Applied Curricula (LONG)

Fri, 19 Aug 1994 16:50:13 -0600

The following articles were recently published in the High Plains
Anthropologist, Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring 1994. Please send me your
snail mail address if you would like a reprint.

Deward E. Walker, Jr.


Reforming Applied Curricula: A Call from the High Plains

Risa Campbell, Joshua Levin, Tanya Thunberg,
April Hall, Stephanie Farquhar, and Christina Lee1
Department of Anthropology
University of Colorado, Boulder


As the journal for the High Plains Society for
Applied Anthropology -- whose stated membership
credo is that it is open to "anyone who uses an
anthropological approach in their work" -- the
High Plains Applied Anthropologist has always
sought to fill a perceived need as a publication
that serves the needs of those "practitioners"
whose voices and work would not be heard otherwise.
The High Plains Applied Anthropologist has
always been proud to publish pieces that would not
find a forum in journals with a more conventional
approach; unusual, but fascinating research by
other professionals who utilize an anthropological
approach, but who may or may not be anthropologists
themselves; "practice" articles from anthropologists
both inside and outside academe; poems, essays,
and student papers (both graduate and undergraduate)
that deserve to be heard. This particular collection
of presentations and the commentaries which follow,
are cases in point. At a time when classes and
programs in applied anthropology seem to be proliferating,
when the issues of accreditation and "professionalizing"
the discipline of anthropology are being hotly debated,
it is odd that so little has been heard from the students
those very programs and issues are intended for. This
then is the "Call from the High Plains" -- an effort
to correct this regrettable lack of "emic" information,
offered in the form of the students' own voices, as they
themselves presented their observations, critiques, and
solutions. (See Briody, et al. 1994.)


At the annual meeting for the High Plains
Society for Applied Anthropology [April 29 -
31, 1994], six students from Dr. Deward
Walker's Applied Anthropology class formed
a panel as a part of a course option: "Getting
the Passage Right: Student's Questions,
Observations, and concerns about Education
and Application in Anthropology". What
began as a panel to discuss experiences with
applied anthropologists developed into an
opportunity to voice the need for change in
the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate
programs. The sentiments of these six
authors represent those of the majority of
applied anthropology students in both their
critiques and praises of their education. The
common themes of these presentations
include the need for the bridging of theory
and practice, an increase in hands-on field
experience, a more thorough understanding
of the logistics of funding, research design,
and presentation of data in journals, to
policy-makers, and to large corporations; and
a greater emphasis on the ethical dilemmas of
applied research. The authors have
attempted to not merely critique, but have
provided possible solutions to the ailments of
the current curriculum.
The discussion was met with enthusiasm
from those who attended the session. The
audience's responses reflected their own
concern with our educational deficits and
provided various solutions to remedy these
deficiencies. We ask you, as you read our
papers, to reflect upon your own experiences
with a favorite mentor [or student], and to
consider the sentiments presented here as
positive expressions of your ability to shape
the next generation of anthropologists.


When I asked Jamie Alexander2 to
recommend how I might prepare myself for
a career in the practice of anthropology, he
suggested exposure to as many different
approaches, viewpoints and paradigms as
possible. We, as students of Dr. Deward
Walker's applied anthropology class, have
had the opportunity to benefit from many
diverse points of view of applied
anthropologists who have shared their
experience with us this semester.
Beverly Hackenberg3 reminded us to be
considerate and to have good manners. Dr.
Charlie Cambridge4 counseled us to know
ourselves, suggesting spending a week with
ourselves in the mountains to help us achieve
this goal. Dr. Susan Scott-Stevens5
challenged us to be shamans, walking the
middle ground between the known and the
unknown, with a willingness to interpret for
others. Through these encounters we
witnessed that each individual had a unique
style, reinforcing my belief that there is no
one way in which one becomes an applied
Interacting this past semester with Jamie
Alexander and Beverly Hackenberg has
taught me that the practice of anthropology is
full of real life, problematic situations -- in
which human lives and well-being are at
stake -- requiring resolutions that must be
implemented with finite resources, often
necessitating receptivity to innovation and
alternative solutions.
While education in anthropology has
traditionally emphasized careers in basic
research and teaching, it seems clear that
applied anthropologists require a different
kind of preparation, with curriculums that
accommodate the needs of the practitioner by
providing a balance between traditional
concepts and methods as well as practice in
applying them in non-academic settings.
Considering the emphasis of applied
anthropology on problem solving, a heuristic
approach, combined with guidance and feed-
back, seems beneficial. An intra-disciplinary
education could emphasize common interests
between subfields, rather than differences.
Curriculums might profit from student
feedback and participation in their
development. Ideally, a curriculum would
include a functional approach that provides a
foundation of not only knowledge, but skills
in critical thinking, forecasting and decision-
making, as well as sensitivity towards
thinking in terms of "systems" and
According to Erve Chambers (Chambers
1987:329), applied anthropologists are more
motivated to take part in the actual processes
of change than to reflect on the dynamics of
social and cultural phenomena. It seems
useful for a curriculum to bridge the gap
between the academic and the practitioner,
between knowledge and practice, by
employing instructors who have practical
experience in application, and with an
anthropological perspective emphasizing the
inter-connectedness of things.
Many aspects of my undergraduate
education have been outstanding, and I am at
the threshold of discovering what a graduate
education will offer. I am optimistic that it
will accommodate my orientation as a
pragmatic idealist. It is not my intention to
dwell on dissatisfaction. But to say that one
is satisfied indicates that one has reached
closure and the state of reaching closure
blocks a person, a group, or an institution
from experimentation and risk-taking, from
growing and changing.
Dr. Robert Hackenberg6 has cautioned us
to avoid becoming "social technicians", and
to become instead "social astronomers",
focusing our telescopes on a forbidding
landscape, summoning strength from those
who have gone before us, taking our turn to
add to our "chapter" of anthropology. I see
the field of applied anthropology as a
creative endeavor and anticipate being part of
such an endeavor that has the potential to
participate in guiding the community of
planet Earth securely and vigorously into the
21st century.


