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This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.
Anthropology is often understood to be primarily an academic undertaking. A typical first exposure to the discipline occurs through undergraduate coursework, where the anthropologists that students know tend to be their professors. Without anthropologists in business, government, and nonprofit (BGN) fields to serve as role models, students may come to believe that if they choose not to pursue graduate study and academic employment, their interest in anthropology must give way to something more career related.
At the same time, there exists a vibrant community of “practicing,” “professional,” “public,” and “applied” anthropologists employed in a variety of non-academic settings. Anthropological skills and perspectives are of use to many BGN employers, and in a few industries, the value of anthropology is generally accepted: historic preservation, public health, and user experience research are prominent examples. The relationship between academia and professional practice is sometimes difficult, however, as some practitioners feel stigmatized or excluded by academics, while others inhabit professional spaces where academic anthropology is largely irrelevant.
While anthropologists often speak of a “divide” or “split” between academic and practicing anthropology, this view overlooks the fact that much work in applied anthropology maintains a presence in both higher education and BGN institutions. Not only do projects often involve collaboration among team members with diverse careers, but individual anthropologists may simultaneously maintain both academic and non-academic affiliations or move between professional spheres over the course of their career. While the social pressures to attend graduate school and seek traditional faculty jobs are real, anthropologists have responded to them in a variety of ways, and observers must account for all contexts of practice in order to reach a full understanding of the profession.
Marlize Lombard and Katharine Kyriacou
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.
The term hunter-gatherer refers to a range of human subsistence patterns and socioeconomies since the Middle Pleistocene, some of which are still practiced in rare pockets across the globe. Hunter-gatherer research is centered on ethnohistorical records of the lifeways, economies, and interpersonal relationships of groups who gather field/wild foods and hunt for meat. Information collected in this way is cautiously applied to the Stone Age/Palaeolithic archaeological records to inform on, or build hypotheses about, past human behaviors. Late Pleistocene (that is, the Tarantian stage of the Pleistocene after about 126,000 years ago) hunter-gatherers possessed the behavioral, technological, and cognitive wherewithal to populate the globe. Hunter-gatherer groups are often relatively egalitarian regarding power and gender relationships. But, as is the case for all mammals, only females become pregnant and bear offspring. This biological reality has socioeconomic and behavioral implications when it comes to food supply. Whereas we share the principles of the mammalian reproductive process, humans have evolved to occupy a unique cognitive-behavioral niche in which we outsmart competition in the quest for survival on any given landscape.
Since early on in our history, the women of our species gave birth to relatively big-brained offspring with considerable cognitive potential, measured against that of other animals. Key to this development is the consumption of specific foods that contain brain-selective nutrients such as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and trace elements, including iron, iodine, copper, selenium, and zinc. Such nutrients are as important for us as they are for modern and prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Ethnohistorical and nutritional evidence shows that edible plants and small animals, most often gathered by women, represent an abundant and accessible source of “brain foods.” This is in contrast to the “Man the Hunter” hypothesis wherein big-game hunting and meat-eating are seen as prime movers in the development of biological and behavioral traits that distinguish humans from other primates.
Derek Newberry and Eric Gruebel
Since at least the 1930s, anthropologists have been conducting research on the dynamics and features of leadership and complex organizations. Though the anthropological study of organizations has changed dramatically since W. Lloyd Warner (an anthropologist) and Elton Mayo’s (a psychiatrist) first project at Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Plant, two of anthropology’s defining features—the ethnographic method and the culture concept—have remained steadfast characteristics of the field for nearly a century.
While the particular methodologies of ethnographic research can be as varied as the studies they undergird, anthropological work on leadership and organizational development is generally performed from the inside, involving medium- to long-term research centered on participant observation. What separates anthropologists of organizations—and particularly corporations—from those in other subspecialties is that a significant amount of their ethnographic research is funded not just by academic institutions but also by private organizations that employ anthropologists on a permanent or contract basis. Though some within the field welcome the diverse research questions and perspectives that corporate-sponsored projects bring, others raise ethical and methodological objections to this work.
As is the case throughout anthropology in general, no one definition of culture serves as the universal touchstone for the anthropological study of organizations. Still, anthropologists working within the field commonly reject any notion of culture as static, uniform, or fully bounded within an organization. Unlike in the traditional management scholarship, there are few explanatory frameworks on effective leadership or organizational functioning in the anthropological literature. This is a byproduct of the larger trend toward reflexivity over the last two decades, in which anthropologists have increasingly problematized the concept of culture itself as well as attempts to develop broad theoretical frameworks.
For anthropologists of organizations, this shift has created a division between more academically oriented scholars who produce highly particularistic ethnographies that resist generalization and applied anthropologists who have created more practical guides on methodological approaches to studying organizations. In this vacuum, anthropologically informed frameworks for understanding leadership and culture in organizations have been developed by academics and practitioners in the related fields of design-thinking and industrial-organizational psychology. It remains to be seen whether, moving forward, the field will continue down this bifurcated path or instead reconnect with its roots in broad cultural theory, leading to more efforts to develop new frameworks for understanding leadership and organizational change.
