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DefiningPublicAnthropology|CenterforaPublicAnthropology

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Home>Blog>DefiningPublicAnthropology

DefiningPublicAnthropology
PostedbyDr.RobertBorofskyonMay11,2011inBlog

APersonalPerspective(2007)
RobBorofsky
Inthelate1990s,whensearchingforanameforthenewbookseriesNaomiSchneiderandIweredevelopingattheUniversityofCaliforniaPress,weconsideredvariouspossibilities.Wechose
PublicAnthropologybecauseitseemedtobestrepresentakeygoaloftheseries:addressingimportantsocialconcernsinanengaging,nonacademicmanner.Public,inthissense,contrastedwith
traditionalacademicstylesofpresentationanddefinitionofproblems.
Toprovideacontextanddirectionforouruseoftheterm,IwroteanarticleintheMay2000AnthropologyNewsentitledPublicAnthropology:WhereTo?WhatNext?Itgivesasenseofwhat,
atthatpointintime,IperceivedthetermIcoinedmeant.Itoffersabaselineforreflectingonthedegree,towhich,PublicAnthropologyasavisionandfieldhaschanged.
PUBLICANTHROPOLOGY,WHERETO?WHATNEXT?(2000)

http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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PublicanthropologyisfastbecomingoneofGrouchosmagicwords.ReadersofanearliereramayrecallGrouchoMarxsfamousquizprogram,YouBetYourLife.Whenever
contestantsusedaspecialmagicword,aduckdroppedfromabovewithmoneyforthecontestants.Publicanthropologyisnotoneoftodaysexpensivemagicwordssuchas
Foucaultorglobalization.Still,itisgainingacertaincache.

PublicAnthropologyDefined
Whichleadstoaquestion:Whatdoesitmean?(InGrouchosprogramyouneverhadtodefinetheword,onlyuseittogetthemoney.)Havingcoinedtheterm...andbeingcoeditor
foraseriesentitledPublicAnthropology,itseemsreasonableImighthavesomesuggestions.Still,readersshouldrealizethephraseistakingonalifeofitsown.

Publicanthropologyengagesissuesandaudiencesbeyondtodaysselfimposeddisciplinaryboundaries.Thefocusisonconversationswithbroadaudiencesaboutbroadconcerns.
Althoughsomeanthropologistsalreadyengagetodaysbigquestionsregardingrights,health,violence,governanceandjustice,manyrefinenarrow(andnarrower)problemsthat
concernfew(andfewer)peopleoutsidethediscipline.Publicanthropologyseekstoaddressbroadcriticalconcernsinwaysthatothersbeyondthedisciplineareabletounderstand
whatanthropologistscanoffertothereframingandeasingifnotnecessarilyalwaysresolvingofpresentdaydilemmas.Thehopeisthatbyinvigoratingpublicconversations
withanthropologicalinsights,publicanthropologycanreframeandreinvigoratethediscipline.

OurInsularHistory
Onecriticalissuepublicanthropologyexploresisthedynamicsofourpresentpredicament.Ourgeneralintellectualisolationandinsulationfromtheworldsproblemsdidnothappen
withawaveofawand.AndtheywillnotgoawayifweallwishreallyhardinaPeterPansortofway.Weneedtograspthehegemonicframeswhichboxusin.Verylittleissaid
aboutdemographicswhenanthropologysinsularnatureisdiscussed.Buttherapidexpansionofthedisciplineinthe1960smeantthatanthropologistswerenolongerforcedtospeak
tothosebeyondthedisciplinarypale.InwritingWetheTikopiaduringthe1930s,RaymondFirthobservesheenvisagedanaudienceofwhichonlyafractionconsistedof
professionalcolleagues.Withthe1960sdemographicexpansion,itbecamefinanciallypossibleforpressestopublishbooksaimedexclusivelyatanthropologists.Bythe1990s,ithad
becometheacceptedpattern.ThedisciplineClydeKluckhohnclaimedhadapoachinglicensetointellectuallyexplorewhereandhowitwanted,becamemoreenclosed.
Anthropologistsnolongerstudiedpsychology,theystudiedpsychologicalanthropologynolongerpoliticaleconomybutpoliticalanthropologyandeconomicanthropology.
Differentiatingthedisciplinefromothersbecametheorderoftheday.Andwiththatcamepollutionbeliefsregardingwhatanthropologistsdidanddidnotdo,howtheyshouldor
shouldnotwritethatseparatedusfromothers.Itisnothardtodoananthropologicalanalysisofthedisciplinespresentdynamics.(MaryDouglassPurityandDangerwouldbe
essentialreading.)Thequestionishowusingananthropologicalanalysisofanthropologytocollectivelydigourselvesoutofourpresentpredicament.

FacileFarces
Buildingonthethemeofreframingimprisoninghegemonies,publicanthropologydancesanambiguousminuetwithappliedanthropology.ReadingtheSocietyforApplied
Anthropologysmissionstatement,oneishardpressedtodifferentiatethetwo.Theoryandapplicationmergeinboth.Butappliedanthropologytodaytendstobedepictedoften
unfairlyasfocusingprimarilyonconcrete,practicalproblemsthatothershaveconceptuallydefinedforthem.Apublicanthropologyresiststheseparationoftheoryfrom
application.AsSherryOrtnermadeclear16yearsago,practiceandtheoryareentwined.Remembertwooftheheadingsinherfamousarticle:Howdoesthesystemshapepractice?
http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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andHowdoespracticeshapethesystem?Publicanthropologyistheoreticallyorientedinitssensitivitytohegemoniespracticallyorientedinaddressingrealsocialproblems.
Ratherthanbeingdrawnintootherpeoplesframings,publicanthropologychallengestheframingsthatsupportparticulardefinitionsofaproblem.Apublicanthropologythus
questionsappliedanthropologyslowstatuswithinthediscipline.Itanalysesthebroadercontextsinvolvedtheintellectualframeofreferencethatgivestatustograndtheorywithin
theacademybut,intheprocess,disempowerstheacademyinmanypublicsettings.

