Hi, everyone, I am a Cultural Anthropology student and currently working as a research assistant in a university for a professor of social work. 

After working in my university for a month, I have once discussed with the professor about social contribution of cultural anthropology. I did not give a good reply to this question but saying to reveal minorities in a society and possibly to investigate how the minorities interact with the majority (I am referring to the researches in urban societies). The professor returned me if this revealing is the most that an anthropological research can do. I replied that those minorities are highly invisible and not easily to reveal, then I picked the two famous researches in my city about Filipina housemaids and about the refugees as examples. 
Here, I believe the professor is wondering how Cultural Anthropology transmits the knowledge and be contributive to a society. Indeed, I felt that the purposes of anthropological research are not as direct as the researches in sociology or social work where their goals are more like problem-solving for a society.
Did I miss out something about anthropological research or mis-interpret about that? Please share me your views. 

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I do agree the limitations that you mentioned. Indeed, regarding to Hong Kong, I think the limitation is also existing between urban and rural community. Although I am living in the same place, the village communities in the New Territories are different from those New Towns that developed in the 1970s such as Shatin and Tuen Mun. I do believe this is the concept, that anthropologists always bear in mind, of the boundary between insider and outsider or the emic and etic perspectives, and such that anthropologists need participant observation and keeping in the status of attached and detached in a community under study.

Yet, the subject perspective in our mind cannot be detached at all. Anthropologists are trying to involve as much as other perspectives and put them in line with the subjective perspective. Somehow, Anthropologist may be "schizophrenia", but this spirit of being anthropological "schizophrenia" is practicing an ideal world to me. I admire this spirit very much, though it is hard to spread out.

In the examples you mentioned, what I can understand is that anthropological research topic is hard to be set because it is hard to grasp the appropriate scale of a research topic as well as how much a research topic should cover. 

Yag Hang,

One last remark. If you haven't already done so, see the OAC discussion of Michael Agar's The Lively Science: http://openanthcoop.ning.com/forum/topics/are-we-ready-for-the-live...

Also be sure to read the book. I can think of no better way to equip yourself for your conversations with your sociology professor.

Hi, McCreery,

Thank you for recommending this book and the discussion. I have read some of the description, I believe there are lots for me to learn from it. 

My pleasure. If you have questions as you read it, please post them here. There is lots to talk about.

I was reading and I wondering two questions again.

One, it is an old metaphoric sentence by Lévi-Strauss about social and cultural saying that it is like carbonic paper, dived social and cultural doesnt go on. We separate in order to study, just all, but even thoug it is need to consider this.

Second, in spite we have to continue doing Anthropology for many reasons, I continue wondering if we have the tools and the epistemology suitable to the present. Nowdays we are inside a vision of politic institutions decay so big, a lot of changes socials and materials...so for me the tensions are coming from other points that continue empties, no about culture-social...

I ´m worry, too, about our role in the society as science what kind of contributions we could do if our places are very reduced to the academy and what is our link with the institutions in tis decay? 

 Sometimes is like walking in circules what we do.

I know about myself and some professionals I know.  I work in research in a very modest way and I complain of this and at the same time I claim it. It is crucial to distinguish what we do and where we reach with it. To do this difference could be not easy as well but it is  a part of our professional position. In this way we have to be very clear and honest in which we are working.

Nowadays with the international situation I asume a lot of limits to do Anthropology and the need to recuperate a kind of slowness in order to get the "distance" and the " estrangement" much more to understand. This is giving me, at least, less confusion, a mesure of what I m doing in the reality instead of believing and acept my little mesure to do things... ...bla..bla..bla...a mountain of topics, dadas, activities, articles, events, conferences...

I consider it is time to do less, I hope you understand the message when I say "do less".

We still have pending in the discipline a place in the society that it is not only on the educative institutions or UE programms or "the outside" ...this weak bounderie where "the inside" of the Anthropology we should see more, to asume our dizzenes as well with all these fast changes.

I dont think it is anachronistic to see Lévi-Strauss metaphore, he was very dynamic saying that, he went out of the binarisme, that is anachronic, he pointed a way follow, to re-read an epistemology. I consider we should work more in this perspective face to this present situation.




I agree that we need to rethink what anthropology, conceived as a "discipline," is. My own approach has two important assumptions.

1. What we occupy is not a domain with clear boundaries but, instead, a node or region in the network of human knowledge. In my case, having been exposed to the US four-fields model of anthropology, I know more about human biology, archeology and linguistics than friends trained as sociologists, who frequently kmow more than I do about statistics. Having studied China, done fieldwork in Taiwan, and lived in Japan, I know more about East Asia than fellow anthropologists who specialized in Africa, Latin America, South Asia or Oceania.

2. Anthropological perspectives can be very useful. Having worked as an advertising creative, I know that my training as an anthropologist served me well when it came to "looking outside the box" and searching for fresh angles to promote the products, services or companies that it was my job to sell. I have heard similar things from people doing applied anthropology in all sorts of medical,social work, consulting, and policy making contexts.

In sum, I see very little point in fighting about boundary definitions — though, of course, I recognize their importance to people pursuing academic careers. I see it as more productive to think about what we anthropologists, given the particularities of our training and personal experience can contribute to collective projects working with people whose training and experience differ from our own.

Thanks for your answered. It is very clear and open windows!!! I agree about the boundaries, there is a nice article by Stocking about it.

The question is now how we face the fast style of life with the tools that we have? And how continue very reduced the place for antropologists, not only in the academy..is this continuity is possible to change or it is a never ending debat? In any case, I consider that the society has changed so much and fast and Anthropology could say soemthing more about it but by the moment I dont find it very clear how. That is.

regards ;)


Cecilia, thank you for the kind remarks about my musings. When I read,

And how continue very reduced the place for antropologists, not only in the academy..

I am reminded of an experience a very long time (more than a decade?) ago.

I had been invited to give a writing workshop at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) meeting held that year in Seattle. By chance, the American Ethnological Association (AES) was also meeting in Seattle that weekend. Since the conference hotels were in walking distance, I spent some time at both meetings. The contrast was nigh (AES) and day (SfAA). The AES meeting was full of academic anthropologists depressed about the dark future they saw for the discipline. In contrast, the mood at the SfAA was buoyant, almost bubbly. The individuals I met there were optimistic about anthropology's future. When I asked myself about the difference, it seemed to be plain as day. The SfAA participants were not dependent on a collapsing academic job market. They had already, or if students were looking forward to, working in positions where they belonged to organizations and teams in which their contribution was valued. They were appreciated and getting positive reinforcement. The AES crowd felt unappreciated and threatened by what was happening in universities.

It occurs to me, then, that you might find articles published on the EPIC (Ethnographic Practice in Corporations) site interesting. Click here.

Hi, McCreery,

I don't understand why it is so difficult to look for this book in Hong Kong. It even surprises me there is no university has the copy of it. Is the other Michael Agar's book you would recommend?

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