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Article

Anthropocene  

Amy Johnson, Chris Hebdon, Paul Burow, Deepti Chatti, and Michael Dove

The Anthropocene is a newly proposed geological epoch that situates humans as geological agents responsible for altering Earth systems as evidenced in the geological record and directly experienced through the earth’s changing climate. There remains significant debate regarding when humans manifested change in Earth systems, as well as how human influence in planetary processes is evidenced geologically. As of 2022, “Anthropocene” has yet to be adopted as an official category of geological time by the International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geologic Sciences. Its influence has nonetheless outpaced academic debate, informing politics, policies, and opinions worldwide. In this context, anthropologists engage the Anthropocene simultaneously as a coupled biophysical and geological fact and an imaginary shaping human relations to Earth and environment. While upholding the validity of the Anthropocene as a reflection of accelerating planetary-scale environmental changes, anthropology is notable for asking critical questions about how the concept is developed and mobilized and what mainstream interpretations of the Anthropocene hide from view about life on our changing planet. Anthropology has been especially sensitive to the ontologies of time latent in the Anthropocene debates, recognizing the plural ways time is lived globally and how the concept of the Anthropocene interacts with ideas of past, present, and future. Moreover, in concordance with the standpoints of Indigenous theory and feminist and queer studies, and in conversation with critical scholarship of power and justice, anthropology has contributed to ongoing discussion about the criteria used to evaluate the Anthropocene’s beginnings, advancing discussions about the complicity of political economies of capitalism, colonialism, and plantations in the production of the Anthropocene. The engaged ethnographic approaches central to contemporary anthropology have thus deepened understanding of how the proposed Anthropocene epoch is lived and how its framing is changing human relations to environment and responsibilities for Earth’s future.

Article

Anthropologies of Cancer  

Nickolas Surawy-Stepney and Carlo Caduff

Cancer is a relatively new subject for the discipline of anthropology, but scholarship on the topic has already yielded a distinct and important body of literature. In biomedical terms, cancer can be thought of as the wide range of conditions characterized by the uncontrolled (and ultimately pathological) proliferation of cells. It is a disease that is responsible for the deaths of millions of people worldwide each year. As such, it is the focus of a vast number of discourses and practices in multiple areas, ranging from scientific research and media discussion to health insurance and government regulation, to name just a few. Anthropologists concerned with cancer typically use the methodology that is a hallmark of the discipline, long-term ethnographic fieldwork, in order to investigate these discourses and practices. This involves conducting participant observation among doctors, patients, nurses, family members, scientists, politicians, policymakers, and pharmaceutical representatives. Cancer is examined as a lived experience, revealing the numerous ways that local, regional, national, and transnational histories and politics shape the embodied realities of disease. Anthropologists also investigate the regimes of risk and statistical analysis to which bodies are subjected and the technologies around cancer, such as methods of screening or vaccination that aim to prevent it and the different ways in which these and other interventions and technologies fit into—or push uneasily against—the local words in which they are implemented. Anthropologists aim to look beyond the problem as simply one of biology and medicine, instead investigating cancer as pervasive within multiple dimensions of social, cultural, political, and economic life. Anthropological studies displace the prominent biomedical notion that cancers are the same in diverse locations and reveal the incoherence and intractability of cancer as an object. In paying close attention to this object in varied settings, anthropologists offer a critical account of discourses and practices that destabilize and decenter some of the assumptions on which global oncology is based.

