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Article

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. Sociocultural anthropologists work with US military organizations in a wide variety of employment situations and roles. Some who work full time within these organizations conduct research on personnel or teach in schools, holding roles and doing work similar to anthropologists in academia. Others are external consultants, providing advice and research in ways similar to applied anthropology in other sectors. Still others work in less common capacities, such as providing scientific advising, conducting analysis, or designing and administering programs. Most forms of engagement or employment with military organizations are controversial within the discipline. The controversy is an important source of caution and critique. However, it sometimes masks the complexity of the work context. Few large institutions are truly homogenous. The several million uniformed and civilian personnel who work within US military organizations have diverse, often conflicting perspectives on important issues and varying degrees of agency to effect or resist change. Consequently, the opportunities and constraints anthropologists have to affect the institution depend heavily not only on their specific roles, but also on where they work within the institution and who their colleagues are. The broad range of the roles and positions anthropologists hold in military organizations, coupled with the complexity of the work context, create challenges for developing ethical and practical guidelines. Practicing anthropologists in this sector must collaborate with colleagues to interpret and meet disciplinary professional standards for ethics, transparency, and quality. The work context and controversy also create challenges for building and maintaining an identity as an anthropologist. As is the case with applied and practicing anthropology in all sectors, anthropological work with US military organizations has broader implications for the discipline. Connections to powerful institutions, such as corporations or government entities, always bring with them legitimate concerns about how the biases and intentions of the institutions might reshape the field. There also are significant questions about how colleagues can assess the ethical decision making and evaluate the work of those employed in non-traditional roles and settings. Additionally, the field continues to grapple with how anthropologists practicing in this sector can most effectively communicate what they learn about military organizations back into the discipline.

Article

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

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.

Article

Maryann McCabe and Rita Denny

Consumer research, an emergent field in applied anthropology, examines relationships between producers and consumers as mediated by the marketplace. The anthropological purpose of consumer research is to discover cultural meanings of products and services in people’s everyday lives and to identify societal practices and discourses that inform and perform these meanings. While consumer research is inspired by and draws on traditional anthropological theory, it has also made theoretical contributions to anthropology, including consumption practices as crafting identity, consumption activities generating and maintaining social relationships, and the transformative power of consumer goods instigating cultural change. Anthropologists engaged in consumer research work in three primary areas: (1) market-making to assist organizations in defining the environments in which they operate; (2) branding to differentiate an organization’s products and services from those of competitors by attaching to the brand a symbolic meaning from the lived experience of consumers; and (3) innovation to guide business growth by analyzing consumer practices, as well as client and other stakeholder suppositions about the nature of the problem to be solved. Anthropologists in consumer research not only represent consumer voices but are also mediators of stakeholder interests. Change occurs at minimal scale by reframing problems for clients and affecting how clients address target audiences through marketing and advertising strategies, communications, or innovation; and at broader scale, by simultaneously contesting cultural ideologies (e.g., gender, personhood, ethnicity) perpetuated by business practices.

Article

Rosemary Henze

The anthropology of education (also known as educational anthropology, pedagogical anthropology, ethnography of education, and educational ethnography) is a broad area of interest with roots and continuing connections in several major disciplines, including anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and philosophy, as well as the field of education. It emerged as a named subdiscipline in the 1950s primarily in the United States through the work of George and Louise Spindler, Margaret Mead, and others. However, work of a related nature was also taking place around the same time in Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and Britain. While research in the anthropology of education is extremely diverse, a few central aims can be articulated. One is to build our understanding of how people teach and learn and what they teach and learn across different community, cultural, national, and regional contexts. Through comparisons of educative processes, scholars often draw insights about how culture shapes educational processes, how culture is acquired by individuals and groups through such processes, as well as how people create changes in and through their educational environments. A basic premise is that formal schooling is implicated in a paradoxical relationship with social inequality. While formal education can lead to greater social justice, it can also contribute to the creation and widening of social inequality. Thus, another key aim is to describe, uncover, and expose educational processes that undermine as well as enhance greater social equality. Formal education is not the only focus; studies of informal learning in families and communities provide rich descriptions of everyday contexts in which young people develop the skills and knowledge to be productive members of their community. Often such descriptions stand in stark contrast to the formal educational system where the same learners may be perceived as deficient. Since the 1990s, the anthropology of education has witnessed a number of shifts, including a movement toward research that takes an activist and engaged stance (e.g., research that includes a goal of changing oppressive conditions by collaborating directly with stakeholders such as youth and parents). This movement entails accompanying changes in methodologies, expanding beyond primarily descriptive ethnography to include methods such as participatory action research, teacher research, policy research, and critical ethnography. A more international and less US-centric perspective is also emerging as scholars around the world recognize the importance of studying both formal and informal education through ethnographic and other qualitative methods. The field is enriched as scholars around the world contribute new perspectives forged in regions with different historical and political environments. One of the key questions asked in early 21st-century educational anthropology is, under what circumstances can formal education be a force for change to create more egalitarian and inclusive societies?

