How I got here

Rebecca Joseph (josephr@IIA.ORG)
Wed, 14 Dec 1994 14:05:59 -0500

On Mon, 12 Dec 1994, SARAH J. HAUTZINGER wrote:

> I would very much appreciate if Rebecca Joseph and others working in
> applied realms could narrate how they got there, and discuss how one
> might go about evaluating the spectrum of possibilities.

Since my original post on this topic, I've received several requests to
describe how I got here, "here" being a cultural anthropologist with a
full-time job outside of academia. In the interest of time, I'll give the
short version. When I was a graduate student, I did two things that have
proved extremely helpful since. The first was to take courses in other
departments. I was not encouraged to do so, but the familiarity gained with
interdisciplinary approaches has been invaluable. The second was to seek
out non-traditional sources of support for my work, such as employment as
a T.A. trainer/evaluator for the university and, later, work on projects
initiated by international donor agencies (IDRC, Population Council).
Until my third year of dissertation research in Java, I never received a
research grant. My dissertation focused on labor relations and the
organization of textile production in orthodox Muslim businesses with a
lengthy section on the impact of a UNDP project administered by the
government on local producers. In short, I made a conscious decision to
make myself employable either in academia or outside of it. I should add
that not everyone thought this was a great idea. At my proposal
hearing, one of the members of my committee exhorted me to remember that
I was supposed to be doing *anthropological* research.

I did a few other things that were unorthodox - at least for graduate
students in the anthropology department at UCSD. I did a fieldwork-based
M.A.-thesis (the requirement at the time was for a library research
thesis) which, while not distinctively applied (I didn't know such a
thing existed back then), had clear potential applications. I spent
three years in the field in Indonesia, much of that time combining
dissertation research with work for IDRC and Pop Council. As a result,
a good part of my data appeared in technical reports or publications
before my dissertation was finished. While writing my dissertation, I
applied for an Arts Administration Fellowship at the NEA. This motivated
me to finish (1 yr. almost to the day after returning from the field) and
gave me a short-term job to go to immediately after my defense.

Still thinking that real anthropologists have academic jobs, I was hired
by Cal State, Long Beach to teach and work on developing an applied
anthropology M.A. program and undergraduate concentration (This is
another program worth checking out, especially if you're interested in
urban work in the U.S. Contact George Scott). I stayed for two and half
years, teaching, managing the program, serving on committees, and continuing
to do contract and consulting work.

One reason that I left CSULB was that I wanted move back to the East
Coast. I also had realized by that time that I really liked being an
applied anthropologist better than being an academic. I went to work for
the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, CT, a non-profit
headed by Jay Schensul (aka Jean). I established a statewide traditional
arts program and partnership program with the CT Commission on the Arts
(Program Officer David Marshall is also an anthropologist) that has
become a national model for community-based urban arts. I continued to do
consulting and occasionally teach.

In March 1993, I came to the North Atlantic Regional Office of the
National Park Service in Boston. I manage the Applied Ethnography Program
which provides ethnographic data, training, and technical assistance to 42
parks in New England, New York, and New Jersey, as well as planners and
senior management. I develop and oversee contract research projects,
coordinate implementation of the Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), review proposed legislation, regulations,
and policies, and in general work on issues that affect relationships
between NPS and groups with long-standing connections to cultural and
natural resources in parks. (by the way, I have counterparts in regional
offices in Denver, Santa Fe, Seattle, and Alaska).

I maintain an active interest in the work of my academic colleagues and
particularly look for opportunities to encourage "cross-fertilization."
Interestingly enough, when I am invited to campus, it is more often than
not to talk to students who are not studying anthropology. For example, I
did a studio session on applying ethnography to land use planning for
graduate students in landscape architecture at Harvard last spring.
Rarely do I hear from colleagues in departments of anthropology who are
not contractors or personal friends.

At this point, I don't imagine myself working full-time as academic
again, but who knows?

Becky Joseph