From the beginning of my studies in
anthropology, some five years ago, I have
hoped for an opportunity to express some of
my observations and concerns about the
nature of my education. In his article
"Applied Anthropology in the Post-Vietnam
Era", (1987) Dr. Erve Chambers notes that
"the literature of anthropology lags far
behind its realization." I believe that this
may also be true of education in
anthropology -- and perhaps this feature is
always present in the relationship between
information and application. Even so, it is
our common task to continually bridge these
disparities and promote positive change and
growth. For my part, the most distressing
issues in my education have revolved around
a failure to assimilate practice and ethics into
the anthropology curriculum. But, before I
address these concerns and illuminate what I
consider to be the tragic hours of my
undergraduate studies, before I vent my
frustrations and exasperation over those
classes I spent memorizing facts that were
too trivial to even be valued as trivia, I must
first express my deepest gratitude to the
many professors who shared their passion
with their classes, who had the consideration
to involve their students in the difficult issues
inherent in the study of humanity, and who
took the time, and found reasons, to learn
from their students. Those professors --
from all corners of the discipline -- have
provided some of the most meaningful
experiences of my life. They have given me
feelings of inspiration, direction, and pride.
The vast majority of my classes in
anthropology have presented the discipline
within the context of "scientism". Isolated
facts and theories are often removed from
their practical relationships to human groups
who are living in the world today. In my
experience, it is quite possible, and even
common, for students to become familiar
with many of the so-called "essential
concepts" in anthropology, and still have
little familiarity with the specific cultures and
people with whom these ideas are concerned.
In those cases where specific people and
situations are addressed, even extensively,
there is the tendency to explore them as
timeless cultural oddities, or at least,
unfamiliar examples, rather than interacting
human populations. They are presented like
paintings, collections, or most frequently, as
token examples for particular theoretical
models: "These are the !Kung-hunter-
gatherers. They display the following
attributes, ... etcetera, etcetera." We
memorize these cultural flash cards and file
them amongst what we know about
humanity, and place all this information
under the category of anthropology.
We begin to think that this is what
anthropologists do -- these are the products
of their creative labors, and some vague
image of the anthropologist begins to develop
in our minds. We imagine our professors
out in the field: adventuring beyond the
familiar structures of their own cultures, and
into the mysterious practices of another's.
Through the brief window of the classroom,
we become intrigued by the apparent dual
existence of our professors: academic by
day, Bohemian tape-wielding ethnographer
by night. We speculate on the hidden life of
this professor with an earring, or that
professor with snake-skin boots, while in
reality, we learn almost nothing about the
integrated or not-so-integrated life of the
professional anthropologist.
Nevertheless, we may eventually become
convinced that there really is a career to be
made in discussing information for
information's sake. And while this is but a
narrow picture of professional anthropology,
it is the essential image offered through the
undergraduate experience. The fact that this
image does not adequately reflect the current
practice of anthropology today is, in my
opinion, a regrettable failure in my
education. The absence of a holistic
professional model in regular undergraduate
instruction is one example of curricula which
define anthropologists by their ideas instead
of their actions. Quite simply, our education
has been primarily oriented towards the
accumulation of scientific knowledge that is
removed from specific cultural contexts and
practical career applications.
While the interesting facts and consoling
theories offered within the scientism of
anthropology continue to captivate students,
I believe that the hold which this approach
has on them is often peripheral to their actual
interests. Many students of anthropology are
already active, or interested in being active,
in social programs for the enrichment of
human life. We attend classes with the
burdens of human suffering already on our
minds, and we scour the information
presented to us for hints, solutions, and
information on the problems which surround
us. We would like to envision ourselves,
and our developing sense of self, as part of
the solution to those problems.
Unfortunately, our ripe idealism is often
left uncultivated by a curriculum which
somewhat paradoxically claims to study
humanity. It seems more than a bit strange
that modern issues of population, class,
violence, gender, education, development,
and the distribution of wealth, fall behind
Folsom points and animism in terms of
essential knowledge for an undergraduate
degree in anthropology.
It is not difficult however, to understand
the reasons for this gap in our education. It
does not take long to perceive the identity
crisis of anthropology, or its desperate push
for respect as a truly scientific discipline. It
is also clear that the future of anthropology is
not secure in the continued assertion of
curricula based on scientism. Money is
being spent on actions not ideas, and
anthropology will have to respond
accordingly -- not only as professionals,
providing services in communities, but as
educators, preparing students for jobs
requiring anthropological knowledge.
I perceive the integration of scientific
theoretical knowledge and practical applied
information as beneficial and reinforcing to
both aspects of the discipline. In fact, it may
be well argued that the evolution of
anthropology was truly a response to this
interaction between theory and application.
An undergraduate education in anthropology
would be greatly enhanced by a synthesis of
these aspects. To demonstrate this, I provide
the following example.
As a student, it is my impression that the
most valuable lesson to be learned by an
undergraduate student of anthropology is that
of cultural relativism. The power of this
ethical concept is reflected in almost all
aspects of undergraduate education; it
saturates class discussions and reveals itself
in the very language of our interactions. The
current popularity of "multi-culturalism" and
"political correctness" testifies to a common
acceptance of culturally relativistic ideas. I
believe that undergraduate education in
anthropology is successful in communicating
an idealistic representation of this ethical
concept. That is to say, I believe that
students do indeed leave the university
making fewer ethnocentric judgments about
other people and their cultures. A general,
external veneer of racism is dissolved, and
students learn to -- at least -- speak
"correctly" and with empathy for people of
different ethnicities and beliefs. Whether
they have truly grappled with this
intellectually simple, but practically difficult
concept, however, remains in question.
Is the idea of cultural relativism anything
like its implementation in the real world? I
believe that it is. Through encounters with
real-world cultural interactions, the idea of
cultural relativism comes to life. It is within
the context of sensitive issues like the
repatriation of Native American remains, that
the student copes with the difficult problems
of cultural values and ethnocentrism. It is
through discussions of sovereignty, genocide,
and intellectual property rights that we
develop a real understanding of cultural
evolution. Similarly, the often theoretical
discussions of religion and ritual take on a
whole new significance when they are
placed within the modern contexts of cultural
disintegration or popular revolution.
Exploring theory through applied practical
situations does not eliminate or diminish the
value of the information; it enhances it by
linking ideas with people, the present with
the past, and anthropologists with their


Personal History

My name is Tanya Thunberg. This Fall
will be my fifth year as an undergraduate
student in anthropology and psychology. I
attended New Mexico State University for
two years before transferring to the
University of Colorado at Boulder, so I have
been a student in two anthropology
departments. In both departments I was not
made aware of the sub-field "Applied
Anthropology". I was made to believe
through my education in both universities,
that there was only one career option
available in cultural anthropology: an
academic position, which includes educating
students and doing scientific research during
the summer and during sabbaticals. For a
period of time, I had decided to go into
clinical psychology instead of cultural
anthropology because I wanted to help people
overcome adversity. I wanted to be an
advocate for change.
I had doubts though. I felt there were
serious limitations in clinical psychology.
It's very culturally specific. It's expensive
and it can be Eurocentric. It's effective for,
and reaches, the middle and upper class
Euro-American culture. I wanted to reach
groups of people with little opportunity and
few options with which to create change for
themselves. I wasn't sure clinical psychology
would be the most effective avenue to reach
this goal.
This semester I was exposed to applied
anthropology, and to say the least, I was
shocked to learn it existed. It's unfortunate
that it took eight semesters to learn about its
existence. On the other hand, I feel I am
extremely fortunate to be one of the few
undergraduates as well as graduate students
who, prior to their immersion in the field as
practitioners, are aware that applied
anthropology is a rich career source. I now
ask in all of my social science courses: "Is
there an applied field in your discipline?"
I'm either told "yes", but they are given
little credibility or respect, or "no" -- but
maybe someday soon. Applied anthropology
is an unique discipline that can give students
the opportunity and the potential to be
effectively involved in the overwhelming
amount of humanitarian work that needs to
be done. I am very optimistic and excited
about this field as my career choice.
However, there are definite changes the
academy has to adhere to in order to produce
quality practitioners.


What does the academy need to do to
create a strong pool of new practitioners? To
understand how the academy is failing in this
responsibility, let us first look at what I
perceive to be the two central foci of applied
anthropology. The first focus is the abolition
of paternalism. It is best illustrated by
conceptualizing its antithesis, which is the
assumption that we, as anthropologists, do
not have the right to study whomever we
chose, whenever we chose, simply because
we are sophisticated and educated Western
I have learned that applied anthropology
envisions a science that works with and for
people. They choose not to pursue a science
whose focus is simply the generation of
knowledge about people, with no thought of
intellectual property rights, and no
compensation to the community for this
property. This is described by Dr. Deward
Walker7 as "parasitic research", and its
abolition is the second central focus of
applied anthropology. Applied anthropology
stands against "pure" research for the sole
purpose of generating knowledge for the
discipline, and securing the scientist a
promotion in status and income. The purpose
of applied anthropology is to work with
communities to help them to make informed
decisions and become self-determining.
Knowledge about humanity is a secondary
consequence of the work.
If the two central foci of applied
anthropology are the abolition of ignorance
in research methods and the substitution of
those methods with paradigms that focus on
the anthropologist's responsibility to enable
and empower a community, then ... what
needs to be changed and incorporated into
undergraduate education to ensure students
are not indoctrinated into paternalism and
First, applied anthropology has to be
incorporated into the curriculum as one of
the major sub-disciplines. It should be
mandatory for all anthropology majors to
take an introductory and upper division
course in applied anthropology. The
introductory course would follow formats
similar to all other introductory courses.
Students would explore the history, theory,
methodology, ethics and morals, associations
and societies of applied anthropology as well
as do a detailed analysis of a diverse number
of successful and unsuccessful projects.
The upper division course would require
that the student engage in a community
project. It would have to be a practical
project with a community or group that is in
need of attention or help. Instead of only
gaining knowledge about anthropology, the
student would be forced to experience being
an applied anthropologist. The students
would have access to the support and
knowledge of an experienced professor and
practitioner. Students would also get to
support each other by sharing the moral,
ethical, social and practical problems, issues,
concerns and setbacks they are confronted
with in the field. This program would
separate the wheat from the chaff. Those
who decided they were not interested in
working out in the field could instead work
within the field educating and producing
quality practitioners. Those who were
interested in working out in the field would
have a solid foundation in applied
anthropology, and could fine tune their
knowledge and skills in a Masters or
Doctorate [Ph. D.] training program.
In order to ensure that new practitioners
are not indoctrinated into paternalism and
parasitism, which will only serve to
invalidate the work to those who do not
believe in its value, the academy needs to
require that students understand their own
culture first. This is the second change that
needs to take place in undergraduate
education. A strong pool of practitioners will
not only be adequately trained, but will have
comprehensive knowledge of the culture they
come from.
This Fall [1994] will be my fifth semester
at the University of Colorado, Boulder and in
that time the course titled: "America: An
Anthropological Perspective" has not been
offered once. It is the institution's
responsibility to educate students and it is the
student's responsibility to learn. Students
are graduating with a fragmented
understanding of their culture. Ignorance is
not bliss; it is the founder of intentional and
unintentional cultural genocide. We should
be taught concrete knowledge about our own
history before we become professional
advocates for others. Dr. Charlie Cambridge
stressed during his visit to our class that in
order to be suited for the field, you need to
have a strong sense of self. I believe that a
person's sense of self remains fragmented
until they have a holistic picture of the
history of their own culture. This knowledge
is an invaluable tool for the anthropologist,
as well as for the communities
anthropologists hope to work with.
This task cannot be left in the hands of
other social science disciplines.
Anthropologists are trained to synthesize
information; all other social sciences
specialize in the analysis of fragments.
Those disciplines further fragment our
understanding of history. Anthropology
students need the assistance of
anthropologists to create a holistic
understanding of our culture, before we can
be truly educated practitioners. In order to
realize this, we have to have people who
specialize in Western cultures teaching in
anthropology departments.
It no longer suffices to learn only about
exotic cultures. There is work to be done in
our own backyard, and increasing numbers
of anthropology students want to be
instrumental in mending the fence. I think
anthropology loses a number of students to
other disciplines because they were not made
aware that anthropology can be used as a tool
for change.
We have to get the word out. The
natives are restless. If we, as up-and-coming
practitioners, are going to be successful
advocates for change, we can't remain
ignorant of what created, and what
perpetuates, the current state of social