Article

Anthropology and Catholicism  

Christine Lee

Roman Catholicism has been a repeated subject of interest for anthropology, from Julian Pitt-Rivers’s early ethnography of an Andalusian Catholic community to Talal Asad’s historical anthropological work on medieval monastics. Furthermore, a number of prominent social anthropologists of the mid-20th century—e.g., E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Godfrey Lienhardt—were themselves Catholics, a fact which infused not just their biography but often their subsequent work. At the same time, anthropologists on the whole have rarely taken Roman Catholicism as the focus of study; instead, Roman Catholicism has often been the invisible backdrop against which the main ethnographic action takes place. In the wake of the development of the anthropology of Christianity, however, an anthropology of Catholicism has burgeoned. The modern Catholic Church, with around 1.3 billion members worldwide, is the largest institution in history. As such, scholars have often examined the way the Church maintains itself as a unified institution even while containing vast spectrums of diversity in practice, theology, and lived experience. Resulting literature has often focused on this, examining institutional continuity over both time—such as the legacy of Catholic evangelization as a key part of colonial endeavors—and space—such as the question of syncretism and the nature of Catholicism’s relationship with indigenous cultures around the world.

Article

Anthropology and Informatics in Health Care  

Laurie Novak and Joyce Harris

Information technology increasingly figures into the activities of health-care workers, patients, and their informal caregivers. The growing intersection of anthropology and health informatics is reviewed, a field dedicated to the science of using data, information, and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health-care services. Health informatics as a discipline wrestles with complex issues of information collection, classification, and presentation to patients and working clinical personnel. Anthropologists are well-suited as collaborators in this work. Topics of collaborative work include the construction of health and illness, patient-focused research, the organization and delivery of health-care services, the design and implementation of electronic health records, and ethics, power, and surveillance. The application of technology to social roles, practices, and power relations that is inherent in health informatics provides a rich source of empirical data to advance anthropological theory and methods.

Article

The Anthropology of Financialization in Eastern Europe  

Marek Mikuš

Initially understood as a narrowly economic process of financial expansion, the concept of financialization has expanded to describe the increasing power of financial actors, practices, logics, and narratives in various domains of social life and the resulting transformations. Anthropologists study financialization as a polyvalent social process that works in and through social relations and encompasses financial expansion and penetration as well as particular forms of morality, governmentality, and subjectivity. They employ ethnography and relational analysis to defamiliarize finance, destabilize its dominant representations, reveal its hidden agendas, and expose the gaps between its promises and actual outcomes. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, Eastern Europe has been one of the most dynamic areas of anthropological research on financialization. The process had a distinct flavor in the region inasmuch as it was part of its wider transition from socialism to capitalism and integration into the global capitalist economy in an unequal and dependent position. Peripheral financialization in the region depended on cross-border inflows of interest-bearing capital, orchestrated mainly by banks owned by Western European banking groups. Much relevant work by anthropologists has examined the consequences of peripheral financialization for households, focusing especially on characteristic predatory lending practices such as foreign exchange (FX) lending. Another prominent line of inquiry has been concerned with forms of civil society and contestation emerging in response to financialization. These often took a more conservative or technocratic form than similar movements in the West, which reflected the specificities of financialization as well as wider political dynamics in the region. Anthropologists also studied the state as an agent and object of financialization, exploring issues such as articulation between financialization and authoritarianism or the impact of growing public debt on the ideologies of governance. A general thread in anthropological analyses has been a complex interplay between transformations induced by financialization and the manifold ways in which finance was “domesticated” by preexisting social relations and values, especially those based on kinship and gender.

Article

The Anthropology of Hope  

Stef Jansen

As part of a belated interest in people’s engagements with possible futures, the start of the third millennium witnessed the emergence of a burgeoning subfield around the anthropology of hope. Anthropologists investigate the objects of people’s hopes and their attempts to fulfill them. They also reflect on hope as an affect and disposition, and as a method of knowledge production. Three interrelated but analytically distinguishable concerns can be discerned in the anthropology of hope. First, anthropologists are interested in the conditions of possibility of hoping. Such studies of the political economy of hope explore the circumstances in which hopefulness does or does not flourish, and the unequal distribution of intensities of hoping, and of particular hopes, among different categories of people. A second domain consists of anthropological research on the shapes that hoping takes. Studies in this phenomenological vein investigate how hopefulness and hopes appear in the world. How does hoping work over time in people’s practices, reflections, and orientations, and with which intended and unintended effects? A third concern emerges around the relationship between hoping as a subject matter of ethnographic study and anthropology as a form of knowledge production. How do scholarly understandings of hope inform the development of the discipline and, particularly, its engagement with political critique and its capacity to help imagine alternatives?

