Anthropology is my true love; some would even say I’m evangelical about it. But Anthropology has fallen out of favour in academia and in the public eye. It’s been cut from academic institutions across the USA and the UK. Funding for projects and study has declined. People have no idea what Anthropology is.
In part, I believe this is because of the focus within Anthropology on the divide between academic and applied work. Without addressing this fracture, Anthropology cannot move forward and become respected again.
I issue a call to all of Anthropology:
To undergraduate students – Ask your professors what they’re doing to prepare you to go out into the world. Demand that you’re taught about the most interesting research they have done. Ask them to share their fieldwork mistakes and how they fixed them. Make them show you the potential for Anthropology from the very first Anthropology class you take. Keep your eyes open for opportunities for internships, and part-time work. Where you can, put into practice what you learn in class. Tell everyone you meet how Anthropology can be versatile and interesting and useful in their lives!
To master’s and PhD students – Look outside of academia. Don’t let your heart be set on a position in Academia only to have it broken. Seek opportunities and connections. Meet anthropologists from every walk of life and profession. Work with other graduate students in other disciplines and learn from them. Take on interdisciplinary projects to refine your understanding and learn the broadest set of skills you can. Learn from your professors and bosses alike. Talk about Anthropology, challenge those who challenge you about Anthropology’s value, and have faith in your future.
To professors – Discuss the discipline. Tell students of your greatest achievements and worst failures. Teach them how to recover and adapt and remain true to the core of Anthropology. Include classes on the widest variety of topics; for example, hook students in with discussions of cults and Artificial Intelligence and the future. Demand more from campus career planning and placement departments; show those career professionals that there are more opportunities for anthropologists than they know. Help your students to take advantage of the unique and special nature of Anthropology. Throw them in the deep end with applied situations and teach them to problem-solve. Look to applied anthropologists for their theories, interesting projects, and understanding of the world. Combine your own work with your academic colleagues and practitioners to create a hybrid, living doctrine which keeps evolving.
To practitioners – Build connections with your Alma Mater. Help your old professors teach classes on your specialty. Take on mentees and share why you do what you do. Help the next generation get into positions in industry, non-profits, and government more easily than you did. Continue to shout about the work you do and why it’s valid, relevant, and useful and critically important. Carry on helping people not only to do no harm but also some good along with it. Take as many opportunities as you can to show the value of anthropology to as many people as you can find.
To Anthropology – Evolve and develop. Treat your colleagues and students with respect. Focus not on the internal divide between academia and practice but instead on how the combination can help the world address its problems. Focus on the future, not on outdated traditions. Maintain your relevance or become obsolete. Show the world why you deserve to be respected.