Our future is one of a changing work
force. Highly skilled individuals are sought
as corporate America removes its middle
management. As competition among big
business increases, corporations look for
self-motivated, self-reliant, self-manageable
people. And, although a four-year degree
does not secure a job like it once did, it is
still a symbol of a person's motivation,
reliance and manageability. We as
anthropologists, upon graduation, often turn
to these corporations to find employment.
Most of the time we do so with
disappointment and a feeling of having to sell
ourselves short of what we really want to do.
It is obvious that these corporations are
constantly growing and provide expanding
employment opportunities. Instead of
looking upon big business as an omnipresent
two-headed monster, like most
anthropologists do, we should look at them
as an opportunity for employment and
community development. As applied
anthropologists we must find ways to show
we are needed in a corporate sense, and that
the skills we learned in college will be an
asset to any company. We can take
advantage of our opportunity.
In an article by Erve Chambers from the
University of Maryland, "Applied
Anthropology in the Post-Vietnam Era:
Anticipations and Ironies" (1987) he states:
"Unfortunately, it has been our tradition to
approach applied anthropology as an attitude
or employment opportunity, rather than as a
major sub-field in its own right."
Personally, I would argue that applied
anthropology can incorporate all of these
aspects. It should become a major sub-field
that teaches its students how to undertake and
complete such major endeavors as social
impact assessments, needs assessments, case
studies and a solid ethnographic
methodology. This would allow students to
have professional attitudes and confidently
believe their skills are in demand. Finally,
and most importantly, this exchange would
create an unique employment opportunity in
the business world.
I am not advocating that all applications
of applied anthropology relate to business;
however, I am advocating that we be trained
to work in this capacity. Not as a retreat for
employment, but as a choice to want to work
for a corporation.
On April 20th (1994), in anticipation of
this conference, I arranged an interview with
a man from a large company in Colorado.
My overall interest was to see what need
existed for applied anthropologists in
corporate America, and also to see if I could
sell myself to him an as applied
anthropologist. The person I interviewed
with is in charge of interviewing all
management positions in a company of
15,000 employees. What most impressed the
employer concerning my skills were my
abilities to perform "needs" and impact
Honestly, if asked to perform one of
these tasks, I could not do it. And upon
completion of my degree next May, I doubt
I will be trained in how to do these. This is
something I think students should have the
opportunity to be trained in.
Beyond this, the interviewer realized that
expanding cross-cultural boundaries,
(especially in the foreign marketplace) would
be a need for employees who could
understand and interpret cultural
transactions. Also, in a more local setting
(viz. the city of Denver) he expressed
concern over the growth in the number of
ethnic populations and due to this rapidly
growing mixed cultural employee pool, a
need for a person to deal with racial relations
inside a corporation undergoing an expanding
cultural labor force. Additionally,
[he felt that] there [was] a need for bilingual
and cross-cultural trainers to train employees
in various corporate arenas, from
understanding health insurance policies, to
how to perform a job correctly. In the area
of marketing, he saw a need for an employee
with a grasp on minority populations, not
only to provide these populations with
needed products, but also a need as to how to
get them as consumers. These are only some
areas that he and I discussed. However, with
some research and thought, I believe there
are many other corporate fields that
anthropologists can successfully explore.
Throughout this semester, I have had the
opportunity to work with Dr. Peter Van
Arsdale8. We have met several times, and
discussed anthropology's expanding and
changing horizons. One thing we discussed
that I remember well is that while we should
not down-play the significance of
anthropology, we almost have to use it as an
auxiliary function of another academic
specialty to acquire a job. By stating we are
cross-cultural specialists or refugee
specialists, or perhaps when applying to
corporate America, that we are "corporate
minority specialists", or "corporate cross-
cultural trainers", we can increase our own
marketability in substantial ways. By
approaching businesses in this way, we not
only make ourselves interesting to the
employer, we also create a title for ourselves
that marks and protects our interest as
I see anthropologists interested in
community development, whether on an
international or national level. Utilizing the
corporation, we can see that communities not
only develop, but develop successfully, in
ways that communities want to develop. By
playing a double role, one representing the
company and one representing the
community, we can ensure growth, increased
communication, and good relations between
the consumer and producer.
In John van Willigen's book, Applied
Anthropology: an Introduction, (1993:141)
he states: "The goal of commercial marketing
is a profit or increase in market share. In
social marketing the goal is societal
improvement or social problem-solving, a
process that often involves creating demand
for a socially beneficial product and
developing products or programs to meet the
consumer needs." However, I feel the two
are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they
enhance each other and the time is now ripe
to use the corporation to reach our
communities. Anthropologists can use the
means of commercial marketing to reach the
community and enhance social marketing.
We, as anthropologists, can either work
in a business for the benefit of the business
and the businesses' employees by using our
talents as trainers or assessors. Or, [we can]
use our talents working for a business to
reach the outside market or community.
Either way, we will feel like we are using
our training as anthropologists in a very
beneficial way. As anthropologists we cannot
only identify problems, but we are very
capable of solving the problem, and this is
how we can be very successful in the
corporate world.