Article

Stef Jansen

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. As part of a belated interest in people's engagements with possible futures, the start of the 3rd millennium has witnessed the emergence of a burgeoning subfield around the anthropology of hope. Anthropologists investigate the objects of people's hopes and their attempts to fulfil 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, amongst 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? Third, we find a concern with 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, in particular, its engagement with political critique and its capacity to help imagine alternatives?

Article

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

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. Applied anthropology has become an alternative to the more academic anthropological tradition. One important area of engagement is technology and innovation. This increasing involvement has been tied to, and encouraged by, the growth of applied anthropology. Applied anthropology is just “anthropology put to use,” as John Van Willigen noted, to solve practical real-world problems by applying anthropological theory and methods. The field of applied anthropology can be categorized into two overlapping groups of practitioners: those who apply anthropology while based in academia and those who practice anthropology outside of academia. At first, applied anthropology was dominated by those within academia who applied the theory and methods of anthropology to understand real-world problems for themselves or for a client. However, by the late 1990s, the problem-solving value of applied anthropology was becoming recognized in government, as well as in the private and not-for profit sectors. With recognition, employment opportunities outside of academia expanded exponentially. More and more anthropologists began working for manufacturers and technology companies as marketing professionals, user experience researchers, and insight managers, among other job titles. Most of the first anthropologists to work in product and technology companies were accidental innovators. It was not the intention of these early applied anthropologists, such as Suchman, Squires, or Brun-Cotton, to become innovators. Rather, they were primarily interested in applying anthropological theory and methods to solve serious problems faced by the companies for which they worked. It was only in the process of finding answers that they stumbled across new ways to frame issues and uncovered insights leading to novel solutions—innovation. Over time, labels such as business anthropology, design anthropology, and digital anthropology were used to distinguish those applied anthropologists working in product and technology industries. Fundamentally, however, they were anthropologists putting anthropology to use. By 2005, applied anthropology within industry had come of age with a definitive boom of published literature, written primarily for or about the private sector. Resisting approaches that emphasize quantitative data, these publications maintain the value of qualitative and mixed methods approached from the perspective of anthropology. Ironically, despite the growth of applied anthropologists working in the product and technology sector, most of those who are currently publishing study innovation rather than participate in innovative activities. There may be a couple of reasons for this. First, those that work in the private sector do not have the time to write, or they have signed non-disclosure agreements that do not allow them to publish. Alternatively, there is a trend in which senior applied anthropologists who formerly worked in the private sector are returning to academia where they have time to write. Whether in the private sector or, now, in academia, the innovations that have resulted from the work of these anthropologists cannot be underestimated.

Article

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 history of anthropological research into the reciprocal influences of human behavior and space and place in the production and use of built environments reveals a long-term growing awareness. While concern for the spatial needs of children and the elderly, special populations, and contemporary workers appear as the main focus of attention, these questions actually originated in the 19th century with the design of mental hospitals seeking to “cure” schizophrenics. Vigorous renewed interest in questions of human behavior and the built environment re-emerged in the mid-20th century when architects, landscape architects, planners, and facility managers, sometimes also trained in psychology or sociology, began investigating the kinds of designs that might be more prosthetic for people with disabilities, that could accommodate and support social interaction, or that could inhibit or protect users of dangerous public spaces. Grounded in the research methods of ethnography, sociocultural anthropologists have traditionally described native peoples in relation to their physical environments giving rise to economic, sociological, and political systems that they invented and adapted to enable their survival. The concept of culture—a holistic understanding of integrated collectivized institutionalized systems and values—frames these investigations and findings. From multicultural and cross-cultural perspectives, anthropologists have often tested findings from more individualized American or western studies to advance a perspective that all human uses of the built and natural environments are cultural. A variety of theories of space and place emphasize notions of practical and symbolic foundations in place making: perception, cognition, and proxemic differences in spatial recognition; structuralist; consumption; practice, and moral/ethical dimensions of engagement. In addition, the study of contemporary institutions (prisons, hospitals, and schools), work environments, recreational and outdoor spaces, and housing and neighborhood, all offer opportunities for cultural insights and design recommendations. International disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, and slum dwellings in developing countries provide further opportunities. Finally, in the world of professional design services, anthropology contributes insights into POE (Post Occupancy Evaluation), and in design, anthropology provides an emphasis on participation to validate research-based design recommendations.

