Lee of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aaron Metzler of the Craig School Entrepreneurship Program, and Jason Scroggins of the Department of Anthropology, placed second in the business plan portion of the competition, against teams from IIT, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, and elsewhere. IRPO competition is one of the toughest in the country with many teams spending two years on completing their projects.


Funding for the program comes from a grant by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. Professor Hank Delcore is the Project Director of the two year NCIIA grant. Funding for travel was provided by both the NCIIA grant and the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

California State University of Fresno is Making Anthropology Public

California State University of Fresno was been working this year to help make anthropology more public.  For the month of May CSU Fresno will being a positive addition to this web blog under the page “Anthro Public Projects” to add to their efforts to help publicize anthropology.  In addition to these student base projects CSU Fresno also has an Anthropology web newsletter that they publish once a month about the anthropology in their area and the anthro club at their college called “Culture Inscribed”.  Check out their efforts and see what California anthropology students are doing.

Where is the Anthropology?-May 2008

Here are the monthly directions if you have been paying attention or are new to the site and want to play along.  Something that I thought might help in showing the interesting ways that anthropology is all around is to presenting picture of the month. This will be of anthropology importance; a place, activity or a person that has to do with anthropology. I will give a clue a week to give everyone an opportunity to figure out what the picture is and the anthropological importance and how it applies.


Clue One: This image captures a small section of what might have been considered the “Eighth wonder of the world”. This is not located in any place called America.  This nation is well know for structures such as this.  What country is this located in and with only this clue could you tell me the name of this building?

 Clue Two: Mark Twain often visited the ruins of this structure and wrote poetic thoughts of one of its most famous towers.  This is also one of the structure that has many romantic and intriguing stories for the people that go and visit this area.  Have you been able to think of where this is and the name yet?

 Clue Three: This building was a pivotal player in the thirty years war.  Several centuries later, several rich noblemen wanted to added to this building and then others wanted to persevere this buildings historical importance.  This building also house the third largest barrel in Europe.  Have you been able to guess this location and building yet? 

 Clue Four:  OK, for anyone still working on this months picture, here is your last clue.  This castle is located in wine country even though this country is known for their beer.  This castle is located along a river and was strategically place were it was constantly under attack, but could withstand long term sieges.  This castle also as a famous bridge over the river adding to its romance and important history.  Good luck with all the clues and I will have the answer next month, give or take a few days since I will be on an Archaeology dig the next few weeks.  Enjoy.


Where is the Anthropology? April 2008: Tal’Afar, Iraq

Tal’Afar, Iraq is April’s picture!  Good guessing.




This image was taken by a soldier who spent a tour in Iraq and has seen a very different world than many people. This soldier was kind enough to let me use one of the pictures taken of everyday life currently in Iraq to help show some middle eastern anthropology and to get a soldiers view of the Iraq culture, customs, and history.




“Tal’Afar is located in the Middle East in Iraq. It is approximately “30 miles west of Mosul and 120 miles north west of Kirkuk”, which are major cities in Iraq. While no official census has been taken, the city’s population was estimated to be approximately 420,000 people prior to the war. With current U.S. occupations, the assessment is closer to 200,000, nearly all of whom are Iraqi Turkmen. The population is “mostly Sunni Muslims with a Shiite presence. While most residents do speak Arabic, a dialect of Turkish is used nearly universally throughout the city.” (


During the Ottoman Empire reign of power, the Ottoman Turkish Army founded the city on a hill as a military outpost. “Remains of the fortress can still be seen today. Also garrisoned at the fortress were Turkmen members of the Daloodi tribe who following the withdrawal of the Ottoman Army became the first civilian occupants of the town build around the fortress. … Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Tal Afar became part of Iraq.” (


Over the years, much of the original fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt as needs of the people, military and governments have dictated. “Local history states that British administrators augmented the structure of the original fortress. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fortress was further augmented and made to house the city’s mayoral, municipal and police headquarters.” The castle continues to be used by military forces occupying the city. The local Iraqi military headquarters is also located there. The British occupied this area for years, further evidence of this can be seen in a large defensive structure just east of town and in the genetic features of the younger generation. (


Though Iraq is consider by some to be the “cradle of civilization”, it has not advanced much since then. There are modern convinces found among the city. Many of the citizens have cell phone, as they are relatively inexpensive to get and use. Cars are used, but not everyone can afford them, hence why they continue to use donkey carts for everyday needs. Indoor pluming is virtually nonexistent in this city and raw sewage runs down the street freely. Few residences have computers and internet access. In a region that can reach temperatures of 130 degrees, central air is few and fair between.


