Anthropological skills and perspectives are of use in many professional contexts, and in a few industries, the value of anthropology is generally accepted: historic preservation, public health, and user experience research are prominent examples. As a result, a vibrant community of “practicing,” “professional,” “public,” and “applied” anthropologists has taken root in a variety of non-academic settings. 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 the discipline maintains a presence both inside and outside of higher education institutions. Not only do anthropologists often form collaborative partnerships among members with diverse professional commitments, but individual anthropologists may simultaneously maintain both academic and non-academic affiliations, and they may move among professional spheres over the course of their career. If we are to reach a full understanding of the profession, we must move beyond a simplistic “academic/practitioner” dualism to consider these diverse professional contexts and work-life trajectories.
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.
Julian Samora (1920–1996) was a researcher and scholar in sociology and Mexican American studies and the first Mexican American in the fields of sociology and anthropology. He was professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame.
Thomas Bierschenk and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan
Anthropology is a latecomer to the study of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, the anthropological study of organizations—of which bureaucracies are a subtype, as larger organizations are always bureaucratically organized—was initiated by anthropologists as early as the 1920s. Since the 2010s, the anthropology of bureaucracy has slowly consolidated into a discernible subfield of the discipline. It brings to the study of public administrations a double added value: (a) a specific concern for the informal aspects of bureaucracy, (b) the emic views of bureaucratic actors and their pragmatic contexts, based on long-term immersion in the research field, as well as (c) a non-Eurocentric, global comparative perspective. Anthropologists have focused on bureaucratic actors (“bureaucrats”), the discursive, relational, and material contexts in which they work, the public policies they are supposed to implement or to comply with, and their interactions with the outside world, in particular ordinary citizens (“clients”). A foundational theorem of the anthropological study of bureaucracies has been that you cannot understand organizations on the basis of their official structures alone: the actual workings of an organization are largely based on informal practices and practical rules; there is always a gap between organizational norms and “real” practices; large-scale organizations are heterogeneous phenomena; and conflicts, negotiations, alliances, and power relations are their core components. Thus, one of the major methodological achievements of the anthropology of bureaucracy has been to focus on the dialectics of formal organization and real practices, official regulations, and informal norms in organizations “at work.”
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.
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.