What Is Anthropology Anyway?

What Is Anthropology Anyways?
I study sociology and anthropology as my two majors for my undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University.

People always ask me, so what is anthropology anyway? Do you dig up bones? Do you go study unknown lands and live in a jungle somewhere for ten years?

Well...not really. Of course anthropology has an interesting history from Boaz to Margaret Mead, but what I practice in particular is a very contemporary version of cultural anthropology.

There is an article by Carole McGranahan written in 2006 entitled "Introduction: Public Anthropology," that simply stated what "Public Anthropology" is and why it is totally useful, and completely relevant to us right now.  You can find this article in the India Review journal, but for those who would rather read my notes on it, continue on...

  1. What Is Anthropology Anyway?
    1. Contemporary anthropology is about studying all of human life, society, culture, and communities. It can happen in any context, area, or region.
    2. Anthropology is now used to address inequity and cause social change versus our archaic views of the “anthropologist” that would study a lost civilization.
    3. Public anthropology is taking the ethnography and practice of anthropology from a purely extractive exercise, to an exercise that promotes knowledge, social change, and relationships within the community.
    4. Anthropology should commit to social justice in and beyond the communities in which we work.
    5. Embodiment and accountability are two key forms of action and intervention that an anthropologist should be aware of.
    6. Public anthropology = engaged anthropology

  2. Doing Public Anthropology
    1. Public anthropology will look vastly different from researcher to researcher, from community to community. What does the anthropologist give back to the community they study?
    2. Sometimes an anthropologist has been working in a community so long, they are able to offer much more than an NGO or politician when there is a need for policy making, or development in a particular community. They become much more than a researcher, but give service and a voice to their field/community through the development of relationships with the members of that community.
    3. Taking anthropology past research and trying to share information, create change, and give back to your community/field.
    4. The communities we research are not just research fields, but people we become invested in, and involved with. This attention is what can make anthropology so useful in social change and policy.

  3. Ethnography and Fieldwork
    1. Anthropology’s method is all about the Ethnography. Ethnography is based on participant observation (usually over many, many years).
    2. Building networks are a key part of public anthropology (whether face to face, or virtual)
    3. Ethnography allows us to really understand a community and is effective in contributing to the creation of development programs for communities/nations.
    4. Anthropology allows us to discover and understand marginalized narratives that are not seen by the public or outside eye.
    5. Sometimes the value of Anthropologist’s work is not always seen by civil policy makers or people outside the academic world; however they should because Anthropologists are awesome and useful (no bias here haha).

Anthropologists should be activists! They should be curious! They research; they are constantly seeking knowledge about the world around them, and then they are taking that knowledge and effecting change in the community they care about.

Does that sound like something I am interested in? Of course!

Until next time,

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