Article

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

Frederick (Fritz) P. Lampe

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 has long been interested in religion. The emergence of modern social anthropology in the late 19th century included a fascination with the decidedly Victorian assumption that the stories people told about their origins, interactions with non-human entities, the ways these stories were ritualized, and the material goods, ideas, and places to which they assigned meaning as symbols were primitive stops along the path toward sophisticated civilization. Shifts in the anthropology of religion include expanding the notion of religion beyond Eurocentric distinctions between the sacred and profane, real and superstitious, pure and syncretic, primitive and civilized, true and naïve. With these shifts came creative and collaborative approaches to understanding systems of meaning beyond the exotic Other. These shifts also include recognizing global movements, the ways that ideas and practices travel, their interactions with local cosmogonies, the ways that proponents of particular movements impact, influence, and shape local discourse and practice, and the creative ways that systems of meaning coalesce, intentionally or by chance—often a bit of both—into meaningful social practice. Anthropological approaches to the domain of religion and its relevance for and within communities are of particular importance for the communities within which they interact, particularly in areas of health and healing, community development, climate change, and sustainability.

Article

Erich Fisher

Computational and digital technologies have fundamentally transformed archaeological practice. Archaeologists routinely use computers and the internet for digitally recording, archiving, displaying, and communicating archaeological knowledge and ideas. Many governmental and funding agencies even stipulate that primary data acquired through grant funding now must be made publicly accessible through digital data archives. Archaeoinformatics is the study of computational and digital technologies to analyze, archive, and disseminate archaeological records and the locations, contexts, and characteristics of the materials that embody those records. The strength of archaeoinformatics, though, is not in the ubiquitous use of computers or other digital technologies; it is the integrative framework that these technologies provide to create intrinsically interdisciplinary studies of complex archaeological problems. This integrative framework is sustained by adapting knowledge and methods from other disciplines. As a result, archaeoinformatics specialists are often skilled at traversing disciplinary boundaries, and archaeoinformatics, therefore, can be considered a unifying science that bridges disciplines via a digital platform allowing researchers to tackle complex research questions using multipronged research strategies.

Article

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.

Article

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

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 dichotomy between communities and archaeology (as a scientific discipline and practice) draws on the colonial experience in Africa. However, due to these colonial conditions, there has been a recurring false dichotomy between communities and the protection of their heritage (archaeological material). Since pre-colonial times in Africa, communities, especially at local grass-roots levels, have devised safeguarding measures to protect their valuable heritage (both cultural and natural), their so-called material culture and archaeological material. For many African communities, heritage resources are not mute but inscribed and imbued with meaning, symbolism, and interpretation that entrench local community claims to heritage and further underpin their experiences in protection and conservation management. This validates the indivisible but dynamic relationship between communities and archaeology, where communities have the opportunity to claim, engage, and interact with their heritage, even though issues of public access to “Protected Areas” is still problematic. On the contrary, disruptions by the colonial project in Africa sought to privilege and impose Eurocentric practices in the name of science through archaeology, among other disciplines that have since become dominant fixtures for interpretation and protection of heritage still featuring prominently in the post-colonial context. The popularization of the decolonization project in Africa has witnessed attempts to foreground communities as custodians and as main participants (beneficiaries) in archaeological practices in conservation management.

Article

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.

Article

Hadrien Saiag

The global crisis that erupted in 2007–2008 clearly exposed that debt with financial institutions has become a key element of household social reproduction in most parts of the world. One way to analyze how this situation impacts on people’s lives is to investigate the very nature of debt (its “essence”), which is often conceived as intrinsically violent. However, most anthropologists consider how people manage their debt and take a situated approach to debt in context. Their focus on people’s financial practices takes a broad view of consumer credit as any number of monetary debts that households incur to make ends meet. Their examination of how debt is managed within the household points up that consumer credit is often used to sustain meaningful social relations, although this can trigger a debt spiral. This spotlight on how people’s financial practices relate to broader historical and social contexts shows that the rise of consumer credit is instrumental in reshaping class, racial, and gender relations in their material and moral dimensions, and that people can be found to resist debt in many ways. Although these trends in the anthropological literature make for a rich understanding of debt relations, much could still be done to understand why people in most settings complain about their debts, but do not openly rebel against them.

