Monday, January 1, 2018

Applied Anthropology -- The Trump Program

Chapter 2 TRUMP CARDS: The Elements of the Deal

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Professional Ethics -- 2 Inherent Conflicts

Throughout the post WWII period, the U.S. Federal Government established the many programs, domestic and international, to address Cold War concerns and fight the War on Poverty. In the process, the Federal Government became the major source that university researchers looked to for research dollars. By the 1960s, this presented the membership of the American Anthropological Association with a real ethical challenge. "What role should anthropologist play when accepting federal funding for their research projects supporting the Federal Government policies, ?"

One of the many social sciences to benefit from the Federal "largest,"was anthropology. Some of these funded anthropological projects focused on basic research, gathering data about local and foreign institutions. Other research projects, however, were policy oriented. Some of these were designed to establish baselines or subsequent evaluations for specific programs designed by such agencies as HUD, HEW, OEO, USAID, etc. The problem arose when the values of academic researcher conflicted with the funding agency's values to promote a political agenda. These projects were designed to produce information to further government political policies and not specific scientific questions.

During the Depression and WWII era, many anthropologists found employment with the expanding Federal Government.  As pointed out by David H. Price and others, many of these because of their concerns over labor and minority rights came under scrutiny by the FBI, the McCarthy Hearings, and the House Un-American Activities Committee for the real or alleged affiliations or sympathies with the Communist Party.

Price offers a very detailed and insightful discussion of that period and the key personalities affected by it. He points fingers at the failures of the very academic institutions one might expect to stand up for the individuals targeted. The AAA, the AAUP, and the universities that publicly proclaimed their  support for academic freedom, failed to support their "suspected" colleagues on promotion and tenure committees. This failure of institutional anthropology and academia in general set the stage for the ideological changes that emerge in younger generation of anthropology students, the sons and daughters of the generation then in power of the "traditional" institutions of professional anthropology.

Themes such as civil rights, anti-war movements, economic inequalities, colonialism, student rights, gender rights, gay rights and even an attempt to justify pedophilia rights, became acceptable causes for the new generation of anthropology student. Once feared as part of the Communist agenda, the anthropologists trained during the Depression and serving in War effort found that such views could be held against them as they returned to or attempted to reenter the traditional academic career path.

 At the same time, the federal government replaced the private foundations as the principle funding source for social science research dollars. Routine security background checks for researchers, especially those applying for grants to do social science research overseas appear to have been fairly routine, if not totally acknowledged as part of the process. As an aside, the same held for those applying for positions in the newly created Peace Corps as this writer can attest.

Radical anthropologists of the 1960s and 1970s turned on their elders and questioned many of the assumptions that formed the basis of traditional academic anthropology ethics.

The Bannon Blitzkrieg

{Author's Note: This posting is out of line with the general purpose of the Blog, yet it points to a situation that should be of Anthropological Interest -- the role of the Individual as an agent of Cultural Change. The Trump election is a watershed in the evolution of liberal democracy in the United States. It is a case of Nationalism in the extreme against the modern concept of the State, the Individual against the species. I might refer you to Edward Spicer's Posthumous paper "The Nations of the State" to see how these two concepts often conflict. See Kroeber, Karl (ed) American Indian Persistence and Resurgence 1994 Duke University Press. What follows are personal observations and hypothesis}

Last night while watching Rachel Madow she announced the firing of the acting attorney general. it reminded me of Nixon's Saturday Night massacre, an image that didn't escape anyone who lived through it. It seemed like another irrational ego driven reaction from Trump, the spiteful bully.

But stepping back from this and putting it in context -- it was far more sinister and dangerous. What we are seeing, I feel is the undercutting of the load bearing wall of the Constitution with the goal of causing an implosion of America and American values. It is Purposeful, Calculated, and beyond the mind of the President. It is even counter to his own interests. Trump is a Brand and he is destroying his own Brand even as he seek to protect it. But worse, he and his followers are destroying the American brand.

Today, the New York Times carried an OpEd piece:entitled "President Bannon?" in which they question the relationship between Trump, the President, and Bannon, the "adviser", The puppet master is Bannon, whose raise to power has been going on under the radar for some time. Based on the recent events it seems that he is in control of the President and the Administration. Fear and hatred are his weapons. The real question today is what is the weapon or tool, that he has over Trump? Are the Tax returns the weapon?