As an undergraduate inspired by the
concept of "culture" while traveling in the
Central and South Americas, I attended the
University of Washington, completing my
Bachelor of Arts in 1991 in socio-cultural
anthropology. I am presently a second year
graduate student at the University of
Colorado at Boulder, and will be receiving
my Masters degree in May [1994]. The
following is a commentary on my personal
reflections regarding my experiences in both
universities' [anthropology] departments.
My intentions are not to "point fingers" at
the accused. The efforts and diligence of my
professors have been anything but sub-
standard, and I am forever indebted to them
for passing on their passions of the
discipline. Rather my critique focuses on the
current curriculum and foci of the
Since my first semester at Colorado, I
have been involved in a National Institute of
Drug Abuse (NIDA) project in Denver
working with run-away youth. The National
Institute of Drug Abuse sponsored this
project to test an intervention designed to
decrease high-risk behavior, and is especially
focused on sexual behavior and HIV and
AIDS. The project is extremely, painfully,
quantitative. The research generates a deluge
of numbers and statistics, but examines very
little context. Significant data about these
youths' situational motivations and rationale
are lost in the numbers. Seeking more
context, the two co-principal investigators
are proposing a follow-up study which will
employ a qualitative, ethnographic approach.
They hope to involve the youth, collaborate
with the youth, and ask for their input
regarding their living situations and everyday
needs and crises, in an effort to empower,
rather than preach to, the run-aways. In
essence, the project is becoming more
Faced with the question of funding from
the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the two
co-principal investigators, a fellow graduate
student, and I met to discuss the proposed
study's proper working and research design,
specifically one that would convince funders
that this is a sound, necessary, and important
study and method of data collection. It was
imperative that the proposal -- somehow --
demonstrate that the ethnographic approach
had potential for extracting meaningful,
significant results, despite the fact that it
does not produce the tidy numbers of the
strictly quantitative approach.
What I find disconcerting is that I am
learning about applied work solely from
sources outside of the university.
Specifically, writing up research budgets for
funding, designing project procedures and
sampling methods, and means of successfully
collaborating with federal agencies, the
Human Research Committee (HRC), and the
communities are issues which have been
largely addressed only during my research.
I have been in graduate school for nearly two
years and little nor no training in such
necessary and integral tasks of applied work
has been offered. What is desperately
needed to "deconstruct" the enigmatic nature
of applied projects is a more pragmatic,
practical approach to applied work. In
addition to abstract theory and detailed
kinship charts, graduate and undergraduate
students need to be trained how to initiate
and carry out an applied project.
I know that, similar to learning a foreign
language, it is best to learn by being
immersed in the culture itself rather than
laboring through a university course. For
example, the overseas student learns more
quickly and accurately the intricacies of how
a language is really used and spoken in
certain contexts. And, in the same vein, it is
difficult to be fully cognizant of funding
procedures or project methods without first
being immersed in research and spending
time in the field. Such immersion is an
inimitable teacher, forcing one to either sink
or swim. However, training in the most
fundamental groundwork is crucial and
should be provided by first examining, in a
class setting, the steps of a project as
previously mentioned, as well as such
inevitable questions as: What are the
majority of federal agencies looking for?
Detail? Generalization? Do most projects
favor objective or subjective elements of
research? Qualitative or quantitative
After pondering possible "cures" for the
ailing curriculum, I propose two necessary
additions to course work, both of which
require little outside funding and minimal
effort from the already overtaxed professors.
First, it would be wonderful to be provided
with samples -- or better yet -- with a booklet
that compiles sample applications for funding
to a spectrum of agencies, applications to the
HRC on a variety of projects, records and
data from completed applied projects, and
such. These samples should be presented to
the first or second semester applied
anthropology student, providing the student
with tangible illustrations of applied work.
Such compilations may also further focus the
student who would learn about agencies that
are perhaps incompatible [with] his or her
own favored methodology or personal and
career-oriented objectives.
The second possible solution, a course in
which the student creates an applied project,
has already been designed by the University
of Colorado department of Sociology in a
course entitle: "Ethnographic Analysis". In
this two semester-long course, following a
brainstorming session with other students
regarding plausible directions for research,
each student designs a project. The course
includes an extensive literature review, a
written proposal to the HRC, and actual
execution of the project with field research.
The course [is finalized] with a 30-page,
journal style research report, and the students
attempt publication in a journal relevant to
the paper topic. During the course,
questions surface -- everything from ethical
issues to dilemmas faced with entering a
"cultural scene" as the outsider, to ways of
unobtrusively holding the microphone during
taped interviews. The course's objective is
to prepare students for a project, by exposing
them to the "trial and error" elements of a
first project before actually taking to the
streets in a paid project. By sending
somewhat seasoned researchers rather than
apprehensive novices into the field, the
credibility of applied anthropology is
heightened, benefitting the practice as well as
the student.
Finally, perhaps most importantly, after
a project is completed, the applied
anthropologist must present data in a
coherent, summarized format -- both written
and oral. Again, what is important here?
What does the anthropologist exclude?
Which agencies like numbers, statistics,
and graphs and which favor context or
situation or both? Applied anthropology can,
indeed, become the policy science it aspires
to be if it shrewdly trains "its future" the
ways of those in policy-making positions --
ways which often differ from those of the
"radical in the jungle".
These critiques of the inadequacies of the
curriculum in anthropology graduate
programs could be counter-critiqued with the
assertion that students need to get out there,
be intuitive, ask questions, and learn through
the practice and [hard] knocks which all
anthropologists must endure.
There is indeed an element of truth in
this. However, because most graduate
students have learned important tools for
succeeding inside the university system, and
have learned how to "do" anthropology with
other anthropologists, we must re-learn or be
"re-taught" the basics of working with
agencies outside of academia. We must learn
how to skillfully present the discipline, in all
its glory, to those who are not yet convinced
that anthropology provides an adequate
avenue for research and policy-making.


We are embarking into a discipline which
is in danger of disarticulating into separate
and polar entities. What a confusing time for
students, undergraduate and graduate alike!
In the classroom, the "dysfunction" of
anthropology is being discussed and being
further discussed. Recently, a professor of
mine distributed a letter sent to him by a
colleague of his, also an anthropologist,
urging him and others to forget
anthropology as it was a lost cause. This
triggered a sweep of responses in the
classroom. What did he mean? Are we
witnessing an end of this discipline? What
did the future hold for the students, the new
generation of anthropologists, when our own
mentors were fleeing the community? What
were we to think now? The students in the
classroom were outraged and concerned that
the future of this path, which we had chosen
to follow, was quickly disappearing under
out feet. Is there hope?
The development of the social sciences
must change with the given social and
economic conditions in which our society is
formed. The sub-disciplines within the field
cannot continue to polarize themselves from
the greater scope of the field. The education
of the future anthropologist cannot be
complete without the participation of physical
anthropology, archaeology, cultural
anthropology and linguistics. As our society
continues to evolve, it is also necessary to
have an interdisciplinary or multi-
disciplinary approach to anthropology.
Could applied anthropology be the answer to
this dilemma? In the April, 1994 issue of the
Anthropology Newsletter, an analysis of a
survey given by David Givens and Rosalind
Tucker to the chairs of various departments
on what the future holds for socio-cultural
anthropology, resulted in seven forecasts.
This survey was also done in biological and
physical anthropology, linguistical
anthropology, and archaeology. One of
these forecasts stated" "During the next 25
years, traditional ethnographic field studies
of 'exotic' societies will not fare well in
probable funding climates of the future.
Socio-cultural anthropology will be retained
only if its practitioners also work in more
applied areas, including medical, urban, and
organizational-culture studies." In applied
areas, more interdisciplinary knowledge is
needed. For example, in medical
anthropology, nutritionists, nurses,
therapists, counselors, physicians,
epidemiologists and anthropologists provide
a far more thorough study of a community.
In archaeology, historians, geologists,
geographers, botanists, biologists and
archaeologists would provide a greater scope
on a site. I think the point has been made.
For the student of anthropology, it is
crucial that the education include knowledge
in the applications of the field as well as the
ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary
team. Recently, I began a project with a
Colorado county health department in which
I am working with monolingual and
monocultural young mothers and their
children. The director of the health
department and I discussed my role in this
project and it was decided that I would do
ethnographies of these women in order to use
them to present to state and federal
government agencies in hopes that they
would be able to attain citizenship and obtain
jobs and health care.
The coordinator of the program
introduced the idea to the smaller team and
it was met with some resistance. My role as
an anthropologist was unfamiliar to them and
many methodological and ethical questions
were raised as to how I would be conducting
the research and what my motives were in
this project. The team was concerned about
the confidentiality of the project as well as
the exploitation of their clients. As an
anthropologist, I explained that one of my
own conflicts was the fear that my work
could potentially be used against the people
I was protecting. I realized though, as I was
sitting there explaining what ethnographies
were, how anthropologists use them, and
how ethnographies could benefit their project
as a policy science, that I knew nothing about
writing a good ethnography. Furthermore, I
did not even know how to begin one. In my
four years as an undergraduate anthropology
major I had never received training in
Now, here I was as a graduate student,
teetering on a project that could lead to a
thesis or even a dissertation, and I thought I
would have to fake it. Luckily, my advisor
and his wife have given me the foundation
[by] which I am directed. Unfortunately, a
course in applications of ethnography in
applied areas is not offered and has not been
offered in the two institutions which I have
attended. How can the educational
curriculum be committed to training students
in applied anthropology without experience
in outside applications?
Response to changes within the discipline
and the larger social and cultural order has
resulted in the restructuring toward a more
professional model of anthropology. Since
the 1970s and 1980s, an increasing number
of anthropologists are developing careers in
non-academic settings. At the same time
Carole Hill [past president of the Society for
Applied Anthropology] comments [that]
there has been resistance within the
traditional academia to these changes,
resulting in the overproduction of
traditionally trained anthropologists. Hill
suggests that there must be a "mechanism to
bridge these two groups so that practicing
anthropologists can provide feed back into
the theoretical and knowledge base, and
educational and training programs can
strengthen their criteria of competency for
work in both the academic and nonacademic
settings" (1994:24).
Students of this generation need not only
training in traditional theory but also training
in practical applications in various domains
from the corporate world to an inner-city
school. Possibly, socio-cultural
anthropology, linguistics, physical
anthropology and archaeology can find
common ground within applied
anthropology. The foundation of applied
anthropology exists in multidisciplinary
knowledge. The rapid division of the four
fields may be able to find salvation through
applied areas where these various knowledge
systems merge. Such knowledge can link
academic and applied anthropologists, people
in other applied or academic areas, minority
and international practitioners, students and
policy makers in the transformation of this
discipline. A transformation is crucial to the
survival of our species and in the re-
integration and regeneration of