Apublicanthropology,inotherwords,resiststhefacilefarcesthatdrawanthropologistsintoemphasizingtheoryinonecontextandpracticeinanother.Itasks:Whycant
anthropologistsbefollowersofGramsciaswellasMalinowski,FoucaultaswellasBoas,bygeneratingnotonlyfielddatabutanalysesoftheframingsthatframetheircollection?

DevilintheDetails
Apublicanthropologyalsoremindsusofthedisciplinesvauntedholismandasks:Ifnotnow,when?Ifnotus,who?Specializationremainstheorderoftheday.Itconveysscientific
authority.OneneedonlyexploretheAmericanAnthropologistfrom1888tothepresenttoseehowspecializationhasdominatedthedisciplinethroughtime.Fewarticlesdealwith
thedisciplineasawholefewerstillprovidesynthesizesofbroad,publicissues.Ifthedevildwellsinthedetails,anthropologypossessesahellallitsownasdetailsarepiledupon
detailswithoutclarifyinghowtheyfittogether.Apublicanthropologyconsidersthelimitsofspecializationinmakingsenseofthewhole.Itnotonlypreachesholismbutexplores
howwecanmoveanthropologytowardmoreholisticanalyseschangingthenarrow(andnarrowing)wayswespeakacrossourspecializations,bringingbackcomparison,and
addressinggeneralquestionsinwaysthatfosterbroadconversations.

ChallengesandCounterChallenges
Forpublicanthropologyobjectivitylieslessinthepronouncementsofauthoritiesthaninconversationsamongconcernedparties.Truthdoesnotresideintheexhortationsof
expertsnorinthepalacesofpower.Itdevelopsgraduallyintheargumentsandcounterargumentsofpeople.Onepronouncementbyoneexpertdoesnotsuffice.Whatisrequiredare
challengesandcounterchallenges.Thebroaderandmorecomprehensivethechallenges,thebroaderandmorecomprehensivetheauthorityoftheclaims.Thisholdstruefor
humanistsaswellasscientists,forinterpretivistsaswellaspositivists.Althoughmanyofuswouldbehardpressedtobelievethedeepeconomicdisparitiesofcapitalismorthe
intenseethnicviolenceofnationalismwillsoondisappear,wecanstillcollectivelyconverseabouttheseproblemsinwaysthathelpdemocraticelectoratesbetterunderstandthem.
Andtheseconversationscanlead,andhaveintimespastled,tosignificantchanges.Relyingsolelyonexpertsmaymaketheexpertsfeelgood,butitdoesnotnecessarilyempower
thoseinvolvednordoesitnecessarilysolveproblemsasScotthaspointedoutinSeeingLikeaState.Sometimesperhapsmanytimestheprocessofcomingtotermswitha
problemispartofthesolution.

Acommentarylikethiscannothelpbutbevaguearoundtheedges.Mygoalisnottoprovidethedefinitivedefinitionofpublicanthropology,butrathertofosterfurtherconversation
aboutit.Weneedtoaddresstheproblemsthatkeepanthropologistsfromengagingbroaderaudiencesaboutbroadissues.Andweneedtooperateatbothconceptualandpractical
levelsatthesametimetoaddresstheseriousproblemsthatcollectivelyfacepeoplearoundtheworldregardinghumanrights,health,violence,governanceandjustice.

http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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Publicanthropologyshistory,followingMarx,stillremainstobemade.Itseemsappropriatetoconclude,then,asCarlSandburgdidinThePeople,Yes:Whereto?Whatnext?
ThatwasthenMay2000.HowwouldIdefinepublicanthropologytoday,some7.5yearslater?Inansweringthatquestion,letmeaddressthreeissuesthathavegainedparticularsaliencein
recentyears:thefieldspopularity,thetensionwithappliedanthropology,andthefosteringofdisciplinarychange.

TheCurrentWideSpreadUseoftheTerm
Beyonddoubt,thetermhascaughtonwithinandbeyondanthropology.Hereareafewstatistics.DoingastandardGooglesearchforpublicanthropology(thequotesmeantheexactphraseis
onlysearchedfor),bringsupover68,000links.Therearereferencestopublications,departmentalprograms,websites,Wikipedia,andarecentlyheldconference.AsearchusingtheGoogle
Scholar(thatsearchesscholarly/academicdatabases)lists475links.AGoogleBlogSearchitsearchesvariousblogslists54links.(OneofthemreferstoTheFourthAnnualPublic
AnthropologyDay.)AndtheGoogleNewsArchive(which,byexaminingvariouspublicnewspaperarchives,providesasenseofpublicanthropologysrecognitionbeyondtheacademia)lists
35links.Thereare,tomyknowledge,currentlysixformalprogramsinpublicanthropology:attheUniversityofOregon,AmericanUniversity,DukeUniversity,TuftsUniversity,theUniversity
ofPennsylvania(phrasedasPublicInterestAnthropology),andtheUniversityofGuelph/Waterloo(phrasedasPublicIssuesAnthropology).
Allinall,notbadforatermthatonlycameintoanthropologicalparlance78yearsago.Butwhythepopularity?Letmesuggesttworeasonsand,inreflectingonpublicanthropologys
popularity,explorewhetheritrepresentsacase,tousethatfamousFrenchexpression,ofplusachange,pluscestlammechose(themorethingschange,themoretheyremainthesame).
Certainly,onereasonforthetermspopularityappearstobeitsvagueness.Publicanthropologysoundsengaginganddynamicwithoutspecifyingimportantdetailsastowho,what,how,orwhy.
Thereisnocanonofreadingsforpublicanthropology,noformallyagreedupondefinition,nosingleauthorityassociatedwithit.Thereis,inotherwords,plentyofspaceforanthropologistswith
arangeofagendatomakeofthetermwhattheywill.
Takethesixformalpublicanthropologyprograms.Whiletheysharecertaininterests,eachdepartmenthasitsown,specialsenseofwhatpublicanthropologyentails.Publicanthropologyatthe
UniversityofOregonisdefinedas:bringingtheissues,concerns,andinsightsofanthropologyasbroadlyunderstoodtobothanacademicandnonacademicaudience,strivingtoproduce
materials...thatspeaktoawiderangeofsocialsectors.PublicAnthropologyinvolvestakingthetheoretical,descriptive,andpracticalinsightsofanthropologyandmakingthemavailablein
formsthatareofinteresttoandaccessibletoabroadpublic.Inpart,thisalsoimpliesareexaminationofwhattheprioritiesofanthropologicalinvestigationsare,howprojectsareformulated,and
mostimportantlyhowinformationaboutresearchresultsisdisseminated.
AtAmericanUniversitytheMAPrograminPublicAnthropologypreparesstudentsinarchaeologyandcultural/socialanthropologyforcareersinpublicservice,communityorganizingand
socialadvocacy.Throughcoursework,researchprojectsandinternshipexperiences,studentsexploretheworkingsofculture,powerandhistoryineverydaylifeandacquireskillsincritical
inquiry,problemsolvingandpubliccommunication.
ATuftsUniversitywebpagestatesInpublicanthropology,wetakeanthropologyoutoftheacademyandintothecommunity.Publicanthropologyincludesbothcivicengagementandpublic
scholarshipmorebroadly,inwhichweaddressaudiencesbeyondacademia.Itisapubliclyengagedanthropologyattheintersectionoftheoryandpractice,ofintellectualandethicalconcerns,of
theglobalandthelocal.
TheUniversityofPennsylvaniaswebsiteindicatesPublicInterestAnthropologyisafourfieldprogramofteaching,researchandactionwithintheDepartmentofAnthropologyforthose
interestedinbridgingthedividebetweentheacademicandthepublic.Itdrawsonarchaeology,culturalanthropology,linguisticsandbiologicalanthropologyforthepublicinterest,toaddress
socialissuesandtopromotechange.AflashvideopresentationaffirmsthesocialrealizationofchangeintheinterestofexpandingdemocracyisthecentralfocusandultimategoalofPublic
InterestAnthropology.