The culture here is very different from the American way of life. The men there are allowed to have more than one wife and the women there are not treated the same as in America. It is common to see a man walking from the market with a few women trailing behind him carrying everything and the guy just strolling along smoking a cigarette.


The unemployment rate is really high. When asked what he did all day, one resident responded he plays volleyball or soccer. When asked why he does not work, he said why bother. He gets everything he needs for living from the government. The thought process is just completely different, the items Americans use everyday and think are necessary for life are considered major luxuries.


The young boys are pretty bold in asking for things from the soldiers, a little to often. The girls on the other hand stay back. They are very timid and when the boys are around they will not come near. If a girl did get anything from a solider with boys around, the boys would often take it away as fast as they could and the girls would not be able to do anything about it. Because of this, for at least this soldier, he would try to give things to the girls because they were less annoying and it was more rewarding.”



Written by a Soldier



These are some of the stories and experiences this soldier had personally during the soldier’s tour in Iraq.  This added understanding, showed cultural differences and allowed the soldier to see into a different world that is normal closed off to the masses.




Editor-Adrienne Elder

How many Wives did he have? Polygyny Polyandry Polygamy: Food for Thought

Why might POLYGAMY be as common as it is?

The general term “polygamy” is often used as is in the form of a man married to many women.  In truth, there are several forms of alternative marriage arrangements in the world.  Three most common ones are when one man is married to many women (Polygyny), one woman is married to many men (Polyandry), or when several men and women are married together to one person (Polygamy).  Most societies (Middle East countries, African Nations, Tibet, South American, and Asian cultures) outside of industrialized western societies, gain economic, better survival, and religious moral values and expressions in such family organized arrangements.  Most societies have reasons for their motivation and social acceptances, which provides benefits to the adults and children.  This ensures a higher survival rate and better living conditions to many groups world wide, than if more societies practices monogamous relationships. 

Besides many of the industrialized western societies, monogamous relationships end in separation, divorce, or unfaithfulness, seeming to lack suitability for durability within those societies.  This could bring up the idea and understanding of monogamous relationships into question since currently the divorce rate in general is raising and marriage decreasing or happens later in life.   

I think polygamy might go beyond cultural beliefs; there were many accounts of evidences that could have supported the idea of polygamy as a better way to ensure human survival and success outside of westernized societies.  Social structure of marriage does become a part of someone’s believes form birth.  If a form of polygamist family structure is all ones knows, it is practiced for a reason; cultural, economical, religious, survival, improved living conditions, land, politics, etc. that then becomes the social “norm” and is accepted for what it is: Family.

What do you think? 

Wikipedia has a good page about Polygamy if you want to further your general understanding of this form of marriage.





What Gender are you Speaking?: Food for Thought

Do men and women really talk differently?  If so, can they “communicate”?  How can understanding the work of DeSaussure help us today?

I would say that every person talks differently, but the differences in how the genders communicate are very unique.  In the Maltz and Borker article “A cultural Approach to Male-female Miscommunication”, they point out about five major differences in male and female communication and interaction.  Women ask questions more, maintaining routine interaction, minimal response, silent protests and more pronoun usage in communicating with others.  Men are more likely to interrupt, challenge, ignore others comments, control or shift the topic and make more declarations of facts/opinions.  Men and women approach talking to each other differently and use a different communication structure that often leads to miscommunication of the sex’s co-interaction.  Some of the classic miscommunications are ones that the PowerPoint presentation alluded to over friendly interaction between men and women.     

Despite the differences in gender communication, men and women are constantly communicating.  Miscommunication happens often enough, but this does not stop people from communicating.  When the different genders understand that this linguistic and cultural barrier exists, they can be more aware and understanding when miscommunication occurs.   

All people can communicate, even if they do not speak the same language, people have been bridging the gaps of language for centuries, not always in the clearest interpretation, but communication is not a perfect science.     