1. The papers are presented in the same
order as they were given in the panel.
2. Jamie Alexander [ James Alexander, III]
is an applied anthropologist who works for
Migrant Health Services on the western slope
of Colorado.
3. Beverly Hackenberg is an applied
anthropologist working with Tohono
O'odham health issues.
4. Dr. Charles Cambridge is a Navajo
anthropologist who recently completed a
dissertation at the University of Colorado,
Boulder on AIDS among Native Americans
under the direction of Dr. Deward E.
Walker, Jr.
5. Dr. Susan Scott-Stevens, editor of the
High Plains Applied Anthropologist, is also
and independent scholar specializing in
development, the transfer of technical
knowledge, and cross-cultural
6. Dr. Robert Hackenberg is a professor at
the University of Colorado, Boulder as well
as an independent consultant. His topical
areas of interest include medical
anthropology and population studies.
7. Dr. Deward Walker is a professor of
anthropology at the University of Colorado,
Boulder. It is his course in applied
anthropology that resulted in the student
papers presented here.
8. Dr. Peter Van Arsdale is the president of
the High Plains Society for Applied
Anthropology. He is president of the Center
for Cultural Dynamics and works with
refugees in the Department of Mental Health,
State of Colorado.


Anthropology Newsletter
1994 April. Newsletter of the American
Anthropological Association.

Briody, Elizabeth, et al.
1994 Guidelines for Training Practicing
Anthropologists In Society for
Applied Anthropology Newsletter, Vol.
5, No. 3, August. pp. G-1 - G-4.

Chambers, Erverett
1987 "Applied Anthropology in the
Post-Vietnam Era: Anticipations and
Ironies. In Applied Anthropology after
Vietnam. p. 309; p. 329. Annual
Review of Anthropology. Vol 16.
Annual Reviews. Palo Alto, CA.

Hill, Carole E.
1994 Practicing Anthropology. Vol. 16,
No. 1 Winter:24.

van Willigen, John
1993 Applied Anthropology: An
Introduction. Westport, CT. Bergin &
Garvey. p. 141


Editor's Note: The following commentaries by Dr. Deward Walker, of the University of
Colorado, Boulder, Dr. Thomas Weaver of the University of Arizona, Dr. Robert Hackenberg
of the University of Colorado, Boulder, constitute the faculty reaction to applied curricula
training, as a result of the panel presented at the annual meeting of the High Plains Society for
Applied Anthropology, April 29 -31, 1994.

Student Curricula Proposals for "Applied Anthropology: A

Deward E. Walker, Jr.
University of Colorado, Boulder


The accompanying student papers raise
many fundamental questions concerning
applied training curricula. Academic
programs in applied anthropology continue to
confront very conservative faculty and
curricula derived from more than a century
of the "four-field" mentality. Efforts to
develop applied curricula to meet the
expanding job market for applied
anthropologists continue to meet entrenched
resistance in many traditional departments.
Despite fundamental transformations in the
international order since WW II,
anthropology departments continue to follow
an archaic, undergraduate colonialist
paradigm in a post-colonial world.
Undergraduate and graduate students in
anthropology are frequently disappointed by
course offerings and faculty who blithely
ignore these transformations of the modern
world. The increasing demands for solutions
to such problems as neocolonialism, poverty,
collapse of the family, gender inequality,
racism, declining economic productivity,
drug dependence, failure of public education,
uncontrolled population growth,
environmental devastation, and ecological
collapse each call for specialized training
and curricula very different from the
traditional "four-field" mentality. The
accompanying student papers indicate that
many young anthropology undergraduate and
graduate students are hungry for curricula
that will enable them to help solve these
issues. These papers are an eloquent appeal
for reform in the traditional curricula that
continues to impede progress in many
traditional departments of anthropology. The
papers highlight certain challenges and
proposals that should be given careful
consideration by all who are concerned about
the "saber-toothed" character of
contemporary graduate curricula. While
these papers speak for themselves, I wish to
summarize the major challenges and
proposed reforms they contain or imply.


1. How can we overcome the
conservative character of established
graduate programs?
2. How can we create integrated
applied anthropology programs in the
fragmented context of contemporary
3. How can we teach credible
scientific methods in the anti-scientific
atmosphere dominating some sectors of
contemporary cultural anthropology?
4. As University support for faculty
research and graduate training is declining,
what are the resources and where will they
be found to support new programs in applied
5. How can training for the increased
number of specializations in applied
anthropology be accommodated?
6. How can we bridge the growing gap
between academic and non-academic,
practicing, applied anthropologists?
7. How can we effectively train
applied anthropologists who enter the non-
university world of applied science where
increasingly sophisticated scientific training
is necessary to work with clients who,
themselves, are technically educated and
scientifically literate?
8. How can we identify, attract, and
recruit appropriate faculty and students into
applied anthropology programs?

Proposed Reforms

1. As applied anthropology evolves,
applied curricula must be developed that are
scientific, pragmatic, flexible,
interdisciplinary, and subject to rapid
2. Applied curricula must be field and
case oriented with internships and
3. Applied curricula must be informed
by the market place and by international,
national, and regional priorities defined by
government as well as by more purely
academic concerns.
4. Applied faculty must be engaged in
applied projects in which they can involve
their students.
5 Applied faculty must represent a
mixture of academic and non-academic
orientations. Practitioners must be among the
applied faculty.
6. Applied faculty must be
interdisciplinary and community and agency-
based. Multi-campus cooperation should also
be encouraged on a regional basis such as in
the High Plains region, Northwest, or
7. Applied faculty must teach realistic
problem solving techniques and methods.
8. Applied students should be
committed to applied anthropology from the
beginning of their graduate work.
9. Applied students should be freed
from the ancient, "four-field" paradigm of
traditional anthropology and exposed to
theory and method from other applied social
10. Applied students should be
interdisciplinary in orientation and
encouraged to take courses in a variety of
disciplines appropriate to their goals.
11. Applied students must be
scientifically literate in both quantitative and
qualitative methods.
12. Applied students must be
encouraged to become self-sufficient,
creative, and capable of independent action
in seeking and fulfilling the requirements of
non-academic, applied employment.


The ability and willingness of these
students to serve as interns among High
Plains applied practitioners has been
especially rewarding, as has the willingness
of High Plains practitioners to work with
these student interns. I believe that the class
has been especially successful because of our
focus on the practitioner-student relationship.
This focus is highly recommended as an
integral part of applied training at all levels
-- from undergraduate to post-graduate, a
point amply illustrated by this set of student

Structural Problems in the Infrastructure: Academic Versus Practicing

Dr. Thomas Weaver
University of Arizona

Our panelists have made some interesting
observations and valuable suggestions on
much needed, but missing, training of
applied anthropologists. A survey taken
today of anthropology departments would
undoubtedly echo this need for curricular
change. Anthropology departments continue
to be academically oriented in spite of the
changes that have occurred in the field as a
whole. Students everywhere complain that
they are not made aware of applied
anthropology as a career choice early enough
in their undergraduate training.
Arizona has produced many of the
applied anthropologists in the country, yet its
curriculum has not contained appropriate
courses. How are they trained? As at other
universities, they have been mostly self
trained, or have picked up hints from those
academics with applied experience. Mostly
they have learned on-the-job after finishing
their academic training. One advantage we
have had is the presence of the Bureau of
Applied Research in anthropology, a
subdivision of the Department. It has existed
for almost forty years, previously under the
name of the Bureau of Ethnic Research. It
has always been staffed by applied
anthropologists involved in solving problems
of relevance to society at large. Graduate
students have the opportunity to serve
apprenticeships through support as research
assistants where they learn about funding;
grant writing; short-term, goal oriented
research; interfacing with clients and policy
makers; and directly applied skills.
Thunberg has recommended that applied
anthropology should be recognized as one of
the major sub-disciplines. Many professional
societies have done this, notable among
which are the American Anthropological
Association, the Society for Applied
Anthropology, the National Association for
the Practice of Anthropology, and various
groups that specialize in particular aspects of
application such as education. However,
separate subdiscipline status is generally not
reflected in departmental structure.
Departments, like universities, tend to be
conservative, often being the last to accept or
initiate disciplinary changes.