I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, and maybe it is. But logic leads me to wonder why Trump would go to such lengths to commit financial and reputational suicide? He has four years to bring about the changes he said he wanted. He has a Congress controlled by his party and soon he may have a Supreme Court that shares his "conservative nationalism. What is the hurry?

Things are moving very fast. It is like Hitler's Blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939. The strategy appears to be to hobble the free press out of fear that their plans will fail if the public knew the truth, They may also fear that the Congress might awaken from its partisan nightmare. Or, that true legislators would have time to read Article One of the Constitution and actual do their job. Maybe then they would have time to think and understand how they are being invaded by a hostile and hateful force.

Nuclear weapons can not only destroy an enemy. In a world of MAD they will destroy you as well. But to scare a population into forsaking their basic values and play upon their ethnic fears, prejudices and hatreds you can gain control of the whole system with a minimum of physical damage. It is the strategy of the right wing Israeli government and their right wing Palestinian counterparts. Rule through fear.The recent actions of the Trump Administration appear to be under the guidance of "President Bannon"rather than a President Trump.

Fear mongering is a super-organic tool for social control. As anthropologist, we should consider how individuals and groups use and instill fear of the Other in order to control themselves and the members of their group.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Anthropology as the Study of Mankind

The study of mankind, from an anthropological perspective, must be conducted in the total context in which life on the planet Earth exists and has evolved. The natural sciences focus on this environment and provide us with a context for the biological sciences and in turn, the narrower study of man. The Study of Mankind is one of an infinite number of perspectives or domains that we, humans, can take in trying to understand the universe in which we exist and which impact on our lives. The organizing principle of these domains (perspectives) is what I term “the ecological domain”. The ecological domain is the sum total of knowledge that any individual, a society, or a species holds at any given moment in time about the segment of the environment in which they exist and experience life as an individual, a society, or a species.

Human Ecological Domains

Human ecological domains emerge over time as the human individual, and group grows, develops and reproduces itself. As the individual ages and as the group membership changes through time and expands occupies new geographical territory the domain changes. The domains change as the individual and/or group encounters new challenges to the domain that require new solutions to new problems these challenges present. When the group membership changes, different individual and group perception and experiences also change, influencing the ecological domain. These changes create new Traditions or Traditional histories that, themselves, become incorporated in the ecological domain.
In the intellectual sphere, Anthropology is one of many ecological domains that humans have invented to address a particularly Human question: What does it mean to be “human?’  While Humans are biologically animals, they experience a unique ability to reflect upon themselves as individuals and as a species. The individual is capable of divorce itself from its body and reflect upon himself as an object. And in doing so, they reflect on their origin and purpose, individually and collectively. That is. The human animal has the ability to question his place in the overall reality of the universe and thereby seeks collective meaning for their existence.

Anthropology is a perspective derived from this philosophical speculation about MAN. It arose when Western society began to apply the principles of modern scientific thought to the question: What does it mean to be “human?’ They found that to study Human Nature scientifically, one had to study of the realities and myths of the Human Condition. Anthropology became the tool human science uses to seek understanding of the relationships between these two spheres of existence.

Anthropology is the ecological domain that looks at both the human animal and humanity as a whole. Anthropologist seek universal principles that describe and explain the commonality of the species and the factors that have lead to its success as the dominate species on the planet. At the same time it seeks to understand how the great diversity found in Homo sapiens has evolved over time and space. As an ecological domain, Anthropology constitutes a body of knowledge (experience), theory (beliefs), and priorities (values) accumulated by individuals, institutions and cultures over the past 100,000 to 1,000,000 years that the species has existed on Earth.

Monday, August 24, 2015

SN 1. "Building" memories and "smashing" into realities

Upon graduation from Brown U. with BA in anthropology in the early 1960s, I joined the newly created Peace Corps and served 2 years in Peru. It was a strange time when President Johnson announced the Gulf of Tomkin attack the night before we left for training in Puerto Rico in 1964 and two years later when I return the US to the cannibus high of a love-in in New York City's Washington Sq.

During those two years, I learned a lot, built up many memories, and created many theories of what my impact might be on the future, I wonder sometimes just what was accomplished or whether time and aging have distorted those memories and my hopes unrealistic.