Article

The Anthropology of Labor  

Sharryn Kasmir

In the final decades of the 20th century, market reforms in China and India, post-socialist transitions in Eastern Europe, deindustrialization of historic centers of factory production, and the international project of neoliberalization ushered billions of people worldwide into a range of labor relations—waged and unwaged, relatively stable and wholly insecure, formal and informal, bonded and free. The heterogeneity and fragmentation of these labors require new insights about capitalism, class, politics, and culture. One position holds that inequality on a global scale creates people and communities who are permanently outside of capitalism. Many terms catalog capitalism’s failure to incorporate vast numbers of people, and they denote the irrelevance of surplus populations for capitalist value production. “The precariat,” “bare life,” and “disposable people” are among those classifications. More optimistic thinkers see capitalism’s outside comprised of “non-capitalist” spaces, where “alternative modernities” and “ontological difference” flourish. Marxist anthropologists counter that capitalism incorporates, marginalizes, and expels people on shifting terms over time and on a global scale. Capital and labor accumulation are always uneven, creating differences within and between working populations, especially along axes of race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, skill, and work regime. The proletariat or any similar uniform designation does not adequately capture this broader, heterogeneous social formation. Class analysis is nonetheless critical for understanding these actually existing social relations. In turn, this approach is criticized for too closely following surplus-value-producing labor, whereas cross-culturally, and especially in the global south, non-capitalist regimes of value persist. Disagreements between two overarching perspectives—one emphasizing political economic factors and the other culture—influence many debates within the anthropology of labor. Scholars extend the study of labor to engage theories of social reproduction, value, and uneven and combined development. New organizations address the problem of precarious work in academia, and a network connects labor anthropology researchers.

Article

Anthropology of Peace and Justice Studies  

Eric Montgomery and Elizabeth Drexler

The early 21st century has seen the largest protests for social justice in the history of the U.S., including the Women’s Marches of 2016–2020 as well as the Movement for Black Lives. Meanwhile, the Farmers’ Protest in India constitutes the largest and most expensive protest in the history of the world. Cases of state and political violence and genocide around the world have been addressed in transitional justice processes and peace agreements or commemorated in various forms. And yet, even as individuals and groups mobilize for peace and justice, violence and oppression continue to proliferate around the world. What we identify as the anthropology of peace and justice encompasses the empirical analysis, theoretical engagement, and practical advocacy of anthropologists across the subfields. These anthropologists work to identify, conceptualize, and study individual and collective engagement with violence, oppression, injustice, and efforts to make change, seek justice, and establish sustainable peace. Anthropological theory and methods are well suited to capture emergent, ongoing, and innovative struggles for justice that occur in a range of social, cultural, political, and institutional realms drawing on collective cultural and symbolic actions. Today’s anthropologists engage with issues of violence, conflict, inequality, and struggles for justice and equity. We highlight theoretical, methodological, analytic, and ethnographic elements that distinguish anthropological approaches to peace and justice studies from other disciplines that examine this domain. Anthropologists engaging immigrant rights, movements for racial justice, indigenous rights, climate justice, gender equity, the Fight for $15, Occupy Wallstreet, gun violence, and issues of authoritarian rule and neoliberalism (market-oriented principles and government deregulation) in the era of globalization continue to build this vibrant and expanding area of anthropological concern.