http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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AwebpagediscussingthePublicAnthropologyInitiativeatDukeUniversitystatestheInitiativeaimstoexpandopportunitiesfordepartmentfaculty,graduateandundergraduatestudentsin
threeareas:(1)traininginpubliccommunicationskillsandcommunitybasedresearch(2)collaborations,volunteerworkandresearchdesignstoaddresssocialproblemsand(3)forumsfor
criticallyreflectinguponlessonslearnedfrompublicengagementforboththefieldofculturalanthropologyandforthoseworkingforsocialchange.
ThePublicIssuesAnthropologyjointprogramattheUniversityofGuelphandtheUniversityofWaterloo,explorestheinterfacebetweenanthropologicalknowledgeandissuescrucialto
governance,publicdiscourseandcivilsociety.Studentsintheprogram[are]...encouragedtoexamineandunderstandthedeeperinsightsintopolicyissuesthatcanreadilybegainedfrom
anthropologicalmethods.Thedescriptioncontinues:Themainobjectivesoftheprogramaretopreparestudentstoenterdoctoralprogramsinanthropologyandtouseanthropological
knowledgeinawiderangeofotherprofessionalandpublicroles.
Asecondreasonforpublicanthropologyspopularityisasense,amongmanyanthropologists,thatthedisciplinehasbecomeisolatedfromthebroadersocietyindetrimentalways.JamesFrazers
GoldenBough,MargaretMeadsComingofAgeinSamoa,andRuthBenedictsPatternsofCulturesoldthousandsuponthousandsofcopies.Thesebooksengagedawiderangeofreaders
beyondtheacademyinstimulating,importantways.But,asnotedintheaboveMay2000piece,theneedtoseekaudiencesbeyondthedisciplineoncecentralifonewastosellevenafew
hundredbookschangedinthelate1960swiththeexpansionofstudentenrollments.Anthropologistsarenowabletowriteforreasonablysizedaudienceswithouthavingtoreachbeyondtheir
discipline.Today,mostanthropologybookssellbetween23,000copies.Themainpurchasersarestudentsrequiredtoreadthemaspartoftheircourseassignments.
InaFebruary2000AnthropologyNewspiece,Icommented:
IamnotsureifIshouldlaughorcryindescribingAmericananthropologyspresentpublicstatus.Ontheonehand,anthropologyiswildlypopularwiththewiderpublic.Onereads
aboutanthropologistsinnovels,seestheminmovies.Anthropologistsappear,forexample,inAnnieDillardsTheWritingLife,IsabelAllendesTheInfinitePlanandDaniel
QuinnsIshmael.Andthereferencesareoftenmorethancasualcitations:DillardreferstoGodfreyLienhardtsworkamongtheDinkaQuinntakesnoteofWovokasGhostDance
andtheJohnFrummCargoCult.Moreover,thepublicseemstohavemassivelyembracedtheconceptmostassociatedwiththedisciplineculture.

Yet,amonganthropologists,allisnotwell.Thereistheintradisciplinaryturmoilregardinganthropologysfoursubfieldstowhatdegreetheyareablenotonlytopeacefullyco
existbutintellectuallynourishoneanother.Norarethecitationsofanthropologistsinliteratureandthepopularpressalwayspositive.Theyappear,asShorenotes,tooftenreinforce
negativeandderogatorystereotypes(AnthropologyToday12(2),1996,p4).ANewYorkTimesreportonthe1994AAAAnnualMeeting,forexample,asked:Whoelsehas
beenstudyingcolicandspiritualism,sexandfieldwork,andredneckangst?(December11,1994,p7).Also,formanyyearsnowanthropologistshaveplayedonlyaminor,
supportingroleintheintellectualdebatesthatswirlaroundtheculturalconcept.AcommentaryintheChronicleofHigherEducationqueried:WhyDoMulticulturalistsIgnore
Anthropologists?(March4,1992,pA52).AndthereisPeacocksobservationthatshouldcauseustopausetheanthropologicalideasthatarecurrentlysignificant...[amongthe
public]remainthosethatweredevelopedpriortothe[secondworld]war(AmericanAnthropologist1997,p12).
Whatwehavetoday,inMicaeladiLeonardosphrasing,isanthropologywithoutanthropologists.Althoughanthropologyandanthropologistsareusedasantistructuralgristforahostof
intellectualmills,theyarenotthemselvesactiveparticipantsinthesediscussions.Theyseemtolackagencyothersframeandreframetheimagesthatswirlaroundthem.
Oneseesthisinrespecttotworecent,awardwinningbooks.AnneFadimansTheSpiritCatchesYouandYouFallDowndealswithmiscommunicationsbetweenaLaotianrefugeeHmong
familyandthemedicalstaffofaMercedCaliforniahospitaltreatingthefamilysdaughter.ThebookhasreceivednumeroushonorsamongthemtheNationalBookCriticsCircleAwardfor
GeneralNonfiction,theLosAngelesTimesBookPrizeforCurrentInterest,andABestBookoftheYear(People,Newsday,Glamour,andtheDetroitFreePress).Thebookoffersanuanced,
deeplyanthropologicalperspectiveandisusedinanumberofanthropologicalcourses.Buttheauthorisnotananthropologist.Areadingofherwebsitebio
(http://www.spiritcatchesyou.com/authorbio.htm)indicatesshehashadlittle,ifany,formalanthropologicaltraining.