Changing the curricula

Campbell is right in stating that applied
anthropologists require different preparation.
Levin states there is a lack in undergraduate
courses of a "holistic professional model,"
presumably meaning that practitioners are
needed to balance academic matters. He
states that: our education has been primarily
oriented toward the accumulation of
scientific knowledge that is removed from
specific cultural contexts and practical career
applications.... Theories and ethnographies
are removed from everyday life as timeless
oddities ... [and] presented like painting,
collections, or more frequently, as token
examples for particular theoretical models...
[or as] memorize[d] ... cultural flash cards
Many have called for changes in the
curricula (Bushnell 1976, van Willigen 1979,
Vivelo 1980, Weaver 1985b). The curricula
should include introductory and upper
division courses which focus on medical,
educational, agricultural, business, and
development anthropology. Internships have
a valuable place in such a changed
educational menu. In order to provide
training for practicing anthropologists the
academic curriculum must incorporate new
Course content might include such items
suggested by our panelists as history of
application, ethics and morals, the operation
of associations and societies, community
projects, and detailed analysis of successful
and unsuccessful projects (Thunberg).
Campbell recommends providing a balance
between traditional and applied concepts and
methods, internships or additional experience
in non-academic settings, and mentorship.
South Florida University had a successful
Master's program for many years that
included an internship and mentorship with a
local or regional governmental agency. This
often led to employment of the student,
sometimes before they had completed their
degree program.
Lee and the other panelists recognize the
importance of various themes: bridging
theory and practice, understanding funding,
research design, sampling and statistical
procedures, and the relationship between
training and education. Additionally required
skills are: problem solving, critical thinking,
forecasting, decision making, systems and
processes as well as interdisciplinary training
(Campbell). To this list can be added such
matters as training in research techniques --
such as social impact assessment, needs
assessment, the case study approach, rural
rapid assessment -- in addition to traditional
ethnographic qualitative (as opposed to
quantitative) skills. Also important are team
research, survey research, communications
skills, administrative knowledge, staff
reporting, report writing, computer skills,
fieldwork in urban settings, and ethnic
studies (Weaver 1985b).
Another exhortation by Thunberg is the
need to understand one's own culture. This
would include courses on the development
and status of contemporary U.S. culture and
institutions (see Weaver 1985a for a more
extensive discussion). Kluckhohn
recommended over 50 years ago that each
anthropologist should undergo
psychoanalysis, as he had to understand
one's self better in order to avoid projecting
one's own psyche on research subjects.
Carrying this idea further, each
anthropologist should be "cultural-analyzed."
That is, the objective is to understand their
own culture in order to avoid projecting the
anthropologist's value on the subjects of
research or advocacy.
Lee also requests guidance in the
presentation of findings to journals, policy
makers, and corporations. Communication to
policy makers must be brief, without jargon
(unless using their jargon), devoid of non-
relevant detail, contain an executive
summary, and clear and executable
alternative policy recommendations.
Publishing in journals is a different
business. Practicing anthropologists are paid
to advise, consult, write reports for limited
distribution, work with others in the
solutions of problems relevant to their
organization, and make oral staff reports.
They are not paid to solve theoretical
problems, develop curricula, develop
techniques for students to use, talk about
anthropology, go to meetings, give papers,
publish, or talk to professors or students.
This attitude is instilled from an academic
curriculum and the practicing anthropologist
must stop thinking about such matters.

Interdisciplinary studies

Lee calls for interdisciplinary
collaboration among physical, cultural,
linguistic, and archeological anthropologies.
I recommend that the focus be on
collaboration with diverse fields. The
practicing anthropologist will find it more
useful to learn about sociology, social work,
agricultural extension, economics, medicine,
law, and appropriate fields rather than the
traditional interdisciplinary approach within
anthropology, itself. The nature of the
interdisciplinary training will depend upon
the choice of applied field. Development
work will call for training in economics and
agricultural extension, for example, whereas
medical anthropology will require knowledge
of biology, medicine, and nutrition.
Exposure to courses in business, policy,
regional and urban planning may be useful in
one segment of practicing anthropology, and
educational and administrative courses in

The anthropological perspective

Training in related disciplines calls into
question the connection between a general
education and applied skills. One may ask:
what is the function of our standard
curricula? The answer is that it is valuable in
that it infuses the anthropological perspective
(1985b). This perspective differentiates
anthropologists from others and teaches
norms that are cross-cultural and
comparative, holistic, relativistic, and
humanistic (emic). The relevant question is
how many courses does it take to achieve this
anthropological perspective? Two courses in
archaeology for the historical aspect? Three
in linguistics to understand the relationship
of language and culture? Four in physical
anthropology to learn about biological,
genetic, and human adaptational aspects of
culture? Five in cultural anthropology to
learn comparative, holistic, relativistic, and
emic approaches? The actual numbers must
be decided by each department after
experimentation that focuses on the goal of
acquiring the anthropological perspective
rather than on teaching as much of each of
the four fields as possible.
The student must know what it means to
take an anthropological approach to a
problem by the time they have a bachelor's
degree. The graduate student who chooses
applied anthropology can proceed to develop
requisite skills such as interdisciplinary
experience. Professors must make room in
the curriculum by omitting some basic and
core courses and substituting more
employment focused topics. This constitutes
a revolution in the thinking of
anthropological curricula builders and will
meet with much opposition.

Resume construction

An important skill that the student can
begin cultivating without formal course work
is resume construction that emphasizes
relevant practicing skills. This would be
unlike the academic curriculum vita. The
focus of the resume should be on the skills
the applicant can supply to the prospective
employer. Much that is learned in the
standard academic career can be
"repackaged" to reflect skills understood by
the employer. These include writing and
editing reports, language and statistical
abilities, cross-cultural experience, and
management and organizational skills (from
part-time or occasional jobs). The label
"cultural brokerage" provides an opportunity
to explain how you have learned to
communicate with people from separate
cultures and to act as an intermediary to the
client's organization. Hall suggested such
skills or titles as social problem solving,
corporate minority specialists, cross-cultural
trainers, community developers and relations
experts. Another recommendation is "race
relations expert" (although academics may
frown on such terminology, the outside
world often relates to such more common
phraseology). These skills or titles are
included in the resume in place of course
titles that may not reflect the appropriate
knowledge and skills learned.

Academic and Practitioner Cultures

The suggestion is made that departments
employ practitioners as teachers in order to
bridge the gap between academic and
practitioner, between knowledge and
practice, and to emphasize
interconnectedness (Campbell). This may
never happen. It is the essence of the
structural problem in the infrastructure of
anthropology. This is a "catch-22"
proposition in that the people who are doing
what students want to learn are not doing the
teaching. It has to do with the difference
between practitioners and academics -- that is
to say, how they use the anthropological
concept of culture. Academics and
practitioners are socialized differently. They
may share certain early upbringing, but at
some point they are re-socialized in the
employment subculture. They face different
situations and are asked by different clients
to provide divergent solutions.
The pattern until the 1960s was total
socialization in academic culture because
students were mostly employed in academic
settings -- teaching those who learn to teach.
After the Civil Rights revolution of the mid-
1960s and the diminishment of student
populations in the 1970s, most graduates
found a new field, one for which they were
not trained. More accurately, they have
received skills that were counterproductive.
This was a period of culture conflict. The
anthropology graduate had to adopt to
employment outside universities in some
manner. Some denied their anthropological
upbringing by not calling themselves
anthropologists (behavioral or social
scientists were good substitutes).
The problem became one of feedback.
The things they were learning were not fed
back into academia through the normal
channels of teaching and publishing. At first
they felt as if they were outcasts, so they
distanced themselves. The prevailing
philosophy was that applied anthropology
was something you did if you could not
teach. Even the main applied journal and
society (Human Organization and the
Society for Applied Anthropology) were
dominated and led by academics who were
part-time practitioners, at best. They were
situated physically and intellectually in
universities. In the past anthropologists have
looked to the needs of standard theoreticians
and teachers. They used traditional theory in
solving applied problems. This placed the
focus on ethnographic case studies, kinship,
religion and the general topics inherited from
pre-World War II anthropology.
An additional obstacle to hiring
practitioners as academicians is that they may
not have the requisite teaching or research
skills. Non-academic applied anthropologists
themselves have not figured out what the
problems are, much less developed and
communicated a solution. Practitioners
provide research that is short-term and
policy-goal oriented. Teaching requires a
research goal utilizing traditional theory that
may not be social-problem focused. Instead,
it is oriented towards cultural description and
ethnography. Will practitioners admitted to
academic departments be able to gain tenure?
Publish or perish is not a myth.
Practitioners, basically, do not have
experience in academic publishing. They are
experts in producing short, policy-oriented,
non-theoretical reports. They will have to
change the form and content of this work to
succeed in the university setting.

