Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropology is the application of an anthropological method of study in order to find solutions to problems. Anthropologists, trained in the theories and practical methodologies of anthropology, are those practicing applied anthropology in a specific realm.

Applied anthropologists use the skills they have gained through the study of anthropology and knowledge of the field to solve problems practically. Traditionally, people working in this way have been known as applied anthropologists, and the overall aspect of this type of anthropology has been called applied anthropology. As contemporary anthropology has expanded significantly and particularly with the effects of globalization, many changes have occurred, as well as an increasing interrelationship among various disciplines. New terminology is now associated with applied anthropology as a result. Practicing anthropology is a popular term and is often interchangeable with applied anthropology. Other names include public anthropology and advocacy anthropology, the latter particularly when advocating is being done on behalf of the client or community. Research and development anthropology are further classifications, with action anthropology denoting the practical aspect of the work.

In contemporary times, practitioners of this field work across worldwide locations. They may be placed in business organizations or government bodies and within a cross-section of educational, health-oriented or community structures. The aim in all instances is to utilize anthropological and ethnographic methodologies, together with a cross-cultural knowledge base, to create an effective study and practical application to facilitating solutions.

The idea of understanding cultures is crucial. Applied anthropology not only addresses challenging situations by resolving problems, but also works within communities with interdisciplinary scholarship and cross-cultural contextual awareness that is pivotal to its work.

Originally, the nature of the anthropological domain functioned largely within academic research institutions. This has altered in an ever-growing demand for applied anthropologists to ease problem-solving in the public and private sector.

The work is determined by the problem at hand. Anthropological knowledge is applied according to the specific needs and requirements of the place and community. At the core of the work is the notion of helping the community to facilitate the change it requires, not the change the anthropologist might deem necessary. In some instances, stability, rather than specific change, might be the solution to the problem being addressed. Human behavior is the dominant feature of this applied research, and the actions that the solution necessitates are closely connected. Applied anthropologists seek to conduct step-by-step analysis of how to effect an improvement in matters social, economic or even technological within a particular group context.

The relationship between humans and their actions and interactions is at the heart of the study. Anthropological principles and perspectives are applied to ascertaining how best to use these principles to ameliorate problems to achieve better relations and effective functioning. Challenges are addressed by anthropologists well-versed in cultural diversity, ethnicity, class and gender.

John van Willigen in his 2002 book Applied Anthropology: An Introduction defines applied anthropology as "a complex of related, research-based, instrumental methods which produce change or stability in specific cultural systems through provision of data initiation of direct action, and/or the formation of policy." He continues by adding that "this process can take many forms, varying in terms of problem, role of the anthropologist, motivating values, and extent of action involvement."

The Society for Applied Anthropology (SAA), based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, includes membership of academic research-related anthropologists as well as practitioners of applied anthropology. The society stresses the interdisciplinary and scientific nature of the applied anthropology field and focuses on an integration of principles and practice, theories and methodologies to problem-solve in communities and situations worldwide.

The directory of members of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology (NAPA) is a further resource for applied anthropologists. Careers of an applied anthropologist may include a range of titles, and applied anthropologists may be seen in a variety of roles and work placements. He or she may be referred to as an advisor or consultant, a caseworker or an ethnographer, a coordinator or director. His or her practice expertise may be called on in aspects of alcohol and drug abuse, law enforcement, human rights, racial or genocide issues. The military, agriculture, business, education and recreation are further areas where applied anthropology occurs.

Applied Anthropology: Selected full-text books and articles

Applied Anthropology: An Introduction By John Van Willigen Bergin & Garvey, 2002 (3rd edition)
Anthropology Put to Work By Les W. Field; Richard G. Fox Berg, 2007
Applied Anthropology: Domains of Application By Satish Kedia; John Van Willigen Praeger, 2005
What Anthropologists Do By Veronica Strang Berg, 2009
Places in Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology By Paul A. Shackel; Erve J. Chambers Routledge, 2004
Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method By Carolyn F. Sargent; Thomas M. Johnson Praeger, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Clinically Applied Anthropology"
Medical Anthropology and African American Health By Eric J. Bailey Bergin & Garvey, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Strategies for Applied Medical Anthropology Health Care Research"
The Social Dimensions of AIDS: Method and Theory By Douglas A. Feldman; Thomas M. Johnson Praeger, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Eight "AIDS Health Promotion and Clinically Applied Anthropology"
Culture and Change: An Introduction By Larry L. Naylor Bergin & Garvey, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Future of Applied Anthropology" begins on p. 212
Culture, Ethics and Participatory Methodology in Cross-Cultural Research By Ivanitz, Michele Australian Aboriginal Studies, Vol. 1999, No. 2, Fall 1999
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Participating in Development: Approaches to Indigenous Knowledge By Paul Sillitoe; Alan Bicker; Johan Pottier Routledge, 2002
Abrogating Responsibility? Applied Anthropology, Vesteys, Aboriginal Labour, 1944-1946 By Gray, Geoffrey Australian Aboriginal Studies, Vol. 2001, No. 2, Fall 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dictionary of Concepts in Cultural Anthropology By Robert H. Winthrop Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Applied Anthropology" begins on p. 16
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