Article

The Anthropology of Special Economic Zones (Free Ports, Export Processing Zones, Tax Havens)  

Patrick Neveling

Special economic zones (SEZs) are a key manifestation of neoliberal globalization. As of 2020, more than 150 nations operated more than 5,400 zones. The combined workforce of factories and service industries in bonded warehouses, export processing zones (EPZs), free trade zones (FTZs), science parks (SPs), regional development zones (RDZs), economic corridors (ECs), and other types of SEZs exceeds one hundred million. These figures include tax havens, offshore financial centers, and free ports. Neoliberal academics and researchers from international organizations say that this has been a long time coming, as the freedom offered in the zones was integral to being human and first implemented in free ports of the Roman Empire. Critical social scientists, among them many anthropologists, have instead identified the zones as products of a 1970s rupture from Keynesian welfarism and Fordist factory regimes to neoliberal globalization and post-Fordist flexible accumulation. Since the early 21st century, scholarship in anthropology has expanded this critical stance on worker exploitation in SEZs toward a historical analysis of SEZs as pacemakers of neoliberal manufacturing globalization since the 1940s. A second strand of ethnographies uses a postmodern lens to research the zones as regimes that produce neoliberal subjectivities and graduated sovereignty.

Article

Anthropology of the Balkans  

Ognjen Kojanić

Anthropological research in the Balkans has taken place under different labels—ethnography, ethnology, and folkloristics, to name a few. A throughline that connects the various scholarly histories in the region is the emergence of the discipline under the influence of German Romantic ideas about language and culture. Early anthropological research was entangled with the political goals of nation-building in the aftermath of projects of national liberation and oriented toward internal others, mainly peasants. After World War II, ideas from the Soviet practice of ethnography gained influence. Since the 1970s, national traditions of anthropological research have opened up to influences from the centers of anthropological knowledge production, primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. From then on, a greater number of foreign anthropologists were coming to do fieldwork in the Balkans, more scholars from the Balkans began receiving their training outside the region, and those trained in their home countries started engaging in a more dynamic exchange with foreign anthropologists. This exchange resulted in a critical and reflexive examination of the definition and status of the Balkans as a concept. Anthropological research conducted in the aftermath of the fall of socialism, in the 1990s and later, has four overarching topics. First, many researchers focused on postsocialist transformations aiming to understand the various domains in which profound cultural changes were taking place. Second, the war in the former Yugoslavia and the rise of nationalism elsewhere saw a growing interest in the topic of ethnonationalism. Third, the continual flows of outmigration from the region, the process of European integration, and more attention to the enduring legacies of empires crystallized in the research on transnational flows. Fourth, analyses of gender and kinship across the previous three topics became important in their own right. Since the turn of the millennium, anthropologists have been more likely to take up topics that have global reverberations rather than those that are more limited to the Balkans. First, anthropologists have focused on novel political and economic subjectivities that have appeared in the region in response to overlapping crises. Second, the region has provided ample anthropological theorizations of the state against the backdrop of nostalgia for the lost socialist state and changing forms of action in the political domain. Finally, anthropologists have engaged with materiality more deeply by focusing on topics such as infrastructure, environment, and the body.