http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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JaredDiamondsGuns,Germs,andSteel:TheFatesofHumanSocietiesusesanenvironmental/cultural/evolutionaryperspectivetoexplorehowtheWestachievedthepositionitholdstodayin
theworld.Thebookwonthe1998PulitzerPrizeandhasremainedontheNewYorkTimespaperbackbestsellerlistforover200weeksroughlyfouryears.PBShasproducedadocumentaryon
it.Diamondmayembraceevolutionary/anthropologicalperspectivesbuthe,haslittleformaltraininginthefield.Diamond,aWikipediaarticleonhimnotes,isanAmericanevolutionary
biologist,physiologist,biogeographerandnonfictionauthor.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond).HeisaprofessorofgeographyatUCLAand,formerly,aprofessorofphysiology
there.
Publicanthropology,Ibelieve,becamepartofanefforttoregainsomethingmanyanthropologistsfelttheyhadlostasenseofstatusandrespectfromthebroaderpublic.Publicanthropology
constitutesanefforttoconnectwiththosewho,whileembracingananthropologicalperspective,feelalienatedfromanthropologistsandtheirwritings.
Thequestionwemightaskis:Arewesucceedinginconnectingwiththebroaderpublic?Inmyopinion,thatremains,atbest,anopenquestion.Iperceiveapatternofplusachange,pluscest
lammechose(themorethingschange,themoretheyremainthesame).Wededicateourselvestochangingpatternsofbehaviorwithinthedisciplinewithoutchangingtheunderlying
hegemonicstructuresthatperpetuatethesebehaviors.Whilestrivingtobringchange,weseemtobecreatingavariantofthestatusquo.Letmeexplain.
Nodoubtmanyanthropologistsaskinterestingquestions.Butdespitethisfact,mostreadersturntononanthropologicalauthorswhentheyselecttheirreadingmaterial.Ourethnographiesmostly
involveanthropologistsspeakingtoanthropologists.Ourethnographiesdonotcaptivatereadersbeyondtheacademicpale.ThatistrueevenwiththeCaliforniaSeriesinPublicAnthropology.
OnlyPaulFarmerand,toalesserdegree,afewotherauthors,havereasonablesalesoutsidethediscipline,outsideofacademia.
Thesolutiontothisprobleminvolvesmorethanwritinginclear,accessiblelanguagefornonanthropologists.Thereisalargercontextthatshapesthecontextofanthropologicalwriting.There
arethousandsuponthousandsofbookspublishedeachyear.In2002,thelastyearIhavedatafor,thenumberofbookspublishedintheworldcameouttoroughlyoneevery30seconds?Ifwe
limitoursampletotheUnitedStates,itwasoneevery4.3minutes.Readersareoverwhelmedwithreadingmaterial.Theycannotskim,nevermindread,allthebooksthatcatchtheirinterest.
Whatisneededtoriseabovethedelugeofpublicationsistoaddresstheproblemsthatmostconcernreaders.Itmeansmovingbeyonddisciplinarydefinedproblemstotheproblemsoftheworld
theproblemsthatinterestothers,ratherthantheproblemsthatinterestusasanthropologists.Whatwouldhappenifanthropologistswerejudgednotintermsofhowmanybookstheyaddedto
theacademicpile,butintermsofthepragmaticeffectivenessoftheiranalysestowhatdegreetheyinfluencedpublicdebates,addressedandclarifiedserioussocialproblemsthatinterestedthe
broaderpublic?Evaluatinganthropologicalworksinthesetermswouldattractreadersbeyondthedisciplinarypale.Thesereaderswouldhaveareasontoreadanthropologyjustastheynowhave
areasontoreadFadimanandDiamond.
Theonlywaytobetakenseriouslybythebroaderpublic,Iamsuggesting,istoaskthequestionsreadersbeyondtheacademicpaleask,toanswerthequestionsthesereaderslongtoknow,to
shareexperiencesthataddinsightandmeaningtothesereadersbusylives.Thismeansforsakingthequestionsthatabsorbanthropologistsandaddressingthequestionsthatabsorbothers.While
manyanthropologiststalkaboutreachingouttotheboarderpublic,itisfarfromcleartheseanthropologists,infact,engagethesereadersontheirownterms.Formostanthropologists,dealing
withthelargerpublicsinterestsinthebroaderpublicstermsremainsabridgetoofar.

