In society today, the discipline of anthropology has made a tremendous shift from the practices it employed years ago. Anthropologists of today have a very different focus from their predecessors, who would focus on relating problems of distant peoples to the Western world. In more modern times, their goal has become much more local, in focusing on human problems and issues within the societies they live. This paper will identify the roles anthropologists today play, such as where they perform the bulk of their work, and what it is they do in both problem solving, as well as policy making.
It will also identify the issues they are faced with, that is, the nature of the problems they address. Ethics have always been an important part of anthropology, and this paper will also deal with the ethical goals of today’s anthropologists and some of the ethical problems they are faced with. The information of this paper was obtained entirely from the internet. It was designed as an internet project structured to both teach and familiarize research through the World Wide Web. Any data in this paper was derived through information posted publicly on internet sites available to any member of he public with an internet connection.
As a result of the narrow area of research, the information provided both to the author and the reader is limited. While it is true that the internet is a source of boundless information, the sheer amount of it all makes reading all of it impossible. Also, the total lack of journal reports, or texts, means that while the information provided may not be minimal, it is nonetheless limited. When people think of an anthropologist, the image of the jungle traveling character comes to mind. A white man sitting in a hut on some primitive island, taking notes on the local tribes s/he is living with.
Decades ago, this was actually the case. However, as time progresses, so does the role of the anthropologist in today’s society. Very rarely now does anthropology actually involve extensive fieldwork in an exotic location. Today, an M. A. or a Ph. D. in the field of anthropology means that a job locally may be available to you. There is always the academic side of things, such as becoming a professor of the discipline, but this paper will focus more on the non-academic roles of the anthropologist today.
Jobs today are available on not only the academic level, but also in government, and in the private sector. SfAA, 2000) An example of the role of an anthropologist today is that of a developmental researcher. This job would entail dealing with the development of children and adolescents by studying them, publishing reports, and training them to better prepare for life in the workplace. ( SfAA,2000) Based on the decisions and recommendations of someone in this position, actions will be taken to shape young lives.
Persons in this role would have to solve many problems involving relationships and understanding of today’s youth. Several jobs of the same nature of urban development involve national urveys, case-studies involving a sample of the local people, and a series of interviews all help in forming ideas on which anthropologists base their decisions for development on. It would be the results of these types of data collections by which plans and policies suitable for everyone can be formed. There are also many positions being opened in the business world for the anthropologist to fill.
The discipline of anthropology targets study, and today’s business want many different aspects of their market studied. For example, anthropologists may be asked to study employee production, and ways to improve it. They may be asked o find out through market research different ways to change or alter their product to fit the optimum desires of the general public. (Cassell, 2000 ). It is these kinds of positions and these kinds of problems facing the graduate of the field of anthropology today, and they will only increase.
The SfAA (Society for Applied Anthropology) writes For the past two decades the majority of anthropologists have found employment outside of university settings…with the trends in electronic multimedia education and the decrease in tenured academic positions, and even larger percentage of…anthropologists will be employed outside of cademic positions in the upcoming decade. With so many new positions becoming available outside of the academic atmosphere, the M. A. or Ph. D. in anthropology becomes not only a valuable tool for employment in a growing number of positions, but also a valuable asset for a very flexible area of development.
Even with all of these new positions becoming available to anthropologists, the code of ethics they must follow is universal. Scrutiny over past methods of research as become almost a black eye on anthropology, and the AAA and SfAA, as well as others, have a code of ethics which anthropologist of all positions must adhere to. Of course, with the decline of field work to “primitive” cultures, the main focus of these ethics has changed. Still, by focusing on local positions anthropologists hold today, a great number of the ethics still apply.
The ethical choices made must still abide by community or professional guidelines, and cannot or at least should not knowingly create conflicts, misunderstandings, or create unacceptable situations for the parties involved. ( AAA, 2000 ) Anthropologists usually study humans, and in doing so they must realize that any information they discover or provide may result in a change in lifestyle which can be either positive r negative, and as such, the anthropologist must try to avoid anything which can bring about harm to an individual or a group.
In studying local positions, such as urban development, the researcher must understand that recommendations made by him or her can result in changes in the urban structure; such change should not be looked upon lightly, as even slight change can forever alter development of that community. ( AAA, 2000 ) Such an example would be to say that a factory in a low income area would increase jobs and therefore bring about a class change of many people. Before this decision is made, the anthropologist must first identify ho stands to benefit, and who, if anyone, would lose in this situation.
A factory would most likely reduce property values, and could bring about other factories, several of which combined could severely increase pollution levels. A decision like this is one that an anthropologist must face, and the ethics code is a good guideline to assist in making decisions like this one. It is also held very high in the code of ethics that people be treated as equals, with their well-being and self- respect held in high regard. ( Anonymous, 2000 ) Researchers who conduct surveys or interviews to individuals or in study groups must be clear on what they re doing, and why they are doing it.
Keeping the subjects informed of exactly what they are going to do with their information. It may also be the wishes of the study groups that they remain anonymous in their information, and if so then the anthropologist must respect that request; information received under the pretense of anonymity may be more insightful as there is no element of fear of reprisal. ( Anonymous, 2000) Revealing identity when told otherwise violates trust and may alter future studies.
Letting these focus groups know that their information in valid and important to the company in very important in gaining trust and avoids iolating basic human rights. While this of course sounds all well and good, it does create a very painstaking process through which the anthropologist must perform. Writing up proposal after proposal and making sure that everyone knows exactly what is going on can be a very arduous process, and make simple acts very tiresome. There are however, more serious problems that anthropologists today face.
In keeping with idea that they should not interfere with community or religious beliefs, there are situations in which anthropologists feel the need to intervene, or at the very least present their findings to someone who will. Several situations were talked about during tutorials for the course, but none came up in the process of research for this paper. So, while it is understood that ethical problems are common, not a great deal are mentioned here. It has been addressed in this paper the nature of roles and issues dealt with by anthropologists today.
The fact that roles outside the academic world was established, and the demand for anthropologists with at least an M. A. is on the rise. More domestic positions are becoming available, and if trends continue, even more positions will be available in the future. These positions include an ncreasing number of jobs in the professional world, as opposed to exotic locations. The market of societies dictates so much of what happens in the capitalist world, and businesses want to know what is in demand.
The skills possessed by an anthropologist make him or her the ideal candidate for a position in which they can study humans. As stated, as more companies realize this, more positions specially suited to them are created. It was also discussed that the ethical ideals, as well as problems anthropologists face have not undergone a tremendous change, even though the role of the anthropologist has. The well-being and safety f the subject studied is still a main concern, regardless of the subject’s origin or lifestyle.
The wishes and desires of the subjects must still be honored, and this sometimes leads to problems. Applied anthropologists of today have come full- circle; no longer do they study the foreign, but now study the local. Their positions in society are almost too many to mention, but the severe increase in the business world must be mentioned. It can be said that the discipline of anthropology covers a wide variety of tasks as well as overlapping with other fields of the social sciences, but that statement becomes more true with each passing year.