We'll spend the semester discussing what defines "applied anthropology," and we're going to find that there are quite a few different visions for what makes any anthropological venture applied or not.  The anthropological literature abounds with caricatured polarizations between, for instance, academic and applied anthropologies, the notion of politically engaged versus scientific/objective anthropologies, or theoretical construction versus real-world problem-solving.  For the most part we need to recognize that such divides are not particularly realistic or good ways to frame our discussion, since there is considerable ambiguity in how various anthropologists see their work as applied.  We aren't going to utterly resolve this ambiguity, and in fact we don't really need or even want to do so:  part of what makes applied work so dynamic is its ambition to define itself in such a wide range of guises.  Nevertheless, we do need to be able to articulate a general sense of what it is to be "applied" and how an applied anthropological perspective provides a distinctive way to interpret cultural organization.

This assignment requires you to articulate what you see as the fundamental elements of applied anthropology.  You will prepare a paper that details exactly what you think defines applied anthropology.   Base your assessment on speakers, readings, course notes, and any other sources that you find useful.   How are the research subjects and interests voiced in the class' readings and speakers different from the stereotypical vision of anthropologists studying the exotic "Other"?  Precisely what appear to be common interests amongst applied anthropologists:  what do they seem to be working toward in their research projects?  How do they define their research projects, and why do they define them this way?  How are the politics of applied anthropologists distinctive from mainstream academics?  I caution you against simply opposing applied to academic anthropology, since this divide is increasingly fictitious; nevertheless, how does applied work differ from mainstream academic research (or the caricature of academic research as secluded scholars oblivious to real-life questions)?  How do you suppose applied anthropologists are trained differently from academic anthropologists, and why, or is this a reasonable divide in the first place?

As part of this paper, you must discuss how you anticipate using your anthropological training and how this is (or perhaps is not) applied.  Be as specific as you can be about how you plan to use anthropological training in the working world:  for example, if I was an employer and I asked you why you chose anthropology as an appropriate way to train for the sort of work you're pursuing, what would you say?  How would you explain to a prospective employer that anthropology provides distinctive preparation for a wide range of labors?  If you are in the course as preparation to simply understand cultural difference and not be an anthropologist per se--there's nothing wrong with that--, then what is it about anthropology that you believe provides you distinctive skills, training, and insight not common to many of academic disciplines?  Good papers will use examples from readings we've done through October, outside applied resources you find, and the course lectures, so include them in your paper.

These are questions people have been wrestling with for a while, so consider looking over one of the many sources that examine the issue of defining applied anthropology.  For instance, visit the Society for Applied Anthropology's website, and the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs (COPAA) site has basic information on applied anthropology. 

The paper must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides, in a font no larger than 12-pitch, justified to the left, thoroughly checked for spelling and grammar errors, and at least four pages in length:  I will deduct points from papers that do not conform to these guidelines.  I'm happy to review drafts.  The paper is due OCTOBER 28.  Late papers will be significantly penalized (a letter each day they're late), but if you miss the deadline for whatever reason you should still talk to me and turn in a late paper as soon as possible, since some points are better than none.

Email me if you have any questions.

Page last updated July 29, 2009