All of this was brought to the forefront of my mind today when I came across this blog entry by Tony Waters. I wonder how many anthropologists and anthropology graduates served in the Peace Corps and have had similar experiences?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Race, Ethnicity and Rachel Dolezal

The recent uproar over the local Director of the Spokane Washington Chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Anne Dolezal claim of her racial identity points to a serious flaw in the public understanding of the concepts "race" and "ethnicity." As anthropologist, we should be doing a better job of informing the public about the differences between the two concepts, at least in the technical sense. This applies both to Ms. Dolezal, and those who have raised allegations that she had lied about her racial identity and other aspects of her biography. It is more than a question of "race".

It is the confusion within the media and the public mind between the concept of "race" as a biological term and "ethnicity" as a socio-cultural term. These terms have had technical and valuable specific meanings within the biological and social sciences. However, as Boas and his associates pointed out, "race" (biological markers of physical and now genetic differences) are also used by individuals and groups to define social and/or cultural categories.

The former term "race," defined as a "breeding population" by Carlton Coon, has real scientific value when researching evolutionary and medical questions arising in and between populations, such as historical linguistics, archaeological identifications or the presence of sickle cell and other inherited diseases. Modern Medicine and DNA studies benefit from the biological concept of race. It helps to define what "can't" (or could not) be changed by the individual -- albeit modern technology for gender change fogs that the issue today.

"Ethnic" has generally been used to define a cultural group based on one's sense of common beliefs, values, and practices. Ethnicity is a far more fluid term since it is ideational, not biological in origin. It goes as far back, anthropologically, as Morgan's studies of the Iroquois and their kinship system which demonstrated the cultural significance of family as a culturally based identify. Ethnicity, in today's cosmopolitan society, is a characteristic much more open to personal choice and expression.

But today in the case of Rachel Dolezal, we find the media using these terms interchangeably. This represents, I feel, the lazy editing and lack of anthropological sophistication found in the public media.

One might suggest that it is the confusion between the terms and their application that might have contributed to issue in the first place for the media, the local NCAA Chapter, and especially for Rachel, herself. She may be racial, White, as her parents claim. But she may also be ethnically (culturally) Black or Afro-American as she claims As reported, her personal experience with her adopted siblings and her marriage to a black man may have help her to form an ethnic identity with Black/Afro-American culture.

If we can accept that a technological change in gender such as Bruce/Kate Jenner is a biological possibility and practical alternative for reconciling one's self identification issues, we should be able to accept a less radical, psychological and social, change in an individual's ethic self identification as another method. This would also help to explain how radical fundamentalism can take place -- through a self motivated change in one's "ethnic" identity.

The world will become a better place when we can recognize the diversity that is part of the power of the human species to control life on this planet. A power that seems to grow technologically much faster today, than our cultural beliefs and practices toward one another.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Professional Ethics 1: The Boogeyman in the Anthropological Closet

Today, there is a need for the younger generation of anthropologists to become involved in the development of an ethical context for the anthropologically trained professionals who practice the profession outside the academy. It is only by doing so that the academic and applied branches will be able to work together.

The questions of ethics has been a shadow lurking in the closet from the beginning of the concept of a scientific discipline focusing on the study of humanity. Anthropology, as a recognized discipline, was one of the first such disciplines incorporated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1859 and has remained a member, as Section H, ever since. It brought together the material and ideational elements of human activity as found throughout the world and throughout time. It continues to do so, integrating and breaking down those elements which make us "human."

Anthropology, as represented, by the American Anthropological Association, has evolved in a similar manner as the AAAS. That is, as a breeding ground for specialization under the general rubric of "science." In the case of anthropology, "the science of mankind". Initially, when the AAA first emerged from the AAAS at the turn of the century (1902), it was one a several specialized societies. In fact. it was a late comer compared to the American Ethnological Society, founded in 1842, and the Anthropological Society of Washington (1879) which began publishing a journal, American Anthropologist. and the Women's Anthropological Society (1885)

The Emergence of a Discipline:

For decades the AAA was the forum for the small group of "professional" and serious amateur devotees to "anthropological" subjects who made up the American anthropological establishment.  Over time it would incorporated three other major associations that came to comprise the four basic fields of anthropology (or the science of humanity), e.g. ethnology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. The central focus was humanity, its origins and diversity. It was united by the concept of culture as the driving force for human and societal existence.