TheTensionwithAppliedAnthropology
Initially,thecriticismssomeappliedanthropologistsvoicedofpublicanthropologysurprisedme.Theyseemedtobemakingpublicanthropologyintoastrawmantocriticize.
PublicAnthropology:WhereTo,WhatNext?appearedintheAnthropologyNewsinMay2000.IntheSeptemberissue,MerrillSingerwrotearesponseentitled,WhyIamNotAPublic
Anthropologist.Heofferedatwofoldcritiqueofpublicanthropology:(1)Ihadignoredalltheworkthatappliedanthropologistshaddonetodateindiscussingpublicanthropologyand(2)it
couldleadtoatwotiersystemwherepublicanthropologistswouldbecomethehigherstatustheoreticiansandappliedanthropologistswouldbecomethelowerstatusgruntswhoaddress
concrete,practicalproblemsoftheworld.Hewrote,PublicAnthropologyshouldbeincludedasasubfieldofappliedanthropologyconcernedwithmobilizinganthropologicalresearch,
http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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concepts,andapproachestoinformpublicdiscussionofcontemporaryissues(2000:6).Technically,IbelieveSingerwasrespondinganearlierarticleIwroteinAnthropologyNews.ButI
thoughtitunfairnottorefertomyMayarticlepublishedwellbeforehispiecewhenIclearlyaddressedtheissuehewasconcernedwith.
Icametorealizetherewasadeeperdynamicatwork.Foranumberofappliedanthropologists,thereisalmostavisceraldislikeofpublicanthropologyindependentofwhatitmeansorstrives
todo.Itgrowsoutofafeelingthatacademicanthropologyhasshuntedappliedanthropologytothestatusmargins.Whatirritatestheseappliedanthropologistsisthatnow,withthecallformore
publicengagement,thedisciplineisfinallyrecognizingappliedanthropologysimportance.Butjustwhenappliedanthropologyshouldbearrivingatitshardearnedplaceinthesun,this
recognitionisbeingassumed,withintheacademy,bypublicanthropology.
LetmemakeexplicitwhatwasimplicitintheMay2000article.Whilemanymightconcurthatappliedanthropologyhasbeenshuntedtothestatusmargins,Iwouldsuggestthismarginalityhas
littletodowithsomethingintrinsictothefielditself.Appliedanthropologistsarecaughtupinabroader,epistemologicalframework,aframeworkIsuspectiscrossculturalandonethatis
certainlypervasiveintheAmericanacademy.Addressingconcreteproblemsinconcretecontextstendstobeviewedaslessintellectuallysignificantthanthoughtfulsynthesesthatdrawseveral
concretecasestogetheratamoreabstractlevel.Thesesynthesesareoftenperceivedasembodyingmorecompetenceand,hence,morestatusthanexplicationsofspecific,detailed,cases.The
problemwithappliedanthropologysstatus,inotherwords,doesnothavetodowiththefieldpersebutwithatendencyamongsomepractitionersthoughcertainlynotalltofocusonconcrete
solutionstoconcreteproblemsandleaveitatthat.Bydownplayingtheinteractionofbroader(and,yes,abstract)hegemonicdynamicsastheyinteractwithandshapeconcreteproblems,these
practitionersgetplacedonthelowerrungsofthestatussystem.ItisoneoftheepistemologicalrulesoftheAmericanacademy.
Iwouldnotepublicanthropologysharesappliedsconcernwithdevelopingsolutionstoconcreteproblems.Butitdoesnotnecessarilyaccepttheframesofreferencethatframetheseproblem.It
oftenseestheseframingsashegemonicconstructionsthatneedbeanalyzedand,bymakingthempublic,tosubverttheirpowertoframeparticularproblemstherebyopeningupthepossibility
ofalternative,moreproductive,framings.ToquotefromtheMay2000article,publicanthropologyquestionsappliedanthropologyslowstatuswithinthediscipline.Itanalysesthebroader
contextsinvolvedtheintellectualframe[s]ofreferencethatgivestatustotheorywithintheacademybut,intheprocess,disempowerstheacademyinmanypublicsettings.
Frommyperspective,theanthropologicalcriticismsofappliedanthropologyasahandmaidenofthepowerstructureseemabitunfair.Whatsuchcriticismsignoreand/ordenyisthat
anthropology,asawhole,hasalsobeenthehandmaidenofthesesamepowerstructures.Scapegoatingappliedanthropologydoesnotdissolvethebroaderdisciplinesculpabilityinthismatter.
Hopefully,theabovediscussionhelpsreadersunderstandwhy,inselectinganamefortheCaliforniaSeriesNaomiSchneiderandIwerecreating,wedidnotchooseappliedanthropology.Ithad
inmyview,howeverunfairlyacquirednegativeconnotations.Whatwewereseekingwasanewtermthathadacertainpizzazzthatwoulddrawanthropologistsintorethinkingtheir
connectionstothebroadersociety.
UsingRylkoBaueretalsrecentReclaimingAppliedAnthropology:ItsPast,Present,andFuture(2006)letmebrieflydiscusshowIperceiveappliedanthropologyintersectswithpublic
anthropology.Hopefully,thiswillcleartheairabit.
Tobeginwith,publicanthropologysharestheSocietyforAppliedAnthropologysaspirationtopromotetheintegrationofanthropologicalperspectivesandmethodsinsolvinghumanproblems
throughouttheworldtoadvocateforfairandjustpublicpolicybaseduponsoundresearch(http://www.sfaa.net/sfaagoal.html).Thatistosay,itsharesappliedsconcernforaddressing,concrete
problemsfacingrealpeopleusingthebestknowledgeathand.WhenRylkoBaueretalwritepractitionersusetheoreticalandconceptualframeworksfromanthropologyandotherdisciplinesto
shapetheirquestions,designmethodology,andlinkknowledgewithpolicy,programdevelopment,oraction(2006:184),theycould,inmyopinion,bespeakingforpublicanthropologyaswell.
Publicanthropologydiffersfromappliedanthropologyintwosignificantways.First,publicanthropologyemphasizesinthestrongestterms,publicaccountability.Itseekstoexposeprivate
dynamicsandclaimstothecleansingantisepticofpubliclightindemocraticsocieties.Makingtheprivatepublicallowsbroaddemocraticconstituenciestobetterunderstandand,throughthat
understanding,tomoreeffectivelyaddressaproblem.Italsoallowsotherstoevaluatethedegreetowhichthosedoingaparticulartaskare(orarenot)successful.Openingupprojectstopublic
viewrestrictsthedegreetowhichapowerelitecanmanipulateproblemsandsolutionstotheirpersonaladvantage.

