Article

Ethics

Leslie E. Sponsel

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0043
Ethics

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  • Anthropology
  • Human Evolution
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Ethics in anthropology basically reflects general moral principles of what is bad and what is good in terms of what one should not do and what one should do as a professional in the discipline. However, in practice the emphasis is mostly on the negative; that is, in essence to avoid harm, and most of all to research subjects. Often concern with professional ethics within anthropology has been more reactive than proactive, and more a matter of defensive maneuvering to save face in public on the part of the individuals and organizations involved, rather than grappling with the issues head on let alone resolving them constructively and conclusively. Ethical concerns, and sometimes even actions such as new codes or revision of a previous one, intensify during periods when controversies and scandals erupt, especially if they reach the general public to threaten the image of the profession. Throughout the history of anthropology during the 20th century and into the present one, many of the ethical controversies, and some scandals as well, have erupted in connection with research associated with war, especially secret or clandestine work. Politics is usually involved as well, aggravating the difficulty and heat in issues. But there are numerous and diverse cases of ethical problems beyond the association with war as well because ethical dilemmas and choices are inevitable in many different kinds of situations. Most anthropologists try to be ethical in their own work even if they do not become engaged in controversies. Courses on professional ethics are rarely offered in departments of anthropology at universities and colleges for undergraduate and even graduate majors as an elective let alone as a requirement. However, a surprising abundance of useful literature and various codes of professional ethics are readily available for those individuals who are personally concerned to read, contemplate, and discuss them with others. Since the 1990s, and especially during the 2000s, there has been a marked increase in attention to professional ethics in anthropology in publications, conferences, and other venues. However, when all is said and done, the ethical conduct of an anthropologist ultimately remains almost entirely a matter of personal morality and conscience in becoming familiar with and following the institutional codes and guidelines. This bibliography focuses on professional ethics in anthropology in the United States for the most part because of limited space and other constraints.

Article.  11997 words. 

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

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