Re: applied anthropology

Douglas B Hanson (dhanson@WORLD.STD.COM)
Mon, 12 Dec 1994 08:55:27 -0500

>I would find it interesting to know more about the positions held by the
>anthropologists on the list who work in applied anthropology, and what
>chance they believe will occur in choices of positions within applied
>anthropology the future. From my knowledge of the field, I would assume
>that increased global communication and current changes in global
>politics, on various levels would open new opportunities for this field
>also. Would any applied anthropologists wish to comment?
>Thank you!
>Susan Sumner

I can't speak for socio-cultural anthropologists or archaeologists, but as
a biological anthropologist working outside of academia, I know there are
numerous opportunities to apply your anthropological skills in the
workplace. I chose the biomedical research profession primarily because I
was interested in doing "basic" research in skeletal biology (I came from a
background of mortuary archaeology and prehistoric human skeletal biology).
I found a principal investigator at an institution devoted to research in
biomineralization (Forsyth Institute for Advanced Research in Oral Biology)
and talked to him about the research problems I was interested in tackling
(from a unique anthropological perspective of course). He was so enthused
about the potential of some of the research I had in mind that he put me on
his research staff while I prepared my first NIH grant application. I was
successful and have now been here for almost ten years doing research. In
fact I now have the resources to enable me to devote part of my research
efforts to doing research in prehistoric human skeletal biology.

The moral of the story is that we, as anthropologists, are provided with a
unique set of skills that can be applied in almost any profession. The
problem, as I see it, is that university departments do not provide their
graduate students with the tools and resources needed to assist them in
seeking positions outside of academia. I would recommend that university
departments seek out local, applied and/or non-academic anthropologists to
help establish a consortium for teaching and consulting purposes. Not only
would this provide students with needed contacts outside the university,
but it would also give some "legitimacy" to being a non-academic
anthropologist. Quite frankly, many of us working outside academia do so by
choice and don't need that legitimacy, but we would like to change the
perception of many academics that we don't really do anthropology and can't
possibly contribute to the training of future generations of
anthropologists. Time to get real people! Let's try to work together to
make anthropology a viable academic alternative in graduate schools and
give future generations of anthropologists CHOICES when they enter the

-- Doug Hanson