Applied Anthropology

Barbara Rose Johnston

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
Applied Anthropology

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  • Anthropology
  • Human Evolution
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology


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As a term and a subject area, applied anthropology refers to that broad array of research, methods, and outcomes developed and used for the explicit purpose of recognizing, understanding, and addressing human problems. It has been described both as the fifth field of anthropology and as the bridging discipline since the application of research and knowledge to social problems cross-cuts all fields of anthropology. Some view applied anthropology narrowly, in terms of work conducted outside of university settings that is typically defined and produced under some form of contractual relationship, with services and resulting products used in some sort of problem-solving way. In this usage, applied anthropologists work to resolve problems, often in technocratic contexts, with theoretically informed praxis that generates and refines methodologies though rarely contributes toward the production of theory. For others, applied anthropology has broader meaning and refers to the varied uses of anthropology in public and private settings, including academia, where the primary objective involves problem-focused concerns. In this usage all forms of anthropological endeavor have social meaning and an applied dimension. Both the varied meanings of term and the varied outcomes of endeavor reflect the political economic conditions, social contexts, and identity politics within the discipline as it has been practiced over the past century, especially in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Classification and restricted access agreements imposed by research sponsors (governments, other international institutions, and corporations), limited peer review, publication and distribution of grey literature reports, and the membership-restricted publication of flagship journals historically reinforced the boundaries between university-based anthropologists and applied practitioners. With the advent of the web, library scanning projects, changes in information disclosure laws, the ease of uploading the collected works of various journals, newsletters, and magazines to the web, and the increased sophistication and use of web-based translation, access to the collective works in applied anthropology has never been greater. Increasingly, the distinction between applied and four-field anthropology has relatively less meaning as anthropologists are engaged as disciplinary and public actors in a wide array of scholarly, practical, and advocacy endeavors. Globally, anthropological work involves and is celebrated for its combined theoretical, applied, and practical contributions to society.

Article.  13156 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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