http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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Letmeofferananthropologicalexample.RylkoBaueretalobservethatSolTaxemphasizedtheideaofselfdetermination,withtheroleoftheactionanthropologistbeingtoassistinproviding
communitieswithgenuinealternativesfromwhichthepeopleinvolvedcanfreelychoosewhileavoidingimposingourvalues(fromTax1960:416)(2006:181).Soundsgoodparticularlyif
weuseTaxasthejudgeofTaxsownwork.Foley,whohashadachancetoevaluateTaxsworkindependentlyofTax,hasadifferentassessmentthatshouldbetakenintoaccountaswell.Foley
writes:Noneoftheprojectscooperativeeconomicandsocialprograms,popularmediamaterials,andeducationalprogramssurvivedtheirdeparture...andonlythescholarshipprogramhada
lastingimpact.Moreover,theactionanthropologistswerenotascollaborativeastheyclaimed,andtheirpowerbrokeringwithwhitesmayhaveaddedtoMesquakipoliticaldependency
(1999:171).Whysuchlimitedresults?Foleynotes,first,theprojectneverreceivedasystematicindependentevaluation.Taxandhisstudentsdefendedthelackofaformalevaluationwiththe
claimthataclinicalprojectsgoalsweretoodiffuse,openended,anddevelopmentaltocapture(1999:177).Moreover,theFoxprojectwasmarkedbylessdailycollaborationandshared
leadershipthantheorized.Projectanthropologistsusuallyplanned,initiated,andadministeredtheiractionsprojects...thetribeactuallyhadlittlestakeinmostoftheactionprojects,and
thereforetheseprojectsdiedout(1999:183).WhatallowsotherstounderstandthedynamicsoftheFoxprojectthenespeciallywhatitdid(anddidnot)accomplisharenotTaxsclaims,but
thebackandforth,publiclyopen,publiclyaccountablediscussions,regardingtheproject(suchasFoleysCurrentAnthropologyarticleandthecommentariesfollowingit).
Second,publicanthropologyisconcernedwithunderstandingthehegemonicstructuresthatframeandrestrictsolutionstoproblemsasawayofmoreeffectivelyaddressingtheseproblems.
Hegemonicstructuresarenotperceivedassecondary,intellectualdigressionsthattakeoneawayfromaddressingaproblem.Theyareseenascentraltoaddressingit.Effortsofgoodwilland
intentionoftencomeupemptyifthesestructuresarenotaddressedopenlyandpublicly.Whilepublicanthropologistsneedstartwiththeproblemsaspeoplethemselvesdefinethem(orasthe
hiringorganizationdefinesthem),theyshouldNEVERstaywiththoseframings.Aswesaw,thewaymanypublicanthropologistsareseekingtoconnectwithpublicsbeyondthediscipline
appears,attimes,toperpetuatepermutationsofthestatusquohencethephrasing,plusachange,pluscestlammechose(themorethingschange,themoretheyremainthesame).One
needstostepoutsidesuchframingstochangethem.
Letmeofferanexampleoftheneedtochallengethehegemonicstructuresthatshapethecontextsinwhichanthropologistsworkin.InthepostWorldWarIIperiod,theCoordinatedInvestigation
ofMicronesianAnthropology(CIMA)representsthelargestresearchprojectinthehistoryofAmericanAnthropology(KisteandMarshall1999:dustjacket).Itinvolvedroughly10%ofthe
AmericanAnthropologicalprofessioninfieldworkfortheU.S.Navywho,atthetime,administeredMicronesiafortheUnitedStates.Thegoalwastohelpdecisionmakersmakebetterdecisions.
Ontheonehand,bothCIMAandtheScientificInvestigationofMicronesia(SIM)whichfollowedit,hadaprofoundimpactontheanthropologicalprofession.Marshallconcludedthatroughly
6%ofallanthropologyPh.D.sgrantedfrom1948to1994derivedirectlyorindirectlyfromCIMAandtheScientificInvestigationofMicronesia(SIM)projectwhichfollowedit.Ontheother
hand,CIMAandSIMhadmuchlessimpactonMicronesiaandMicronesians.Kisteobserves,forexample,thatanthropologyhadlittleinfluenceonthedevelopmentofhealthcareandlegal
systemsinthetrustterritory(1999:449).Thisderivedfromadisconnectbetweenanthropologistsandadministrators.Therelationshipbetweenthetwogroupsmostlyrevolvedaroundeachdoing
theirownspecifiedtaskswithoutseriouslyengagingwiththeothersperspectives,theothersmodusoperandi.Asaresult,importantdecisionsregardingMicronesiaweremadeinWashington
insomecases,beforetheanthropologicalresearchoccurredthatwassupposetoinformthedecisions.Whileanthropologistswereconsultedsubsequently,particularlyinrelationtoeducation
wherefundingwaslimited,theyweresignificantlylessinvolvedinquestionsofhealth,medicine,orthejudiciary.CitingJudgeKingremarks,Kistecomments,therewasneveranydialogue
betweenanthropologistsandthejudiciaryinregardtofundamentalquestionsaboutthenatureandroleofthecourtsinMicronesia(1999:450).Caughtupwiththeirownconcerns,
anthropologistsrarelyreachedbeyondthemtoeffectivelyquestionthebroadercontextsoftheAmericanpowereliteandthewayitgovernedMicronesia.
Havingdiscussedwherepublicandappliedanthropologyseeminglyconvergeanddiverge,letmementiontwoareasIamuncertainabout.Thefirstinvolvesobjectivity.Iwouldarguewecannot
placeourfaithinasingleexpertbethatpersonananthropologist,layperson,orlawyer.Thereisalwaysaselfservingrhetorictothepresentation(aswesawwithTax).Itisonlyby
anthropologistsengaginginopen,publicdebatewithothersofdivergentperspectivesthatwemovetowardaclearer,moreobjectiveunderstandingofaproblem.ReadingthroughRylkoBaueret
al,Isenseaconcernaswellforopen,publicdiscussion.Iconcurwiththemthatoneneednotseparateadvocacyfromresearch.Buttheotherpartoftheequationthatisessentialforobjective,
effectivesolutions,ispublicdiscussionsofdivergentperspectives,differentdata,withinasingleforum.WhatIwouldhopetosee,fromappliedanthropologists,isanappreciationofthepost
modernconcernfortheconstructionsofknowledgeandhowtruthisnegotiatedthroughpublicdiscussions.Imaybewrong,butIhavenotseenappliedanthropologiststakingtheleadinpublicly
addressingdivergentviewsofaproblem,seekingtopublicly,effectivelyconversebackandforthwithothers,whodifferfromthemselves,sothatdemocraticallyorganizedcitizenscandecidefor
themselveswhatactionstotake.