Article

Rasmus Dyring

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. Since the turn of the millennium, critical phenomenology has developed in a parallel fashion in both philosophy and anthropology, with considerable cross-pollination between the two movements. Where philosophical phenomenology traditionally has focused on disclosing the transcendental structures of subjectivity that condition the possibility of concrete lived experience, critical phenomenology combines a phenomenological sensitivity toward lived experience with a critical view as to how subjectivity is fashioned also under quasi-transcendental—experientially accessible and ethico-politically mutable—sociocultural and economic conditions. In both philosophy and anthropology, critical phenomenology has been inspired and instigated by feminist thinking and queer theory, and it most often takes its point of departure in the lifeworlds of those living somehow on the margins of society: for example, people of color, queer people, drug users, homeless people, and people living with dementia or other mental illnesses. In anthropology, this combination of the phenomenological and the critical has been understood roughly in two different ways, according to where the critical impulse is located. One kind of critical phenomenology undertakes a third-person critique of societal structures, inspired by critical theory or poststructuralism, and combines it with a phenomenological analysis of the first-person experience of what it feels like to live under such conditions. Another approach to critical phenomenology finds the critical impulse in first-person experience itself. Here, the excessive limit experiences of breakdowns, perplexing particulars, and interruptions endured by people in their ordinary lives are explored phenomenologically as the loci of an indigenous critique of the prevailing societal orders and of the potentiality for things becoming otherwise. Critical phenomenology is closely related to the phenomenological and critical hermeneutical branches of the anthropology of ethics and, to some extent and critically so, to the ontological turn in anthropology.

Article

Christine Miller

Design anthropology and the factors that converged to facilitate its emergence are examined. Design anthropology has been alternately described as a “fast-developing academic field” and “distinct style of knowing” (Otto and Smith), “an emerging transdisciplinary field” (Miller), and “as a distinct subfield of interdisciplinary research” (Clark). These descriptions have in common an agreement that design anthropology is a distinct form of knowledge production that integrates design and anthropological practice and theory that is supported by a growing network of proponents, both academic and practitioner. Design anthropology’s origins have been traced to several factors: the emergence of the participatory design movement in Scandinavia toward the end of the 1990s, the introduction of ethnography in design in the late 1970s, and the earlier influence of the work of designer and educator Victor Papanek in the early 1960s. In the United States, it is often categorized as a subdiscipline of business anthropology. Within Europe and Scandinavia, it is accepted as a field in its own right with a “distinct style and practice of knowledge production.” In spite of these differences and amidst the creative tension resulting from the convergence of anthropological and design methods, concepts, theory, and practice, design anthropology has emerged as a new form of naturalistic inquiry that is based on rigorous empirical research and critical inquiry, a transdisciplinary field that is intentionally interventionist, participatory, and transformative. Design anthropology reflects shifting attitudes and changing modes of engagement in its parent fields. Within anthropology, the concept of an interventionist, transformative, and future-oriented practice runs counter to deeply embedded attitudes around passive observation research and ethics. Likewise, in design where craft, “doing,” and “making” have dominated, there is a renewed surge of interest in more scholarly-based design research, emphasizing empirical research and a designerly version of theoretical reflection. Theory in design has traditionally been related to various aspects of form. Design theory is also “made through” design. Johan Redström refers to this form of theory as “transitional theory,” “a kind of design theory that is inherently unstable, fluid, and dynamic in nature.” This conceptualization of theory is similar to the grounded theory approach in the social sciences in which theory emerges from original data and is developed from the ground up. Beginning with a summary of the conditions and forces that engendered the emergence of design anthropology, the field is described as evolving in ways that are provoking change in traditional forms of design and anthropology. Beyond the influence on its parent disciplines, design anthropology represents an evolving trajectory of emerging fields that open to the possibility of imagining, designing, and co-creating sustainable futures based on social justice and virtuous cycles of growth.

Article

Riall W. Nolan

International development is one of humanity’s most important global undertakings, but it is also a “wicked problem” characterized by uncertain and shifting priorities, disagreements, and unexpected outcomes. Created during and in the aftermath of World War II, the development industry of the early 21st century is large, complex, and highly influential. It is also relatively opaque to outsiders and largely independent of normal means of democratic control. Anthropology has been involved in development from colonial times, but particularly so since the 1950s, and anthropologist practitioners have made several important contributions to development planning and implementation. The discipline’s influence overall, however, has been overshadowed to a large degree by other disciplines, such as economics, which still remains dominant in the industry. Anthropological influence has waxed and waned over the years, both as a response to development policies and priorities, and as a response to changes within the discipline itself. Anthropological analyses of development, as well as detailed development ethnographies, have helped people inside and outside the industry understand why and how development efforts succeed and fail, and indeed, how to define success and failure in the first place. At the same time, anthropologists have enhanced our appreciation of the role of language, power, and agency in the development process. In the future, anthropology is likely to become more important and influential in development work, given the growth of disciplinary trends favoring practice and application and renewed focus within the development industry on poverty eradication.