Article

Anthropology of the Mediterranean  

Laia Soto Bermant and Sarah Green

The Mediterranean has been a controversial topic and area of study in anthropology and therein lies much of its value for the discipline. The notion of an anthropology of the Mediterranean emerged in the 1950s and was strongly associated with anthropologists working at the University of Oxford at the time, notably John G. Péristiany, Julian Pitt-Rivers, and John K. Campbell. The timing of this discovery was far from accidental. The majority of their fieldwork was carried out in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the European colonial empires in Asia and Africa were on the verge of disintegrating. The Mediterranean provided a safer alternative to the then politically unstable traditional field sites. Yet, despite the interest from anglophone scholars working in such a renowned university, the Mediterranean (particularly the northern Mediterranean) was a somewhat peripheral region within the anthropology of the day: its reputation as the birthplace of Western civilization and its relation to Europe made it an ambivalent anthropological field site at best. Since that time, anthropological studies within the Mediterranean region have had to adapt to significant changes in both anthropological theory and European geopolitics. Initially, anthropologists working in the Mediterranean region made the case for the development of a comparative anthropology of the Mediterranean that would examine similarities and differences in moral values, social organization, and political systems across neighboring regions. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, their work faced harsh criticism from anthropologists, who called into question the validity of the Mediterranean as a timeless regional category. At the heart of this debate were both the question of how to deal with sociocultural comparison across regions and the question of how to incorporate the passage of time into understandings of social and cultural diversity. As the 20th century came to a close, the geopolitical significance of the Mediterranean shifted once again. The European Union’s enlargement, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the war and subsequent breakup of former Yugoslavia, and the establishment of a shared European territory through the Schengen Agreement transformed the Mediterranean into a site of geopolitical negotiation and violent “border spectacles.” Ethnography in the Mediterranean region blossomed, encompassing a wide variety of issues such as migration, race, boundaries, national identity, infrastructure, and political conflict, yet “the Mediterranean” did not reappear in anglophone anthropology as a meaningful regional category, being replaced by the “anthropology of southern Europe” and the “anthropology of North Africa and the Middle East.” Since the 2000s, there has been a revived interest in the Mediterranean as a category of comparison. The instrumentalization of “the Mediterranean” as a political category by a number of national governments (e.g., France, Morocco, and Tunisia) and transnational organizations (e.g., European Union) in the region made it possible to speak of the Mediterranean not as a cultural area but as a political construction with important implications for native populations. Most anthropologists working in the region have emphasized the importance of developing a historically oriented comparative perspective that acknowledges the work of early Mediterranean scholarship while engaging with wider debates about the significance of different vantage points, such as the question of how scholarship about the region might differ from scholarship from the region.

Article

Anthropology of Modern Traces  

Paul Wenzel Geissler

Industrial and colonial capitalism, and underlying ideas of melioration and domination, technological progress and encompassing, violent territorial expansion, shorthanded as “modernity,” have made and remade the material world humans inhabit today. Despite mounting doubts about modern projects and their progressive temporalities—on account of their mistakes and failures, and the collateral damage they caused—their material remains and residuals persist in the present, as potential “traces of modernity,” shape human and non-human life, and thus trigger anthropological curiosity. The spatial and temporal scale of such traces after modern endeavors ranges between that of abandoned industries and permanently damaged landscapes and that of toxic molecules and modified DNA. Some traces, such as carbon dioxide molecules transforming the Earth system or endocrine disruptors reshaping reproductive futures, challenge the very notion of scale. Traces include spectacular architectural ruins and trivial everyday objects. Some are attributed potency or beauty; others are considered waste or evoke repulsion. Accordingly, some are overlooked, hidden, or erased, while others are collected, preserved, or turned into monuments. Modern traces enmesh multiple temporalities. Referencing the past when they originated and the progressive aspirations they once served—that now are past futures—they often also embody the subsequent disappointment and decay, and they have present lives, which may or may not relate to these pasts and the temporalities they had harbored. Traces retain future potentiality and trigger unpredictable effects—being transformed or decaying with time, and transforming other materials or lives in turn. And being both damaged and inherently destructive, and ripe with utopian hope, they embody lasting modern ambiguities. Anthropologists have studied such traces explicitly in ethnographies of, for example, abandoned railway networks, postindustrial towns, outdated laboratories, or landscapes ravaged by colonialism and, implicitly, as an inevitable backdrop of social life in the present aftertime of modernity. Informed by neighboring disciplines that reshaped anthropology’s material sensitivities, like science and technology studies, archaeology and geography, these anthropologists are developing “tracing” as an ethnographic method: following and getting entangled with traces’ human sociality and more-than-human ecologies and attending to their affective resonances and effects, in order to explore the intertwining of materials and temporality in traces, their presence, and their potentials for the future. Social life after modernity is lived on and off the material substrate of modern traces, which have been left behind anywhere on the planet and surround or even physically pervade both human and nonhuman life-forms. Human practices and interspecies interactions in the Anthropocene inevitably engage with traces - often involuntarily and unpredictably -, in much the same way as the tentative, searching tracing pursued by the anthropologist. The anthropology of modern traces thus contributes to the key task of social anthropology, which is to understand the social organization, interaction, and process in the aftertime of modernity.