DeSaussure’s sturcturalist views of language and culture are useful in understanding human linguistics and its cultural relation.  Today, people struggle with understanding what other people say, often leading to miscommunication.  When people are able to understand the complexity of human communication with words and actions, they are better equipped to understand a person’s cultural background and the way others communicate differently.  

“Structuralists are interested in the interrelationship between UNITS, also called “surface phenomena,” and RULES, which are the ways that units can be put together” (DeSaussure’s).  In the article, he refers to tinker toys as aspects of subcultures interlinked into the main culture.  Interacting and surviving in harmony within a larger picture.  This example implies differences, yet enough similarities to allow others to understand the trivial or profound differences within the complex structure of culture and for DeSaussure’s human language.  

Here are some links to this topic and articles:

Linguistics 156: Language and Gender

A cultural approach to malefemale miscommunication.  3kCached

After clicking the above web link find the link below to access an PDF file of this particular article

A cultural approach to male-female miscommunication. Language and Social Identity. J. J. Gumperz. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 196-216.,

Be Ebonics Real-Dog?: Food for Thought

Is Ebonics a language? 

According to Rickford it is.  Ebonics is just like a language in that it has a structure, grammar and vocal inflexions that all have particular meanings and rules of usage.  Ebonics is a newly formed and widely spreading language that often is mixed into English and other languages and self-expressions for cultural and language communication.  Ebonics and its roots seem more uncertain, since it is a language that has been formed over many years and now, like in Oakland California considered a foreign language. 


 Simply because Ebonics’ sounds “unintelligent” to English speaking people does not mean it is a lazy or uneducated form of communication, only different and foreign to people with such rigid minds and cultural insensitive. 

Rickford and Oakland education progarms have worked to help inform others of the language value of Ebonics, while others state how it is simply a less educated dialect of the American English language. Now, you look at some of the points on both sides and then you deside where you stand on how languages are created.  





“What Race are you?-I am in a Race?”: Food for Thought

Does Race exist?  Is it valuable to continue discussions of racism?  If Franz Boas (One of the fathers of Anthropology) defined much of these issues 100 years ago, why are we redefining them now?

Race exists in the sense of inherit cultural ideas of races rather than a biological fact.  “Race without Color” article by Jared Diamond focuses on the fact that race is nothing more then a cultural concept and hold little to no true aspect for how particular groups of people value the word “race”. 

I would say depending on the view of race, it exists or it does not.  The current concept of race in many human cultures, particular the highly developed and civilized, would say and yes, race– the visual differences, skills and characterizes value by humanity for success or failure for advancement is real and is important for human classification or grouping.  Other more naturalist and primitive less technological grouped humans would possibly view race– the custom, belief practice, and culture that differs from other groups geographically that make them harder to under motivation of actions when cross-race relations try to communicate.  This example shows that the understanding of race varies and many definitions do not really understand the other groups interpretation of what race means. 

Race might simply be a word that humans use to replace the word unusual, different,  peculiar, unfamiliar, foreign, strange, bizarre, weird, abnormal, incorrect etc. I would say that race exists in the mind and eye of the beholder, but biological and scientific facts have no value or true bases for existences for humans to uphold.

Since racism is in our cultural, political and daily life, it would cause the need for continued discussion on this topic.  This topic has been implanted and maintained, as Peggy Mclntosh article “White Privilege” indicates, into the system of the life we led.  Not discussing it will not make it magically disappear from our culture or our beliefs of the value and meaning of racism.  Action and expression is necessary for change and a better comprehensive understanding to take place.

 Franz Boas pioneered the use of scientific approach to anthropology, demonstrating the necessity of studying a culture in all its aspects, meaning religion, art, history, language, and physical characteristics.  Boas also addressed the importance that “no truly pure race exists, and that no race is innately superior to any other” (Boas).   

People over a century later continue discussing this issue of race, purity, and superiority over other people that have been categorized into “labels”.  These cultures need of proving, documenting, and maintaining historical evidences of that particular human groupings  success, failure, and longevity by the same group showing the why’s and how’s to justify their existences.   

Race is being redefined still due to the world’s globalization of interaction, interfacing, and economic market causing to world and her people to become increasingly connected on a global scale.  The power is growing, the groups are multiplying, and the world is engaging within this close network to reveal motives and exploitation.  Race is redefined to allow for expanding comfort of those in power, trying to maintain power and continue the hierarchy of control through solace manipulation of the massively growing multicultural and racial audience of the world lulling them into compliance of their inferiority. 