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Thesecondareaofuncertainintersectionconcernsboundaries.IquotedRylkoBaueretalaboveregardingtheiropennesstononanthropologicalperspectives.But,thereisasense,iftheauthors
aretryingtoaffirmappliedanthropologysvaluevisavisotherareasofthediscipline,thattheyare,indeed,tosomeextentconcernedwithboundarymaintenance.Iwouldprefer,toavoid
delimitingintellectualboundariesinanypreciseway.Publicanthropology,appliedanthropology,whatever.Whooutthere,beyondthediscipline,reallycares?Theimportantissue,whateverwe
callourselves,isdoingwhateverittakesshortoftheunethicaltosolvethesocialproblemsathand.Thegoalishelpingthoseinneedoverthelongterm,notdelineatingyoufrommeorme
fromyou.Frommyperspective,thedistinctionbetweenpublicandappliedisnotsomethingthatshouldtakeupalotofenergy.TheCaliforniaSeriesinPublicAnthropologywasnamedassuch
forthereasonsspecifiedabove.Mightweleaveitatthatandmoveon?

TheChallengeAhead:BringingRealChangetotheDiscipline
Howdowetransformanthropologyintoamorepublicly,engageddisciplineinthesensediscussedheremovingbeyondtalkingthetalkofchangetomakingarealdifference,asadiscipline,
inthebroaderworld?Letmeofferthreepointsforconsideration.
First,reflectingonrecenteffortsatsignificantdisciplinarychangeothersaswellasmineitseems,despitethesupportiverhetoricforchange,therehavebeenfewsignificantstructural
changes.Asaresult,Iamskepticalthatthedisciplineitselfcanbringforthchange.Toomanyanthropologistshavegrowntoocomfortablewiththestatusquowhile,atthesametime,obscuring
theirstasisbyrhetoricallytalkingofchange.OnceIplacedmuchfaithinanthropologistsunderstandingtheneedtochange.Inowleantowardchangecomingfromoutsidethediscipline
throughthebroadersocietys(i.e.fundersandlegislators)demandsforaccountabilitywithintheacademy.
Whathaskeptpublicaccountabilityatbaywithinanthropologyisthemystificationsurroundingwhatanthropologistsdoandespeciallytowhatdegreetheirworkbenefitsothers.The
mystificationofthedisciplinehasallowedanthropologiststokeepintacttheirautonomytheirfreedomtofrequentlydoastheywishwhilemarginalizingthemselvesfrompublicdiscourses
beyondtheacademy.Asnoted,fewbeyondtheacademyseeminterestedinwhatanthropologistshavetosay.
Increasinglytodaycallsforacademicaccountabilityarebeingemphasizedwithinthebroadersociety.Witness,forexample,theSpellingsReportoftheCommissionontheFutureofHigher
Education.TheCommitteecalledonhighereducationtoshedsomeofitsmysteryandfundamentallyprovethevalueitdelivers(Basken,2007:A20).Itemphasizedthereshouldbenew
accountabilitymeasuresthatallowcomparisonsof...performance(2007:A20).WeareintheinfancyinAmericanhighereducation,Spellingsherselfobserves,ofbeingabletodescribeto
ourpublicswhethertheyarestatelegislatures,Congress,parents,philanthropistswhatweredoing,andtowhateffect...weallhavearesponsibilitytoanswerthatquestion.(2007:A22).
Thetrick,forbringingpublicaccountabilitytoanthropologyshowinghowithelpsothersbeyondthedisciplineistocatchthiswaveofbroadercallsforaccountability.Tothatend,Iwillbe
conductingin2008asecondassessmentofpublicoutreachattheleadingAmericananthropologygraduatedepartments.Thefirstassessmenthadsolidfacultyparticipation1428of3551(or
40.21%)fulltimefaculty.Becausethefirstassessmentwasapreliminaryone,itsresultsweredistributedsolelywithintheacademytouniversitypresidents,graduatedeans,anddepartmental
chairs.Thesecond,morerefinedassessment,willbewidelydistributedtostateandnationallegislatorsaswellaslocalandnationalnewspapers.Thehopeisthatthose,beyondtheacademia,
willdrawanthropologyandanthropologistsintoclarifying,inspecificways,howtheybenefitthelargersocietyeitherthroughcarrots(extrafunding)orsticks(threatsofreducedfunding).
Turningtothesecondpoint,manyanthropologistsquestionwhetherthedisciplinereallyproducescumulativeknowledgeinanyserious,meaningfulsenseofthatphrase.ThereisGeertzsfamous
statement:Anthropology,oratleastinterpretativeanthropology,isasciencewhoseprogressismarkedlessbyaperfectionofconsensusthanbyarefinementofdebate.Whatgetsbetteristhe
precisionwithwhichwevexeachother(1973:29).OrthereisWolfs(1994:220)comment:Inanthropologywearecontinuouslyslayingparadigms,onlytoseethemreturntolife,asif
discoveredforthefirsttime...Aseachsuccessiveapproachcarriestheaxtoitspredecessors,anthropologycomestoresembleaprojectofintellectualdeforestation.Wemightquoteaswell
Salzman(1994:34):Awellknownandoccasionallydiscussedproblemisthefactthatthevastmultitudeofanthropologicalconferences,congresses,articles,monographs,andcollections,while
addinguptomountainsofpaper(andsubtractingwholeforests),donotseemtoadduptoasubstantial,integrated,coherentbodyofknowledgethatcouldprovideabaseforthefurther
advancementofthediscipline.L.A.Fallersusedtocommentthatweseemtobeconstantlytoolingupwithnewideasandnewconceptsandneverseemtogetaroundtoapplyingandassessing
theminasubstantiveandsystematicfashion.
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Thewaytomovetowardamorecumulativeknowledgebasebeyondthetrends,fads,andfragmentationofrecentdecades,istouseatransparent,comparativestandardforevaluatingonesetof
resultsagainstanother.Anobvious,andcertainlyoneofthemostrelevant,standardsisthedegreetowhichasetofanthropologicalresultseffectivelyaddressesaproblemintheworldbeyondthe
academyinotherwords,apragmatictheoryoftruth,doessomethingwork.Therearecertainlyenoughproblems.Youcanalmosttakeyourpickendemicpoverty,violence,anddisease,
violationsofhumanrights,oppressivegovernmentalsystems,mismanagedprojectsofaid,younameit.Mypointisthatonceanthropologistsstartfocusingonasetofcommonproblemsthe
problemsoftheworldtherecanbeassessmentsoftowhatdegreevariousresearchresultsleadtoeffectivesolutionsinwhichcontextsand,thatinturn,canprovideafoundationforbuildinga
morecumulativebodyofknowledgethatalsohasthebenefitofservingthebroadergood.
Finally,theCenterforaPublicAnthropologyiscurrentlyinvolvedwithtwoprojectsbesidesthosenotedabovethatsuggestdirectionsforchangingthediscipline.TheCenter,inassociation
withtheUniversityofCaliforniaPress,isinitiatingtwobookcompetitions,oneforgraduatestudentsandoneformidcareerfaculty.TheCaliforniaSeriesinPublicAnthropologywilloffer
publishingcontractstoanindividualineachcategorybasedsolelyontheresearchersproposal.Neithertheresearchnorthemanuscriptneedbecompletedwhentheawardismade.The
competitionhopes,bycatchinganthropologistsearlybeforetheyhavecommittedthemselvestorepeatingthestatusquoinbookformtodrawthemtodealingwithmajorsocialproblemsin
significantwaysusingthelureofabookcontract.(OftenthemanuscriptstheSeriesreceiveshavebroadimplicationsbutarenarrowlyframedandappealonlytoasmallcoterieofspecialistswho
havethetimetowadethroughahostofdetailstodiscovertheimplications.)Thehopeisthecompetitionwilldrawmanyanthropologistsoutofthenarrowlyframedwaystheywritebookstotake
onmajorissuesinimportantwaysthatattractpublicattention.
TheotherprojectistheCentersCommunityActionWebsite.Itdrawsonundergraduatesasaforceforchangingthestatusquo.Whyundergraduates?Unlikemanyfacultyandgraduatestudents
who,despitetheirrhetoric,oftenfeelcomfortablewithvariationsonthestatusquo,undergraduatesarefrequentlyexcitedbythepossibilitiesofchange.TheinitialprojecthavingPennState,
returntheYanomamibloodstoredintheirlaboratoriestotheYanomamiviatheU.S.BrazilianEmbassyiswellonitswaytosuccess.Anotherprojectmakingpublicthebenefits
anthropologistsprovidetheirresearchcommunitieshasmadelessprogresstodate.TheCommunityActionWebsitefailedtogetanthropologicallyassociatedfundingagenciestorequiretheir
granteestopubliclyspecifyinafewsentencesthewaystheirresearchbenefittedthecommunitiestheyworkin.Asaresult,theCommunityActionWebsitehasturneditsattentiontotheFederal
OfficeofHumanResearchProtections(intheDepartmentofHealthandHumanServices),and,throughit,universityInstitutionalReviewBoards.Thehopeisthatthesegroupswilldomorethan
insistthatanthropologistsspecifyhowtheirresearchwillbenefittheirresearchcommunities.Thehopeisthattheywillrequireanthropologists,whentheyreturnfromtheirresearchthatis,
whentheyhaveactualdatainhandtopubliclyspecifyhow,infact,theirresearchhas(orwill)benefittheresearchcommunity.Makingthebenefitspublicnotonlyreducestheriskofnegative
rumors(i.ethatanthropologistsgivelittleinreturn),butalsooffersothers,interestingincheckingtheclaimedbenefits,thedatatovalidateanthropologistsclaims.Itallowsaswesawinthe
caseoftheFoxprojectawayofmovingtogreaterpublicaccountability.SpecifyingbenefitsisalreadyarequiredpartofmostIRBproposals.ButfewIRBsfollowuponthehypothetical
statementsmadeinresearchproposalstoseewhat,infact,ananthropologistactuallyprovidedintermsofbenefits.
Insummary,IhavetriedtosetoutwhatIviewasthecentralconcernsofpublicanthropologyaswellashowitdoes(anddoesnot)intersectwithappliedanthropology.But,asemphasized,public
anthropologyhasdevelopedalifeofitsownbeyondthemeaningIoncegaveitwithdifferentpeopleusingitindifferentwaysfordifferentends.Mightwejudgethesediverseeffortsat
changingthedisciplinebythepragmaticstandardsuggestedhere:Towhatdegreedotheymakeadifferenceinthelivesofthosebeyondtheacademy?