Article

Applied Anthropology and Public Health  

Doug Henry and Lisa Henry

This article details the contributions of applied anthropology to public health, focusing on complementary and divergent interests, orientations, and methods. We emphasize areas where productive collaborations have occurred around convergent topics such as infectious and chronic disease, policy, interventions, and analysis of the social, political, and economic contexts that structure the conditions of health. Public health’s emphasis on community and advocacy provides a natural entry point for anthropology’s ethnographic method that emphasizes spending time with a community and understanding aspects of culture and health from its peoples’ perspectives. When a multidisciplinary team meets on a common interest, such as improving public health, everyone’s interests become better served if each discipline’s perspectives and values are recognized. Anthropologists with careers in public health can expect to engage in formative research to help develop the most appropriate health interventions, evaluate community uptake or rejection of public health initiatives, or critically examine the effects of national or global policies on local populations.

Article

Applying Anthropological Insight in an Aging World  

Sherylyn Briller and Erika Carrillo

Aging is a biological and sociocultural experience that occurs globally. Although aging is universal, ideas about aging and the life course vary widely and influence how aging and quality of life are perceived. Aging occurs both individually and collectively. Individuals have their own life stories and experiences shaped by cultural values, norms, and life course expectations. Anthropology’s attention to both scientific and humanistic ways of exploring what it means to be human is well suited to investigating how people live and age over time and in various locations. Like other anthropological subjects, one can explore aging in terms of human evolution as well as biological and cultural variation in aging experiences. Combining these topics to take a holistic perspective forms the subfield of the anthropology of aging. Given the breadth and scope of the anthropology of aging’s subject matter and global population aging, it is easy to see why this subfield is so fascinating to explore and work in as a career field. Numerous prior reviews cover the subfield’s origins and development and are highlighted. Homage is paid to the subfield’s history, and how to apply what has been learned to understanding a rapidly aging and socially changing world is discussed. As many have indicated, significant challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Article

Archaeology in Sudan: A Sudanese Perspective  

Ahmed Adam and Shadia Taha

Sudan is a vast country marked by heterogeneity, dissimilarities, and diversities in its climates, topography, natural features, cultures, and people. Sudan’s multiplicity of cultures and communities is steeped in history and heritage as remarkable as anywhere else in the ancient world and the rest of Africa. Despite this, Africa’s heritage has been overlooked for centuries as a result of prejudice and stereotyping. The 19th and 20th centuries were characterized by supposition and fixation on an external origin of African civilizations, a focus that was based on European ethnocentrism and a sense of racial superiority. In common with the rest of Africa, archaeology was founded during the colonial period and, to a large extent, remained unchanged, retaining past management and interpretative approaches and influencing current practices and planning policies. Sudan’s rich and outstanding heritage, the home of the first great civilizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, was frequently overlooked. When discussing the civilizations of the Nile Valley, many historians and archaeologists focus entirely on the role of Egypt. Ancient civilizations in Sudan were constantly interpreted as the work of colonizers and were believed to be less advanced than Egyptian civilizations. The building of the Aswan High Dam threatened the lives of Nubians and their heritage. It necessitated the forced displacement of Nubian and Bushareen nomadic tribes from their homelands and submerged considerable heritage. Nonetheless, this was the first time an organized survey was undertaken in Sudanese Nubia. The rescue campaign provided archaeological evidence and replaced ethnic prehistory with new theories. Archaeology in Sudan underwent a dreadful experience throughout the thirty years it was under the governance of the ousted dictatorial regime. The government in power in 1989–2019, an autocratic rule with a different political ideology, took control over Sudan’s heritage. Along with an oil boom, fast modernization, urbanization, and unrest in the country, all these factors had a tremendous impact on archaeology and heritage and on the operation of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). Moreover, the military forces, which used archaeological sites as military bases, took control over and demolished significant heritage and disconnected local communities from their heritage. From the 1980s, the number of native archaeologists and departments of archaeology increased. This period witnessed an expansion in research projects, themes, topics, periods, methods, and regions explored by Sudanese and foreign teams. There is a move away from focusing on single sites to understanding and exploring past environments and landscapes using new scientific methods of investigation. There are multiple challenges ahead, including climate change (flooding, destratification, shifting sands), globalization, mega-developments, lack of sufficient funding and resources, and, most recently, Covid-19. These are complex issues to deal with, especially for poor counties. Development and unrest in Sudan continue to force communities to move from their homelands and threaten the loss of traditional knowledge, diversity of culture, and connectedness with the land.

