Scholars studying the anthropology of work have traditionally been interested in questions of power, class, inequality, moral economy, and the transformations brought about by global capitalism. To address these larger questions, workplace ethnography gives attention to both interactional and systemic level analysis, making linguistic methods a powerful tool for studying both talk at work and institutional discourse. Language has many social functions within the workplace, from the organization of tasks and goals to the ways people navigate relationships and perform identity. Linguistic theoretical and methodological perspectives are applied to the study of power and gatekeeping practices in institutional settings, performance of identity and gender at work, and inequalities related to race, ethnicity, and perceptions of accent. Linguistic practices in the neoliberal global economy are also an economic resource to be managed, regulated, scripted, and marketed, as part of the reflexive project of worker self-improvement. Language is also a form of labor itself in global customer service interactions, accent-reduction training, and contexts of tourism. Thus, workplace ethnography and language study complement each other, and linguistic methods and theory may be applied to major questions in the field of anthropology of work.
Lauren A. Hayes
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) refers to a methodological and epistemological approach to applied community projects in which researchers and community members collaborate as equals in the research process. Also known as participatory action research (PAR), CBPR has gained considerable acceptance both as a set of methods for identifying and addressing local issues of concern and as a vehicle for applying the principles of equity, cultural humility, mutual learning, and social justice to the relationships between researchers and communities. Although somewhat distinct from applied anthropology, CBPR shares with ethnography in particular an attentiveness to rapport building and community engagement and an overall validation of local knowledge. There is little consensus regarding the threshold of community participation necessary for a given research project to be considered CBPR. However, at a minimum the approach requires that community members define the problems to be assessed, provide consultation on the cultural and social dimensions of the study population, and serve in an advisory capacity over the entire project. The history of CBPR and its antecedents reflects its twin values as a pragmatic approach to researching and addressing local problems and as an emancipatory social justice project that seeks to diminish the hierarchical relationship between researchers and community members. Specifically, the pragmatic perspective was developed in the United States by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s (and subsequently by the anthropologists Laura Thompson and Sol Tax), while the emancipatory approach derives from the work of educational theorist Paulo Freire in Brazil in the 1970s. Community Advisory Boards (CABs) play an outsized role in the success of CBPR projects, since they typically represent the community in these studies, and thus maintain oversight over all aspects of the research process, including the study design, sampling and recruitment protocols, and the dissemination of findings. Accordingly, nurturing and maintaining trust between researchers, the CAB, and the community constitutes a foundational practice for any CBPR study.
Archaeologies of the recent and contemporary world represent a relatively young movement within Africa. Rather than being conceived as relative to a particular chronology, this movement is often characterized as concerned with investigating the practice of archaeology itself, especially its politics and its understanding of time. The small but growing body of literature in this subfield is reviewed both to highlight a moment of disciplinary innovation and to reflect on what modifications of methodology, ethics, and theory are necessary to adapt an intellectual movement developed in other parts of the world for the African continent. These include an emphasis on foregrounding African knowledge systems, especially diverse experiences of time and materiality; the potential for co-creation of data through relationships between these and Western ways of knowing; and mixed research methods. Themes such as time, materiality, and reflexivity are considered in contexts across the continent, as well as where archaeologies of the contemporary world overlap or exist in tension with related moves in cognate African Studies fields.
Applied anthropology is increasing an alternative to academic anthropological contributing to innovations in a broad range of products and services including technology, office equipment and furniture, business organization, breakfast foods, automobiles, hand sanitizers, communication media, medical equipment, smartphones, and much, much more. When applied anthropologists began to work in business organizations, they first called themselves industrial anthropologists and, later, organizational anthropologists. The first industrial and organizational anthropologists were based in the academy. However, in the 1990s a growing number of anthropologists also began to be employed at private businesses, including the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), IDEO, E-Lab, GVO, and even General Motors. There they were instrumental in applying the theory and methods of anthropology to potential innovation. At these companies , many of early applied anthropologists became accidental innovators as a consequence of their role working in teams composed of differing disciplines. It was the anthropologist on the team who was responsible for contributing research-based insights that framed, directed, and/or inspired creative idea. In the process of conducting research on a problem, these anthropologists stumbled across new ways to frame issues and uncovered insights leading to novel solutions: innovation. As the value of applied anthropology has been recognized, and employment of anthropologists has expanded, specializations have emerged. No longer does the title of organizational or business anthropologist always provide an appropriate or sufficient level of description for many anthropologists although both continue to be used. New labels, such as design anthropologist, user experience researcher, and marketing and digital anthropology, have been created to distinguish among applied anthropologists working in differing sectors. Organizational anthropologists have continued to contribute to our understanding of organizational culture. Design anthropology is used primarily by anthropologists working in product and technology industries. Digital anthropologists study human interactions in virtual/digital spaces, or investigate how digital technology is impacting society. Marketing anthropologists have been in advertising and marketing for decades, and there is a substantial body of scholarly literature generated from this work. Despite the different titles these anthropologists hold, from design to marketing, the value of the theoretical and methodological contributions of anthropology are the key underpinning of their research. The innovations that have resulted from the work of these anthropologists cannot be underestimated. The theories and methods of anthropology, applied by anthropologists, provide a perspective that takes a unique in-depth systems approach that can map interconnections, challenges, and assumptions and open up wider landscapes. The true innovation anthropologists contribute to innovation is anthropology itself.
One of the particularities of applied anthropology is working on demand, and performing research on demand requires changing fields constantly. This diversity of fields has led to an awareness in applied anthropology that the focal point of observation varies from study to study, and that depending on the particular scope or decoupage, researchers do not see the same thing. This scales-of-observation method has four empirical principles: (a) What one observes at one scale vanishes at another scale. (b) The causes explaining actors’ behavior vary based on the scale of observation; they can stem from situational effects or meaning effects, or suggest statistical correlation. (c) Knowledge acquired at one scale is complementary and cumulative with that of other scales of observation. However, they cannot be fused into a single, global description. Indeed, although reality is continuous, observation between the “macro” and the “micro” is discontinuous. Discontinuity stems from the importance of the situational effects in anthropology and organizational sociology. These two approaches are most often centered on the interactions among actors operating under situational constraints. All generalizations are thus limited to scales pertaining to the same type of causality. (d) Part of the conflict among schools, disciplines, or professions regarding explanations for human behavior and changes within a community, an organization, a society, or an individual can most often be explained by different choices in the scale of observation. The scales-of-observation method is a mobile tool of knowledge founded on the anthropological practice of the cultural detour, in this case scientific cultures. It is an inductive epistemological theory on the variability of the explanatory causes of human behavior and falls under methodological relativism. Consequently, the scales-of-observation method is also a tool of negotiation among actors who are involved collectively in a project of social change, but with contradictory interests or objectives.