In the early days, ethical questions were not a big issue. Except maybe, the censure of Boas for publicly questioning the role of certain anthropologists during the First World War, the AAA did not take a stand on such issues. When it did, the charge was made against Boas, the whistle blower, based on his public accusation about spying on the part of fellow members. It was not the spying action by the members but Boas's public disclosure of those actions that was considered "unethical." The lesson was, "don't 'dis' your colleagues in public." Later, the AAA would retract the censorship.

The questions of ethics really became an issue at the end of World War II. In 1946, a Committee on Professional Standards was created within the AAA which issued a report entitled, "Suggested Requirements for Professional Status in the Field of Anthropology" (American Anthropological Association 1946:690-91).

While the report sets basic general standards for qualification as a professional anthropologist, it also recognized the distinct nature of the sub-disciplines and their need for additional and different preparation and performance. The report was advisory and carried no official sanction. Ethical judgement was left to the individual and in effect, the definition of what constituted "anthropological" behavior.

As Edward Spicer (AAA President elect) observed in 1973, “I was always dissatisfied in my student days [ late 1930s] when I heard it said that ‘anthropology is what anthropologists do'." I had heard the same thing in the 1960s and 1970s as a student and later as a "professional." This "libertarian" attitude has been the underlying ethic among those who practice academic anthropology throughout its history. The problem is that this kind of ethic is an invitation to anarchy under the guise of discipline.

The Professional Closet:

The 1946 statement attempted to overcome the problem by distinguishing between the amateur and the professional practitioner of anthropology. It attempted to create a "professional" discipline by recognizing a basic difference between an intellectual interest in a body of knowledge and a personal commitment to pursue and contribute to the collection of that knowledge in a disciplined way. The distinction between "member" and "fellow" represented just such a compromise. It also followed in the long established tradition of learned societies, which the AAA saw itself being.

Fellowship is an achievable status, not an ascribable one. As its guide, Fellowship adopts the academic rules of tenure. It requires a conscious effort and desire on the part of the individual to achieve that status and a recognition by peers of one's worthiness to it. Fellowship means observing the rules of the "profession" and having ones performance under the "rules," as defined by the group, evaluated by peers. The fellowship model imposes a degree of control and standards on a member's behavior. The focus, however, is not ethical performance, but rather the performance of the scientific/scholarly role of "researcher." Note, this did not include the "teaching" role which is specifically associated with the academy. How one related to the many other constituencies that make up the real world in which one  practices anthropology was left up to the individual.

Practical Experience vs Academic Ideals:

The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) was founded in 1941 by anthropologists and other social scientist in response to their involvement in the WWII war effort. Dominated by anthropologists, the SfAA was the first anthropological organization to develop, in 1948,  a Code of Ethics . This was something that would take the AAA almost 20 years to catch-up.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s and later World War II, anthropologists, based on their training and specialities, found employment in wide variety of practical and non-academic venues. Some became administrators, policy advisers, government bureaucrats for such agencies as the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Works Progress Administration (WPA), etc. They found roles as extension agents, administrators, consultants, etc.

During the war they enlisted in the various service branches, and helped to design and implement crash wartime programs, such as the War Relocation Authority (WRA), Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the State and Interior Departments, among others. Some took full time jobs, others served as part-time or temporary consultants focusing on real problem solving activities and not on abstract academic interests. After the war, most returned to the academic world. Meanwhile, those who remained in public and private service were treated as the black sheep of the discipline.

Laura Thompson tells of a conversation with Clyde Kluckhohn about life during that period,
"Shortly before his death [in 1960], Clyde Kluckhohn told me that he found it virtually impossible to interest his best students in a career in applied anthropology. They simply did not regard this sub-division of the discipline as one worthy of their attention. Several very good government jobs went begging, he said, because these students could not be persuaded to accept them."  ("Is Applied Anthropology Helping to Develop a Science of Man", Human Organization, 1965. Vol. 24 No.4, pp. 277 -287)

At this time the SfAA, itself, was morphing from a group of social scientists engaged in policy development, implementation and/or evaluation to just another academically oriented "professional" organization. It journal, Applied Anthropology, which carried articles by practitioners based on case histories and methodologies, gave way to Human Organization, journal with a more academic editorial focus. Throughout this period, the SfAA has had an "on again" and "off again" affiliation with the AAA. Should it be the applied branch of the anthropological establishment, or should it be a competitor unifying the social sciences?  In the late 1970s it took on the independent publication, Practicing Anthropology, to fill the gap left when Human Organization changed its editorial style.  Membership in the SfAA conforms to structure the AAA adopted in 1946.