Article

Business Anthropology  

Ann T. Jordan

Business anthropology is a fast-evolving field. Social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology each have a unique set of constructs and theories for studying human behavior and each brings special insights to understanding business. Anthropologists are skilled in observing and learning from the rich interaction of social beings in their environment. With methods based in techniques for first-hand observation and interviewing of participants, and with theoretical knowledge gleaned from studying human societies across the world, anthropologists are the social scientists uniquely situated by training to analyze the social milieu and group-patterned interaction in any human setting. Simply, business anthropology is the use of anthropological constructs, theory, and methods to study its three subfields: organizations, marketing and consumer behavior, and design. Organizational anthropology is the study of complex organizations from an anthropological perspective to solve organizational problems or better understand the nature and functioning of the organizational form within and across organizations. In marketing and consumer behavior anthropology’s methods allow one to get close to consumers and understand their needs, while anthropology’s theoretical perspectives allow one to understand how human consumption plays out on the world stage. In the design field anthropologists use their methods to observe and learn from the detailed interaction of social beings in the designed environments in which we all live. They use their theoretical perspectives to develop a holistic analysis of the rich data to develop new products and evaluate and improve existing ones whether they be refrigerators or office buildings. The field of business anthropology is difficult to define because the moniker “business anthropology” is a misnomer. This field, as most anthropologists practice it, is not limited to work in for-profit businesses. Business anthropologists work with for-profit organizations, but also non-profit ones, government organizations and with supranational regulatory bodies. In addition to working for a business, an organizational anthropologist might be working in a non-profit hospital to improve patient safety, a design anthropologist might be working for an NGO to develop a less fuel-intensive cooking system for refugee camps and an anthropologist in marketing might be working in a government agency to develop ways to advertise new vaccines.

Article

Care As Belonging, Difference, and Inequality  

Tatjana Thelen

The topic of care has inspired a vast and complex body of research covering a wide range of practices. As an open-ended process, it is generally directed at fulfilling recognized needs and involves at least one giving and one receiving side. Although care has mostly positive connotations in everyday usage, giving or receiving it can also be a negative experience or express domination. Care evolves through complex arrangements of different actors, institutions, and technical devices and at the same time transforms them. As human needs are not a given, the process of care involves negotiations about who deserves to receive it and on what grounds, as well as who should provide it. Because care is so deeply implicated in articulating and mediating different moralities, it becomes central to constructions and classifications of difference. In this way, care extends far beyond intimate relations and is engrained in processes that establish belonging as well as various forms of inequality. Researching care in intimate settings as well as in public sectors enables bridging various communities of care and grasping how the distribution of care not only mirrors inequalities but contributes to their (re)production or even intensification.

Article

Care Beyond Repair  

Heike Drotbohm

To care about and for others—that is other people, collectivities, plants, animals, or the climate—is a mundane and ubiquitous act. At some point in life, almost every human being needs to be cared for, encounters care, and eventually provides care. In anthropology, the critical notion of care provides an analytic tool for seriously considering life’s contingencies and for understanding the ways that people ascribe meaning to different kind of acts, attitudes, and values. This chapter argues that the concept’s normative dimension forms part of a cultural binarism that hierarchizes the world according to differently valued spheres of existence. Concentrating on this normativity as inherent to the notion, the chapter distinguishes three complementary empirical fields: care as (globalized) social reproduction, care as institutionalized asymmetry, and care beyond human exceptionalism. It becomes clear that care oscillates between two different perspectives, producing a particular tension. On the one hand, the care concept features a protective and conservative dimension that is congruent with the past. On the other hand, the concept incorporates a transformational dimension through its notions of development, progress, and improvement. To move beyond our own (potentially or inevitably) academic, Eurocentric, or human-centric understanding of the notion, this essay suggests moving “care beyond repair.” We can do so, first, by asking what role research plays in this differentiating ethics and, second, by identifying perspectives and positionalities that, at first glance, appear indistinct or inarticulate and hence do not confirm already-familiar categories of evaluation and distinction. Seen this way, care beyond repair draws attention to the making and unmaking of human existence.