Idealism and reality in anthropology

Some of our panelists have lamented the
lack of opportunity to help people, to become
involved in solving society's problems, and
to become advocates. As Levin states: Many
students of anthropology are already active,
or interested in being active, in social
programs for the enrichment of human life.
We attend classes with the burdens of human
suffering already on our minds, and we scour
the information presented to us for hints,
solutions, and information on the problems
that surround us. We would like to envision
ourselves, and our developing sense of self,
as part of the solution to those problems.
There is a great difference between the
idealism of undergraduate or graduate school
and the reality of the practicing world. This
is also true about the reality of academia.
Teaching and research in academia is not
what one is led to believe or what one picks
up through triangulating the careers of those
who teach us. University and departmental
politics are something which few idealistic
anthropologists ever learn well. A variety of
problems are sometimes encountered by
professors. Included are jealousies, back
biting, and hassles over administrative rules,
regulations, and salary increases.
There are also differences between the
teaching and administrative worlds. The
teaching world is relatively powerless with
regard to the former to direct its own destiny
because it often does not control budgets, or
have the time or inclination to become
involved in these matters, as well as the
differences among the hard versus the soft
sciences. These are just some of the
problems encountered after graduate school
in academia that are not taught in any course.
Practicing anthropologists too, find a
great difference between expectations and
reality. They find they have less power than
hoped for to effect changes in the system or
to have their views heard. They find a
hierarchy of power and complexity of
organization that they must learn, as well as
new terminology, new habits, and new skills.
They also discover a new relationship
between theory and subject matter, or better,
the absence of discussion of theory. Even if
they had the optimal curricula that
incorporated all they wished, they would find
themselves in the same position as physicians
and lawyers. A closer relationship exists in
schools of medicine and law between
academia and the practicing world. Often,
practitioners are provided teaching positions,
although they may be peripheral and in name
only. However, students in these schools
still find themselves being taught in a
discipline that is far removed from the
practice they enter. Medicine has the
advantage of institutionalized internships and
residencies, but there are still many problems
to be faced. Running offices, marketing,
advertising, budgeting, financing private
practice, dealing with insurance forms,
collecting debts, and many matters that affect
the practice of medicine, law, and applied
fields such as engineering, psychology,
sociology, and social work. The lack of fit
in the interface between academia and
practice is not unique to anthropology.

Constructing appropriate theories

"Pure" or basic research has always had
the goal of generating knowledge and
theories that will help teach anthropology
(Campbell), especially of small-scale,
isolated, aboriginal societies. From its
beginnings, anthropology has been striving to
become a "science" in order to gain
respectability among the hard sciences and to
achieve academic status (van Willigen 1986,
Partridge and Eddy 1987). It is as if the
purpose of practicing medicine and practicing
law is to collect case studies to develop
theory to teach physicians and lawyers.
Classic anthropological theory has been
developed on the principle that there is no
need to understand modern society.
Excluded from theoretical considerations are
the workings of poverty, low economic
status, social class, ghetto and barrio living,
medical problems, migration of
undocumented workers, multi-national
corporate policy, political pressure groups,
and the environment. Levin expresses this
point well: It seems more than a bit strange
that modern issues of population, class,
violence, gender, education, development,
and the distribution of wealth, fall behind
Folsom points and animism, in terms of
essential knowledge for an undergraduate
degree in anthropology.

A New Practicing Theory

Some panelists (Levin, in a particularly
good statement) called for a better integration
between academic and practicing theory and
most academics continue to discuss the
importance of anthropological theory for
applied work. What I mean by this is that the
type of theory taught in academic curricula
refers to small scale societies and does not
have a social problem focus. Those who
address this subject from an academic point
of view usually have to stretch the standard
theoretical frameworks greatly in order to fit
the kinds of problems that applied types
address (Weaver 1985b). The best examples
of this type of theory are cultural ecology,
symbolism, and some recent neo-Marxist
approaches represented by Framsci and
A new type of applied theory is called
for, one that starts with the problem and
proceeds to develop an appropriate theory. In
the past, the progression was from available
theory to the problem, but the available
theory was inappropriate. The New
Practicing Theory will look more like policy
science, with a focus on multiple policy
issues, policy actors, policy making, and the
needs of decision makers. The New
Practicing Theory will include organizational
culture studies, that address such questions
as: How is the agency organized? How does
it make decisions? What is the relationship of
timing and budget cycles to policy
recommendations? How does bureaucratic
culture relate to solving social issues? I have
tried to furnish a preliminary framework and
case studies along these lines on indigenous
forestry, a multiple policy framework, and
organizational culture (Weaver 1994a,
1994b, 1994c). This new theoretical
formation will require a whole restructuring
of the way we think, do research and teach.


Bushnell, John
1976 The Art of Practicing
Anthropology. In Do Applied
Anthropologists Apply Anthropology?
Michael V. Angrosino, editor. pp. 10-
16. Athens: University of Georgia

Partridge, W.L. and E.M. Eddy
1987 The Development of Applied
Anthropology in America. In E.M.
Eddy and W.L. Partridge (eds).
Applied Anthropology in America.
New York, Columbia University Press,
pp. 3-55.

van Willigen, John
1979 Recommendations for Training and
Education for Careers in Applied
Anthropology: A Literature Review.
Human Organization 38(4):411-416.

1986 The Development of Applied
Anthropology. In J. van Willigen.
Applied Anthropology. South Hadley,
Mass., Bergin and Garvey Publishers,
Inc., pp. 17-39.

Vivelo, Frank R.
1980 Anthropology, Applied Research,
and Nonacademic Careers:
Observations and Recommendations.
With a Personal Case History. Human
Organization 39 (4): 344-365.

Weaver, Thomas
1985a Anthropology as a Policy Science:
Part I, Human Organization 44 (2):97-

1985b Anthropology as a Policy Science:
Part II, Development and Training.
Human Organization 44 (3): 197-205.

1994a Development in Action:
Indigenous Forestry, the Land Tenure
Law and the World Bank. To appear
in the High Plains Applied

1994b A Survey of the Policy
Environment of Forestry Production in
Northern Mexico. To appear in The
Journal of Political Ecology.

1994c The Organizational Culture of
Development Agencies. Unpublished

THE RIGHT STUFF: The Making of An Applied Anthropologist

Dr. Robert A. Hackenberg

"...I had no formal training in the logic and structure of social science research. Many of my
peers have described a similar lack of methodological preparedness.... We were not unconcerned
about how field work was carried out -- in fact we were almost frantic to find out -- but we were
assured that we could learn the mysteries of field work only through personal immersion in the
practically undescribable but incredibly alluring mysteries of the field."
(Pelto and Pelto: 1978: xiii)

Play it Again, Sam ... and Again, and
Again, and ...

It seems that every year or two I am
asked to provide a state-of-the-art review on
one of three related subjects: (1) how to do
applied anthropology; (2) how to train
applied anthropologists; (3) how to
differentiate applied from academic
anthropology. I have written four of these
pieces in the last decade, two of which have
appeared in the journal of the High Plains
Society for Applied Anthropology
(Hackenberg 1985; 1988; 1990; 1993).
In 1994, as a result of this year's High
Plains Society's annual meeting, I have been
asked to comment once again, in the context
of a set of student papers on the subject,
together with contributions from two other
gray-beards long associated with the field:
Tom Weaver and Deward Walker.
Recurrent requests for comments on how to
conduct a piece of professional work indicate
that the field is ill-formulated, and that the
discipline to which it belongs is probably in
disarray, or in post-modernese, undergoing
It is rather disquieting to find substantial
congruence between two sets of opinions on
the status of applied anthropology: one set
from six students who have taken a single
course, and the other from senior scientists
each with 30 years of professional work. Let
us first explore the areas of agreement
between the two sets of perspectives. I will
then offer some explanatory speculations
avoiding, if possible, repetition of the
published materials referenced above.

Some Cries and Comments from the Cubs

At the 1994 annual meeting of the High
Plains Society for applied Anthropology, a
selected set of students who have just
completed Professor Walker's course on
applied anthropology were invited to prepare
and deliver written comments. They were
asked for their impressions of the course, the
subject, and the extent to which the work
they had completed in the Boulder
department supplemented the course and
prepared them for work in the field.
The following comments are
representative statements from six students
who were asked to assume the role of applied
anthropologists for this purpose. To
paraphrase and condense their remarks,
which appear elsewhere in full, we may
extract the following summation with which
they would all agree:

1. Practitioners should teach this subject in
the academy, and should illustrate
instruction with examples from the field.

2. Teaching should emphasize the holistic
approach to a problem, illustrating the
interconnectedness of its components.
More practical examples should be used
in instruction.