Keir James Cecil Martin
Corporations are among the most important of the institutions that shape lives across the globe. They often have a “taken for granted” character, both in everyday discourse and in economic or management theory, where they are often described as an inevitable outcome of the natural working of markets. Anthropological analysis suggests that neither the markets that are seen as their foundation nor corporations as social entities can be understood in this manner. Instead, their existence has to be seen as contingent on particular social relations and as being the outcome of long processes of historic conflict. The extent to which, at the start of the 21st century, corporations satisfactorily fulfill their supposed purpose of managing debt obligations in order to stimulate economic growth is particularly open to question. This was traditionally the justification for the establishment of corporations as separate legal actors in economic markets. Some 150 years on, other sociocultural relations and perspectives shape their boundaries and activities in a manner that means that their purpose and character can no longer be assumed on the basis of such axiomatic premises. Instead, their actions can be explained only on the basis of historic and ethnographic analysis of the contests over the limits of relational obligation that shape their boundaries.
Susan Brownell and Niko Besnier
Sport offers a unique path to mobility to men—and to a much lesser degree women—who are members of disadvantaged groups and whose options for seeking a better life are otherwise limited. This mobility may be either social class mobility—as in basketball as a way out of racially segregated ghettos in the United States—or geographic mobility—as in the migration of soccer and rugby players from the Global South to the Global North in order to play in professional leagues there. Sport mobility potentially differs from the mobility based on manual and menial labor that is the more common path for such groups because successful professional athletes are regarded as heroes both by urban elites in their transplanted homes and by their compatriots back in their home neighborhoods, villages, and countries. At the same time, the hope to migrate to a successful career is often thwarted by the same structural conditions that thwart ordinary migrants’ mobility.
Different sports are associated with different social values that reflect the race, gender, social class, national, and global structures of power that underpin them. Until the past few decades, sports acquired their social value through a process of distinction in which gender, class, racial, and other differences were exaggerated by strategies of inclusion and exclusion. These differences were most closely guarded in sports organized by exclusive clubs, but they were also defended by other types of organizations such as schools and professional leagues. In the West, where most global sports originated, this produced a system of contrasting relationships between sport meanings: for example, golf, tennis, figure skating, and equestrian sports signified elite social status, while soccer, boxing, and—at least at the elite levels—basketball, baseball, and American football were identified with athletes from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. In this way, sports produced an embodied social value in the form of the bodies of individual athletes, and until the last decades of the 20th century, this value was largely traded in the realm of symbolic capital and not economic capital—with the exception of a comparatively small number of athletes in professionalized sports. Furthermore, the embodied values of sports varied greatly between localities, nations, and world regions, shaped by the class structure, history, and culture of the body in a given locale.
However, at the end of the 20th century, the embodied values of many—if not most—individual sports became increasingly unmoored from their local, regional, ethnic, or national values and more tightly embroiled in global sport systems that have become increasingly commodified. Team sports, such as soccer, baseball, basketball, rugby, cricket, and ice hockey, and individual sports, such as tennis, golf, track and field, gymnastics, figure skating, and boxing, saw a large increase in the transnational mobility of athletes and coaches. These developments in the sports world reflected global changes in the global political economy: revenues from television broadcasting rights fees skyrocketed as television networks were privatized and proliferated; corporate sponsorship and advertising expanded along with the new television platforms; increasingly multinational sources of capital (such as corporations and billionaire team owners) were infused into sports; and elite athletes’ salaries, sponsorships, and transfer fees increased vertiginously in the most popular sports and seeped downward in the system. Clubs and teams began searching for talent further and further afield, bringing over players from the developing world. In US college sports (an anomaly on the world scene), the training of children toward the goal of gaining athletic scholarships became a growing industry that has even extended into China. In the Global South, at the same time, neoliberal development policies resulted in the reorganization or, in some cases, destruction of local agriculture and other forms of local production, as well as the social and economic relations that had been attached to them. Young men, who were particularly affected, now had to migrate to find employment and thus achieve the ideal of productive adult masculinity. These two factors produced a remarkable increase in the number of athletes from developing countries seeking employment as professionals in the industrialized world. For ever greater numbers of athletes, then, the embodied value of the body was no longer limited to symbolic or social capital but was all about economic capital.
The commodification of the sporting body and the transnationalization of the structures that determine its value provide novel and instructive insight into the changing nature of the global political economy since the end of the 20th century.
Augustin F. C. Holl
The “Three Age System” designed in the middle of the 19th century framed the general pattern of universal technological evolution. It all started with the use of stone tools in the very long “Stone Age.” The much shorter “Bronze Age” followed, to be capped by the even shorter “Iron Age.” This evolutionary taxonomy was crafted in Scandinavia, based on evidence from Denmark, and Europe by extension. Patterns of global long-term technological evolution recorded in Africa are at variance with this Stone-Bronze-Iron Age sequence; there is no Bronze Age yet.