Article

Cereals, Rituals, and Social Structure  

Benoît Vermander

From the end of the Paleolithic Period onwards, cultivated cereals have interacted with ritual practices and social patterning through a variety of channels: the agrarian cycle provides a society with an array of stories and practices that are enshrined into its system of local knowledge; representations associated with grains develop into everyday practices; and cereal cultivation favorizes (or is triggered by) specific political forms, thus becoming embedded into the rituals through which political entities assert their legitimacy. Interactions between cereals, rituals, and social forms are informed by the characteristics proper to each staple cereal (maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, and millet, among others): the length of the maturation cycle, the degree of solidarity required from the rural community, the environmental requirements linked to its cultivation, its process of transformation into alcohol—all these factors inform the way a cereal inserts itself into a ritual and social complex. Starting with the changes in farming methods that coincided with the First Industrial Revolution, technological, social, and cultural transformations have been seemingly working toward the elimination or transmutation of cereal-based rituals. However, the timing, intensity, and effects of such transformations have differed widely from region to region. Besides, critical observation highlights the fact that these rituals are often hybridized, a phenomenon that repeatedly happened in history. Furthermore, current social processes affecting both producers and consumers may lead to a progressive ritualization of new beliefs and ways of proceeding.

Article

Collaboration  

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix

Collaborative and transdisciplinary research are ambitious and influential streams of thought in current anthropology. Collaboration represents a family of ideas often described as “transdisciplinary” in other disciplines. Proponents argue that collaborative models explicitly create greater recognition of research relationships and produce a more socially engaged research process. This research philosophy claims to produce more just, theoretically innovative, and robust research outcomes. Advocates highlight both the value and the difficulty of reformulating research relationships in this way, specifying conditions such as the need for heightened personal and programmatic reflexivity in the process. Debates over the essence of collaborative practice intersect with key theoretical questions around the (co)production of knowledge and power, including issues of representation, reflexivity, engaged and public anthropology, the nature of fieldwork, and tensions around the institutional logics of evaluating research excellence and usefulness. The collaborative ethos bears many similarities with earlier and related fields such as action anthropology and decolonizing agendas. The current popularity of the term should be viewed critically in the context of wider scientific and societal logics. The institutional homes of collaboration can be found in countries subscribing to democratic and human rights ideals, and those experiencing a strong push for Indigenous rights. Because of potential risks in self-consciously declaring collaboration, such research is relatively rare in authoritarian settings, though often practiced with a lower profile. Uncertainty also in predefining research outcomes is discussed as essential, producing both unexpected findings as well as potential failures. General patterns of reciprocity and degrees of power-sharing are differentiated along three axes. The more politically radical the outlook of the researcher, the less control over the project the researcher tends to exert. Second, the more socially similar researcher and counterpart are to one another, the higher the degree of power-sharing and reciprocity. Third, the more heterogeneous the kinds of people the project draws together, the more negotiation and potential friction it entails. The very popularity of the collaborative principle holds some risks, such as potentially leading to abusing collaboration as a source of “cheap” research labor. Further, often the unfamiliarity of funding reviewers with the principles of open-ended research design and value of alternative research products from standard academic publishing patterns can pose difficulties in realizing research. In addition, the often longer timeline of reaping the potentially huge benefits of collaboration also poses risks, especially for precariously employed researchers. In sum, the demanding discussion and practice of collaboration quickly takes on core disciplinary questions and uncertainties: what is good anthropology, who is it for, and how do you get there?