The Nacirema-A strange and primative people?: Food for Thought

Miner’s “Body Ritual among the Nacirema
The Nacirema article from the AAA (American Anthropological Association) website and other links at the bottom of the  42kCached  

What was the point of the Nacirema article? 

The Nacirema or “American” article pointed out the ethnocentric mind set of people in “civilized and advanced societies”.  Often people look at other cultures as primitive and uncivilized, backward and illogical, but this article depicts Americans as a strange and savage culture convincingly to other Americans.  The article tries to show how things could be misinterpreted and ethnocentric views cloud judgment and understanding of another’s open mindedness.  It focuses on the rituals of the bathroom, body image, and the medical field with doctors, dentists, and therapists.  The article also shows some of the differences with male and female body image alteration such as shaving and breast implants.  One of the possible motivations of this article was to show Americans what they might look like to other civilizations that we have viewed in the past or currently as exotic and mystical cultures among the people of the world. 

It is a cultural anthropologist’s way of humbling the modern westernized cultures and the arrogance of Americans of their lacking cultural respect and efforts to understand, instead of pointing fingers and looking through the glass a different way.

Clue #3

The language that the people speak is a form of Turkish, but they so not live in Turkey?  They are a small minority group in their country, but the city they in, they are the majority.  This country is located near the beginning of human civilization.  Have you been able to guess where the picture is and who these people might be?


Check out “Where is the Anthropology?-April 2008” near the bottom of the blog and see if you know where the anthropology is in the photo?

Appling Applied Anthropology in the Real World


            Applied anthropologists use anthropological methods and tools of research and data retrieval as professional consultants to solve real world problems and issues.  Applied anthropology involves applying the study of human culture, behavior, language, and biology.  Anthropologist’s help humans using observation, ethnography, and collecting research and data.  These tools of applied anthropology help people understand the “other”, an individual or group of people that are different then the observer, and provide comparisons, differences, and evolutionary information to gain a holistic perspective on a different way of human life.  The Society for Applied Anthropology has stated applied anthropology is the “scientific investigation of the principles controlling the relations of human beings to one another, and the encouragement of the wide application of these principles to practical problems ” (Griffith 2008). 

            Applied anthropology takes the four subfields of anthropology: ethnology (cultural), archeology, biology or physical, and linguistic, and finds ways to apply these subfields to societal problems in order to find possible solutions.  Applied anthropologists are involved in government, corporate organizations, social, political and economic fields, including world business, creating public policy, law enforcement, the communication field, and medicine (Nanda 2007, 10-14).  These types of anthropologists provide anthropological perspective to areas not previously considered relevant to anthropology.  Traditional anthropology focuses on tribal studies and extinct or dying peoples and cultures throughout history.  The skills and data retrieved through in-depth human studies using anthropologic analysis allows the developing world to realize what the affects might be, have been, and currently are from continued advancement and improved technology.  

            There are four different types of applied anthropology that are currently in effect; basic research for specified goals, corporate employee assignments, program development and administration, and consultants as cultural brokers (Mullooly 2007).  There are three approaches to anthropology when studying the human race.  The first is holistic, the analysis of human biological and cultural development, provides realizations giving an expanded perspective of the studied culture.  The comparative approach would take one of two different directions.  One example would be to examine the differences between two or more different cultural groups to show or examine external and internal differences between members of the same cultural group.  The last of the three is evolution approaches.  The basic concept of evolution culturally, biological and with language communication is the idea that humans are continually changing and adapting (Mullooly 2007).

            Anthropology has evolved.  The study of man for the sake for learning about cultures is basic anthropology.  The other is applied anthropology, which studies the human motivation from external forces or objectives.  This generally considered motives of improving, sustaining, and influences human life.  Anthropology, as Franz Boas has stated, is “documenting the diversity of human lifestyles” using cultural Relativity and Ethnography/Participant Observation (Mullooly 2007).  By “applying” anthropology, ethnographic techniques within the field of anthropology, anthropologist can evaluate the current world instead of the past.  This allows client groups to have a better understanding of their workforce and competitors.  In short, it allows anthropologists to enter the corporate arena as business consultants.

