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Applied anthropology refers to the application of method and theory in anthropology to the analysis and solution of practical problems. In as much as anthropology traditionally entails four sub-disciplines--biological (a.k.a. physical), cultural, linguistic, and archaeological anthropology--the practical application of any of these sub-disciplines may properly be designated "applied anthropology". Indeed, some practical problems may invoke all sub-disciplines. For example, a Native American community development program may involve archaeological research to determine legitimacy of water rights claims, ethnography to assess the current and historical cultural characteristics of the community, linguistics to restore language competence among inhabitants, and biological or medical anthropology to determine the causality of dietary deficiency diseases, et al.[1]

Applied anthropologists often work for nonacademic clients such as governments, development agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), tribal and ethnic associations, advocacy groups, social-service and educational agencies, and businesses. Ethnography and participant observation are the applied anthropologist's primary research tools. They also use textual analysis, survey research and other empirical methods to inform policy or to market products.

This stands in contrast to the purely academic realm of sociocultural anthropology, which may be more concerned with creating theoretical models which correspond to its units of analysis, e.g. social inequality, performance, exchange, relative ethic value, and so forth. Sometimes research that falls within the "applied" field is differentiated from such research, which is thereby termed "basic" anthropology.

Examples of questions that an applied anthropologist would attempt to solve might be:

  • If an American buys diapers at 2 a.m. on a Saturday in a grocery store, what is likely to be their next purchase?
  • How can public health authorities promote condom use among members of a particular subculture?
  • How can anthropologists on Human Terrain Teams help the military identify enemy elements in Iraq?
  • What measures could be taken to make sponge diving safer for Greek sponge divers?
  • Why do people migrate to XYZ place or from PQR place?

The premiere journal of applied anthropology in the United States is called Human Organization, published by the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Under the directorship of the RAI, Jonathan Benthall, author of The Best of Anthropology Today, created the annual Lucy Mair Medal of Applied Anthropology. This recognizes excellence in using anthropology "for the relief of poverty or distress, or for the active recognition of human dignity".

See also


  1. ^ Willigen, John Van (2002). Applied Anthropology: An Introduction. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0897898338. 

External links

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