References
Basken,Paul.2007.AYearLater,SpellingsReportStillMakesRipples.TheChronicleofHigherEducationSeptember28:A1,A2022.
Borofsky,Robert.2000a.ToLaughorCry?AnthropologyNews41,2:910.
________.2000b.PublicAnthropology.WhereTo?WhatNext?AnthropologyNews41,5:910
Foley,DouglasE.1999.TheFoxProject:AReappraisal.CurrentAnthropology40,2:171191.
Geertz,Clifford.1973TheInterpretationofCultures.NewYork:BasicBooks.
http://www.publicanthropology.org/publicanthropology/

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Kiste,RobertC.AndMacMarshall,ed.1999.AmericanAnthropologyinMicronesia:AnAssessment.Honolulu:UniversityofHawaiiPress.
RylkoBauer,Barbara,MerrillSinger,andJohnVanWilligen.2006.ReclaimingAppliedAnthropology:Its,Past,Present,andFuture.AmericanAnthropologist108,1:178190.

Salzman,PhilipCarl.1994.TheLoneStrangerintheHeartofDarkness.InAssessingCulturalAnthropology.RobertBorofsky,editor,Pp.2938.NewYorkCity:McGrawHill.
Singer,Merrill.2000.WhyIAmNotaPublicAnthropology.AnthropologyNews41,6:67.
Wolf,EricR.1994FacingPower:OldInsights,NewQuestions.InAssessingCulturalAnthropology.RobertBorofsky,editor,Pp.218227.NewYorkCity:McGrawHill.

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