Ethical Watershed:

The watershed for the ethical debate within the anthropological establishment came in 1965. This was precipitated by the Viet Nam War and when allegations of certain "unethical" behavior by anthropologist were exposed. These allegations involved anthropologists who were engaged in community studies research activities in Thailand. These added to the disclosures about the role of social scientists in  Project Camelot. Much of the fervor over ethics within the AAA arose from the Beals’ Report in 1967 reference to the “Thai case”. An Ad Hoc committee was named with Margaret Mead as Chair. The Ad Hoc Committee was charged to look into the allegations of anthropologists engaged in clandestine research.

THAILAND CONTROVERSY: Response to the Board's Response to the Discussion - See more at:
THAILAND CONTROVERSY: Response to the Board's Response to the Discussion - See more at:
AAA Response to Crisis:

The Ad hoc Committee issued its report on September 27th 1971 (Davenport, William, David Olmsted, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Freed, 1971 Report of the Ad Hoc Committee to Evaluate the Controversy concerning Anthropological Activities in Relation to Thailand, to the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association). The report had two parts: Part I: Anthropological Activities in Thailand; and Part II: Guidelines on Future Policy.
THAILAND CONTROVERSY: Response to the Board's Response to the Discussion - See more at:

The former, Part I: Anthropological Activities in Thailand, addressed the basic issue of clandestine research. It concluded that the real issue was not in the anthropologists' activity but in the nature and classification of the funding by the US government for social science research, especially overseas. USAID funding for “community development” activities rubric which supported this research, became DOD funding under the “Counterinsurgency” rubric. There was no essential change in the type of activities funded only in the accounting rules and definitions that funded “community” studies. The committee did find that a new ethical imperative was needed for protecting research subjects. This had to do with the identity of the community studied in conjunction with the anonymity of informants. Today, the rational for the “new” ethical imperative is hollow given advances in technology and Google maps.  It also faulted the Association for its knee jerk response and reaction to the complaint that initiated the response.

In Part II: Guidelines for Future Policy, the Ad Hoc Committee recommended  recognized a fundamental difference between academic and applied anthropology. And it recommended a clearer distinction between the two as they related to the responsibilities of the AAA and its Ethic Committee. They stated:
“Area of Responsibility of the Ethics Committee: We believe that the Ethics Committee’s activities should be confined to the questions where anthropologists as scholars and scientists, can be held responsible. It should not enter the field of applied anthropology, in which particular competence and acceptance of a more specialized professional ethics are necessary.”(page 5 col 2 line 104 – 107)

The AAA membership voted to reject the Ad Hoc Committee report. And in the process refused to recognize applied anthropology as a separate professional role subject to different ethical challenges and in need of different standards.

Personal Observations

 As a co-founder of the Society of Professional Anthropologist (SOPA) and a member of the AAA, I was asked to served on a committee that was formed to review and address the need to  revise and develop the AAA Code of Conduct, aka Principles of Professional Responsibility, aka Statement on Ethics. In my role, I represented the applied interests. My qualifications were based on my experience as an applied anthropologist and with the ethical issues non-academic anthropologists confront in the course of their employment in nontraditional roles.

This assignment led to a set of recommendations to NAPA, the National Association of Practicing Anthropologists. Founded in 1983, NAPA represented a national response to SOPA (1974-75) and its sister organizations. During this period, we found that the existing Code did not address the problems confronted by the non-academic anthropologist in their daily professional lives. More important, there was no "official" code that they could refer to to justify and protect them if and when they might refuse to carry out an act that an employer or client might demand but which violated an implicit anthropological ethical principle. The PPR, as established by the AAA was not being developed to include the practitioners or their needs.

I found that the “profession” failed to recognized or respect the role responsibilities and demands placed on practitioners. In fact, they would not admit that the practitioner role called for a different set of practical responsibilities and loyalties from the academic. Further, they did not seem to understand what an ethics code is supposed to do in terms of protecting members and insuring the public of a certain minimal level of quality assurance.

I came away from this experience realizing that we were asking the wrong questions. Spicer had asked the right question in 1973.

The question is: Who is the anthropologist and who is not?

Left unanswered, this is the boogeyman in the closet
Professional Ethics 2: Opening the Closet will look at the Period from 1970 to 1990