Re: Jobs & Being an Anthropolgist

Eve Pinsker (U56728@UICVM.BITNET)
Fri, 3 Jun 1994 09:28:57 CDT

I'd like to say more about this than I have time to right now . . .
Doulas Hanson said ". . . with the skills and background you acquire as an
anthropologist there are any number of non-academic positions suited to
your talents." Speaking as a cultural anthropologist, I've begun to find
out how true this is, although I've been thinking about it more in terms of
being able to contribute to work that has to be done rather than in terms of
"positions" -- but the new dicta on job seeking in the contemporary economy
is that "the best job is one you create for yourself by seeing a need that
has to be filled". I've been working with people in health services and in
evaluation, and in both fields professionals seem to be becoming aware that
they need help in getting ethnographic data and interpreting it.
However, I think we're talking about more here than marketing individuals
-- we're talking about marketing our discipline. So I plead: if your
anthropological training has provided you with skills that are useful to people
, PLEASE tell people you are trained as an anthropologist. You can add
whatever qualifiers you like that make this more palatable -- I usually tell
people I am a political anthropologist, and that political anthropology is a
subfield of cultural anthropology. That dispells the assumption that I have
no interest in contemporary complex societies (when you say "political," people
don't usually think first about chiefdoms). You can call yourself a
medical anthropologist or an economic anthropologist or an educational
anthropologist or whatever you like, but is it important to identify yourself
as an anthropologist so that your audience learns that anthropology is relevant
to the contemporary world and the next time they meet someone who identifies
him/herself as one they are less likely to say, "Oh, like Indiana Jones?"
(People used to say, "Oh, like Margaret Mead?" when she was alive -- we lost
an important spokesperson for the discipline when we lost her). I know, right
now you say to someone you're an anthropologist and it doesn't put food on the
table -- but that would change if all the people using their anthropological
training would tell people that that's where their skills came from. (Yes,
academic cultural anthropologists could be doing a lot more in terms of being
explicit about fieldwork methodologies and communicating to a wider audience --
but that's another story -- and there is some good work out there already, lik
e Chuck Briggs' book on interviewing). I've run into several instances lately
of people knowing someone's name, respecting them as a professional, and
having no idea that said person has a Ph.D. in anthropology (but what I'm sayin
g goes for B.A.'s and M.A.'s as well -- if we emphasize that we can teach
useful skills at these levels as well, than those degrees will become more help
ful in the non-academic job market, too). Within academia, anthropologists are
not only found in anthro depts. -- they're in depts. of education, criminology
, gerontology, occupational therapy, public health, and I'm sure other fields
that I don't know about. We need to publicize this more, I think; I know that
NAPA has started to, and they have a videotape on applied anthropology careers
both inside and outside of academia
that they're distributing. Those graduate students asking about jobs should
get their departments to buy a copy, although of course it's really prospective
employers that need to see it.
Eve Pinsker