3. Practical policy analysis, impact and
needs assessments, and identification of
possibilities for intervention are the
essential contributions of applied
anthropology. But at present, students
receive no instruction in performance of
these tasks.

4. To make these contributions
interdisciplinary knowledge is essential.

5. Facilitating intercultural understanding
and linking cultural minorities to key
institutions (schools, health care
providers, employers, commercial
outlets) are needed within the Denver-
metropolitan area more than among
remote and exotic tribes. But classroom
work and field trips which could provide
familiarity with these peoples and
problems, are not provided.

6. Global issues (population, access to
conservation of resources, gender equity,
employment generation, health status,
etc.), and means to address them, deserve
more time than exotic trivia now found in
the curriculum.

Despite polite acknowledgement of the
value of aspects of their education, most
expressed dissatisfaction. The central theme
in their comments concerns the perceived
discontinuity between the substance of
classroom work and the requirements of
problem-focused intervention.
The anthropology they have learned
contains substantial amounts of "scientistic
trivia", says one of the presenters. All seem
to affirm the failure of the curriculum to
assist them to (1) formulate problems; (2)
prepare proposals; (3) select and employ
methods; (4) propose solutions; and (5)
implement plans of action.

Some Growls and Gripes from the Cave

Let me turn now to remarks offered by
the professional discussants: Tom Weaver,
Deward Walker, and myself. Weaver's
remarks summarize deficiencies he detects in
forty years of attempts by professionals to
elevate applied anthropology to the status of
a policy science. Weaver notes the absence
of relevant theory (c.f., Hackenberg 1985)
and calls for students to recognize the "great
difference between expectations and reality"
in the practice of applied anthropology.
Weaver frequently offers the observation,
with which Walker and I concur, that applied
anthropology never was taught in school and
all of us who claim to be practitioners have
"learned by doing", as the World Bank
advises its clients in developing countries.
The main thrust of Walker's comments
consists of basic and far-reaching "challenges
and reforms" which, if implemented, would
place us in a training environment so
different from the present as to be scarcely
Weaver's backward glance finds little
evidence that applied anthropology has ever
been "at home" amidst the quaint customs,
potsherds and skulls which Clyde Kluckhohn
(in Mirror for Man) affirmed as the content
of conventional anthropology. Walker's
futuristic vision of the ideal department
(from Star Trek IV, perhaps?) is bold, basic
and exciting ( c.f. Baba 1994).

Methods Training as Vision Quest: Do
You Have the Right Stuff?

Neither Weaver's search for a New
Practicing Theory nor Walker's exhortation
to evolve to a level remote from today's
"saber-toothed" curriculum is apt to
encounter wide support or early adaptation.
Basic change and innovations in theory,
method and practice will be accomplished, if
ever, long after our present cohorts of
undergraduate, graduate students and faculty
have departed the halls of ivy ... or whatever
those green creepers around Hale Science
Building may be.
But the lament concerning lack of
preparation to practice applied anthropology
is not an isolated complaint. It is part of a
generic remark that we send our fledglings to
the field with little or no preparation for their
first encounter with the raw materials of
culture and society. Compare the more
general references in Roger Sanjek's Field
Notes, and Marjory Wolf's Thrice-Told Tale,
in which clearly academic (not applied)
anthropologists lament their total lack of
preparation for field work in their academic
Reflecting on my own experience, similar
to that reported in Sanjek's collection, I was
led to expect that first field work was more
of a vision quest than a scientific
undertaking. And the field worker's plunge
into foreign surroundings was trial by ordeal.
Underlying this was the assumption, I
suppose, that "real anthropologists" are born,
not made. The curious mystique that led you
into this academic path will direct you to
succeed if your "vocation" is strong enough.
If not, you're not made of the right stuff.
Our professors saw nothing wrong with
this. Malinowski hadn't needed a methods
course. He had the right stuff. Robert
Spencer, late distinguished professor of
anthropology at the University of Minnesota,
from whom I caught the virus to enter the
field, was the best ethnographer I knew ( or
know). His education from A. L. Kroeber at
Berkeley consisted of such practical lore as
memorizing the geographical distribution of
the "bull boat" [a river craft made by
stretching skins across a frame of sticks].
We've come a long way, baby!
Or have we?
Jean Jackson (1990:24) interviewed
seventy anthropologists for her chapter in
Fieldnotes, and published the
following: "Many interviewees comment
that their training reflected the mystique of
fieldwork ... The following ... summarizes
their remarks.
1. The only way to learn is the sink-
or-swim approach....
2. The only way you become
attached, cathected, truly initiated is
through the sink-or-swim approach.
3. Each research site is different,
each research project is different,
each anthropologist is different.
4. Anthropology is not at a stage
where it knows the Best Way.
5. Tailor-made solutions are the way
to go, to be worked out between
graduate student and advisor."
So, anthropological field methods
(applied research or academic research)
consist of a vision quest, shrouded in
mystique, intended to determine whether
each of the novices has the right stuff. No
wonder we have a problem explaining
ourselves to the Health Sciences Center, the
National Park Service, and Urban Renewal
My own inclination, in being responsible
for a stream of Ph.D.s which extends back to
1970, has been to combine 1, 3, and 5
above. I believe that you can teach research
methods to fledgling applied anthropologists
by tutorial instruction. In doing so, I adhere
to some basic interdisciplinary concepts in
making an assessment of a problem: (1)
describe the interconnectedness of the
situation using structural-functional analysis
to identify the key elements (this is the
holistic approach); (2) construct "systems"
models from these elements to determine
what will result throughout the impacted area
and its people from changes proposed; (3)
advise sponsors and beneficiaries of the
predicted consequences; (4) recommend
alternatives where appropriate.
You need not rely on faculty members to
evaluate your performance and determine
whether you have the "right stuff".
Successful involvement in an applied project
for dissertation research almost always has a
by-product. A network of professional
associates and administrators will point you
in the direction of your next assignment and,
quite likely, professional employment.
My failure to take issue with the
curriculum does not imply disagreement with
Weaver and Walker, and we may hope for
implementation of their advice at some point
in the future. Meanwhile, I believe an
excellent job of student preparation to
become applied anthropologists can be done
by teaching from case studies (e.g., Stull and
Schensul 1986) while providing conventional
instruction on ethnographic (informant)
interviews, participant-observation and
survey design.
On the importance of the advisor-student
relationship I can do no better than quote
Jean Jackson (1990:24) once again:
"... graduate school is an apprenticeship
period and fieldwork is an in initiation rite
.... Mentors were identified as generous
givers or mean withholders of fieldwork
advice." To the students in Walker's applied
anthropology class I offer a special message:
May your advisor be an experienced
practitioner who is a generous giver. And,
in passing through your mystical fieldwork
initiation, may you all prove that you possess
the right stuff!


As we go to press, as they used to say in
the days before CNN, a new issue of Human
Organization (Vol. 53, No. 2, Summer,
1994) arrived. It contains an essay by
Marietta L. Baba, the inventor of business
anthropology, entitled "The Fifth
Subdiscipline: Anthropological Practice and
the Future of Anthropology", pp. 174-185.
It contains carefully constructed comments
on issues addressed at the High Plains
symposium. I urge all of you to read


Baba, Marietta
1994 The Fifth Subdiscipline:
Anthropological Practice and the
Future of Anthropology. Human
Organization. 53:2, 174-185.

Hackenberg, Robert A.
1985 Bringing Theory Back In: Steps
Toward a Policy Science of applied
Anthropology. American Behavioral
Scientist. 29:2, 205-228.

1988 Scientists or Survivors: The
Future of applied Anthropology under
Maximum Uncertainty. In Robert T.
Trotter, ed., Anthropology for
Tomorrow. special Publication No.
24. American Anthropological
Association. pp. 170-185.

1990 Applied Anthropology for
Tomorrow: Building or Burning
Academic Bridges. High Plains
Applied Anthropologist. 9-10, 17-46.

1993 Reflections on the Death of Tonto
and the New Ethnographic Method.
High Plains applied Anthropologist.
11, 12-27.

Jackson, Jean
1990 In Field Notes. ed., Raymond
Sanjek. Ithaca. Cornell.

Kluckhohn, Clyde
1948 Mirror for Man. Cambridge.
Harvard Press.

Pelto, Pertti, and Gretel Pelto
1978 Anthropological Research: The
Structure of Inquiry. New York.

Sanjek, Raymond
1990 Field Notes. Ithaca. Cornell.

Wolf, Marjory
1992 A Thrice-Told Tale. Stanford.