            The term “applied anthropology” was first coined by a man named Daniel Brinton in 1896 and by the 1930’s the term started to give rise to the ideas and concepts of applying anthropology (Sillitoe 2006, 6).  This form of anthropology came into practice during the 1920’s and 1930’s, and had a rocky ride into the next century for practical application.  The British were the first to apply anthropology skills for “Native American reservation administration and problems” based on their colonial control and conquest of savages and raw materials enriching the lands of Africa and the America’s (Bennett 1996, 26).  Anthropologists were used to help British colonial authorities to conduct “indirect rule”, while believing that they were of little use to the British government (Sillitoe 2006, 4).  The American background of applied anthropology however, is based off interdisciplinary research and ideas stemming from the origins of the Native American reservations, social cultural studies of industrial organization, economics, and rural agriculture (Bennett 1996, 26).  These avenues of anthropology gave birth to applied anthropologists’ way of assisting by researching and advising the impact of modernization on culture and humanity.

While the founders of the society for anthropology saw anthropology as a multidiscipline, they also believed “anthropology [to be] one single-but-multi-discipline” subject (Bennett 1996, 26).  Applied anthropology is able to uses other disciplines such as history, psychology, sociology, and physiology within the anthropology umbrella of studying humans.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, anthropologists started to reject the multidisciplinary view causing more focus on classic fieldwork methodology (Bennett 1996, 27-28).  Lucy Mair, an anthropologists in the 1960’s and 1970’s, stated, “anthropology’s benefit is more likely to be felt as the indirect result of its gradual diffusion among persons having administrative responsibility, increasing their understanding of the situations with which they are dealing, than in direct recommendations on policy” (Sillitoe 2006, 8).  Moreover, anthropology was under scrutiny by other academic fields after the social blunder towards the Japanese-Americans and Jews from the world wars and during the civil rights movement because of the destructive results to those groups, the anthropologists had believed they helped them and the government.  Still, anthropologists applied their skills to societal problems, working to make a difference despite the adversity to their work and the lack of validation of the subject effectiveness of applying anthropology.             

            Understanding other people is necessary in functioning and interacting with others.  Applied anthropology benefits humanity by looking at diverse groups and finding commonalities amongst them.  The worlds’ numerous peoples change because of the influences of other cultures and changes in their environment.  Applied anthropology allows for an open-minded perspective into the unknown, shunned, or misunderstood cultural worlds of “others” – peoples and cultures different from one’s own.  Anthropological analyze has been turned onto the cultures of today, including urbanized environments where many sub cultures thrive. 

Anthropologists take a more active role in their own complex culture when utilizing applied anthropology it actively finds answers to hard questions, such as Philippe Bourgois, Claire Sterk, and Peggy Mclntosh’s work on drugs, prostitution, and racism (Podolefsky 2007, xv-xvi).  These anthropologists are a few examples of how anthropologists have delved into society’s underworld to reveal how the American dream is still attainable.  To understand our cultures complexity, anthropologists look at the subcultures to help understand the whys and history of the subcultures existence and perpetual longevity.  Research into the underground economy and American dream through the eyes of the socially rejected in civilized America is what anthropologists bring to the forefront of society’s attention (Podolefsky 2007, 122-137).

            One of the possible weaknesses of applied anthropology is how deeply involved the anthropologists become in their topic.  Anthropological data could be contaminated by possible assimilation of the social scientists into the culture they are studying, distorting the information being collected.  Another weakness of this form of anthropology is that a person is not researching information for long periods of time, building up trust.  Instead, they are trying to prove a client’s product or work has an affect on a group of people.  This outcome driven focus could make the anthropologist’s data unreliable because of the pressures of the conclusion driven client.  The applied anthropologist must balance both the client’s interest as well as the group being studied, which may be in conflict and may place the anthropologist in a compromising position.  World War II Japanese concentration camps are an example of how the client and the group’s needs conflicted, and how the applied anthropologists’ research was used less scientifically and more for the government’s security demands.  This resulted in many Japanese Americans losing their homes, propriety, and dignity through applied anthropologist’s advice on how best to help the country protect themselves from Japanese spies during the war.  The governments and American society’s stigma against the enemy caused a lack of cultural understanding to be applied that might have help all parties involved and prevent the Japanese concentration camps in America.  Such acts reflected poorly on the field of applied anthropology and the credibility of those reports (Embree 1945, 635-637). 