The advent of copper and iron metallurgy is one of the most fascinating debates taking place in African archaeology at the beginning of the 21st century. The debate on the origins of African metallurgies has a long history with multiple implications. It is anchored on 19th-century evolutionism and touches on the patterns and pace of technological evolution worldwide. It has also impacted the history of discourses on human progress. As such, it has strong sociopolitical implications. It was used to support the assumption of “African backwardness,” an assumption according to which all important material and institutional inventions and innovations took place elsewhere—in the Near East precisely—and spread from there to Africa through demic or stimulus diffusion.
Does such a scheme capture global human technological history or is it a specific case of local areal development? That is the core of the current debate on the origins of African metallurgy.
A speculative phase, without any input of field data, took place in the 1950s–1960s. It was represented by the interesting exchanges between R. Mauny and H. Lhote. The former was a proponent of metallurgy diffusion and the latter argued for local inventions. For Mauny, metallurgy is such a complex process, requiring sophisticated mastery of elaborate pyrotechnology, that its independent invention anywhere else is totally ruled out. For Lhote, the diversity of African metallurgical practices and traditions is an indication of its local roots. Despite this debate, the dominant view asserted that iron metallurgy was invented in the Anatolian Hittite Empire in the middle of the 2nd millennium (1600–1500)
Sustained archaeological research was carried out in different parts of the continent from the early 1980s on. Evidence of copper and iron metallurgies was documented in different parts of the continent, in West, Central, and East Africa. Early copper metallurgies were recorded in the Akjoujt region of Mauritania and the Eghazzer basin in Niger. Surprisingly early iron smelting installations were found in the Eghazzer basin (Niger), the middle Senegal valley (Senegal), the Mouhoun Bend (Burkina Faso), the Nsukka region and Taruga (Nigeria), the Great Lakes region in East Africa, the Djohong (Cameroons), and the Ndio (Central African Republic) areas. It is, however, the discoveries from the northern margins of the equatorial rainforest in North-Central Africa, in the northeastern part of the Adamawa Plateau, that radically falsify the “iron technology diffusion” hypothesis. Iron production activities are documented to have taken place as early as 3000–2500
Philip Carl Salzman
Pastoralists depend for their livelihood on raising livestock on natural pasture. Livestock may be selected for meat, milk, wool, traction, carriage, or riding, or a combination of these. Pastoralists rarely rely solely on their livestock; they may also engage in hunting, fishing, cultivation, commerce, predatory raiding, or extortion. Some pastoral peoples are nomadic and others are sedentary, while yet others are partially mobile. Economically, some pastoralists are subsistence oriented, while others are market oriented, with others combining the two. Politically, some pastoralists are independent or quasi-independent tribes, while others, largely under the control of states, are peasants, and yet others are citizens engaged in commercial production in modern states.
All pastoralists have to address a common set of issues. The first issue is gaining and taking possession of livestock, including good breeding stock. Ownership of livestock may involve individual, group, or distributed rights. The second concern is managing the livestock through husbandry and herding. Husbandry refers to the selection of animals for breeding and maintenance, while herding involves ensuring that the livestock gains access to adequate pasture and water. Pasture access can be gained through territorial ownership and control, purchase, rent, or patronage. Security must be provided for the livestock through active human oversight or restriction by means of fences or other barriers. Manpower is provided by kin relations, exchange of labor, barter, monetary payment, or some combination.
Prominent pastoral peoples are sheep, goat, and camel herders in the arid band running from North Africa through the Middle East and northwest India; the cattle and small stock herders of Africa south of the Sahara; reindeer herders of the sub-Arctic northern Eurasia; the camelid herders of the Andes; and the ranchers of North and South America.
Indigenous peoples worldwide are affected by, and engage with, tourism in several major ways. On the one hand, the tourism industry in its constant expansion appropriates indigenous peoples’ land and resources, creating tensions and escalating inequalities. In some cases, indigenous peoples may have a role to play (with various levels of agency and power on their own part) in welcoming people into their homes and on their land, for the purposes of ecotourism (in which pristine environments, usually with rare or endemic species of plants, birds, or other living organisms are attractive to tourists), or because the people themselves and their way of life are of interest to tourists. What is more, the graves and monuments of the ancestors of indigenous people, local festivals, and ceremonies may be recognized as “marketable” from a tourism perspective and promoted to encourage tourist visits, which may or may not be considered disruptive or disrespectful from an indigenous perspective. So-called indigenous tourism development refers to tourism in which indigenous people and communities are directly involved (in varying degrees) in the industry, whether as owners and tour operators or as porters and servants. Many scholars from anthropology, sociology, human geography, and other related disciplines have sought to address some of the issues and concerns regarding the relationship between tourism and indigenous peoples, drawing on examples from around the globe in order to illustrate the multitude of ways in which this relationship operates. Ways that indigenous peoples’ relationship to tourism may be explored include contexts such as tourism to visit ancient monuments and UNESCO-listed world heritage sites, tourism in search of cultural difference, cruise travel and luxury resorts, and ecotourism.