            One of the biggest criticisms of applied anthropology is from the academic world in that as a discipline, it contains no true theories of its own.  This harms applied development as an academic field, as it is often overlooked or completely ignored in academic circles and institutions (Bennett 1996, 28-32).  Another critique within anthropology, ethics is a complex issue that applied anthropology struggles to address.  The responsibility to the group being studied and the demands of the applied anthropologist’s client put the applied anthropologist in an ethical quandary.  This ethical dichotomy is left to the anthropologist to sort out.  To help minimize harm of any unanticipated consequences, applied anthropologists strive to avoid taking any jobs that would result in such an ethical predicament.  The responsibility to the employer of an anthropologist is to maintain considerable independence allowing the anthropologist to criticize a boss or the company and to defend study groups against negative consequences.  (Bennett 1996, 32-33)      

Other concerns over applied anthropology is that the definition has continued to morph over the decades making it challenging to argue applied anthropology truly exists and has practical ability of the discipline to contribute to society and anthropology (Sillitoe 2006, 9).  Yet, there are currently applied anthropologists in action, if not in defining their anthropologic title as applied, that contribute to society, the businesses they work for and the needs of the populace groups they study.  Doctor Bonnie Nardi’s job as an anthropologist at AT&T is to help researcher’s pioneer new technology of the future by examining consumer’s behavior in the home or office for their next technology need (Podolefsky 2007, 218).  Applied anthropology “translates cultural relativism into conservation of local ways and adaptations … to make sure that change is not overly punishing or that any induced change has a beneficial effect” (Bennett 1996, 28). 

Scarlette Epstein’s classic monograph reported on the difference in response of two almost identical villages regarding an irrigation system, and the affects on these two groups.  The study showed one village was affected positively in growth and advancement in the economic and agrarian world.  The other village had almost no change in their traditional life style.  The study Epstein conducted showed “that no one factor- social, cultural, or economic- could tell the whole story” (Bennett 1996, 28).  Anthropologists delve into all these aspects in a studied group to provide holistic understanding and to provide a clear picture of a particular society’s reactions to change. 

            The world is becoming more complex and globalizing with the worlds diverse cultures coming closer than ever before, applied anthropology seems to be the next step to understanding peoples needs better.  Anthropology studies human societies as a whole unit of individuals and groups trying to provide answers to social questions and concerns of others.  The harm of applied anthropology is that the anthropological advisors to the people that hired them can come into conflict with the people being studied.  The anthropologists’ goal is to help ensure the targeted populations are not negatively affected by the continuing encroachment of the modern worlds drive for evolvement and expansion.  Dealing with people on any level to be successful in understanding their perspective, and a form of anthropology analysis and observation and intervention, occurs with meeting and working with other people.  Any field of expertise a person chooses to master, applying anthropology skills can raise the success, and all humans benefit from a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness.  Applied anthropology might not be completely recognized by the scholarly world different or viable, but people that apply themselves find more success than failure in the work they achieve. 






Bennett, John W. Applied and Action Anthropology: Ideological and Conceptual Aspects.              “Current Anthropology”, Supplement: Special Issue: Anthropology in Public, vol. 37, 1    (February, 1996) s23-s53.


Embree, John F.  Applied Anthropology and Its relationship to Anthropology.  “American    Anthropologist”. New Series, Vol. 47, 4 (October –December, 1945) 635-637.


Griffith, David, Jeffrey C. Johnson, Jeanne Simonelli, Bill Roberts, and James Wallace eds.        “Mission statement”. Society for Applied Anthropology, 2008.  Retrieved on 3 February     2008 from


Mullooly, James. What is Applied Anthropology?: Humanity has problems We Find             solutions.  PowerPoint Presentation lecture notes (Fall 2007). Received 30 January 2008.


Nanda, Serena and Warms, Richard L. Cultural Anthropology Ninth Edition.  Thomson        Wadsworth (United States of America, 2007) 528.


Podolefsky, P. and Brown, P. Applying Anthropology: An Introductory Reader Eighth Edition.       McGraw-Hill (New York, 2007) 360.


Sillitoe, Paul. The search for Relevance: A brief History of Applied Anthropology.    “History and Anthropology”, vol. 17, 1 (March 2006)1-19.