Tuesday, August 13, 2019

TOC and Applied Anthropology

The Applied Anthropologist is a role. Applied Anthropology is a perspective. Just as Academic Anthropologist is a role, while Academic anthropology is a perspective.

Applied anthropology is the application of an anthropological perspective to the solution of a human problem. As a perceptive, it is a holistic definition of a human problem (diagnosis), based on the history of human social and/or cultural solutions to such problems (evaluation), to arrive at a solution that addresses the socio-cultural needs defined by the client (prescription). TOC or the Theory of Constraints is a management tool for analyzing an organizational/business/manufacturing problem (diagnosis); analysis of the situation (evaluation); and identification and recommending altering the situation to meet the client's need (prescription). Implementation of a solution or recommendation is the Client's right and obligation to accept or reject.

Applied Anthropology is based on the vast library of  anthropological studies of social and cultural systems that have established an ethnographic library of cases of human experience. It is like a law library -- a collection of cases, rules, and theories to be used as a resource to research and prepare a case to defend or implement a case. TOC is a formal method for developing a case to overcome or adjust to a physical, social or ideological constraint.

The Applied Anthropologist is trained in the use of the Library and how to build a case based on the clients needs. He or she or they (because it can be a team sport) build a case by identifying first, the client's need, and then researching how that need has been met in the past, and then comparing the present situation with past solutions to devise an action plan that addresses the need. What the Applied Anthropologist does with the information depends upon the role she, they or he plays in reference to the client.

The Applied Anthropologist is basically a consultant to the client. As such they, he or she provide knowledge, advice, and recommendations based on THE CLIENT'S perceived need and not the Anthropologist's need. This does not mean that the Anthropologist validates the Client's desires or biases, rather it means providing the Client with the best available options to the situation that the anthropologist has identified. And making recommendations for addressing the problem.

TOC is a technique for identifying the problem and leads to a behavioral solution or option for the client or client's authorized manager to evaluate and manage. TOC is the theoretical bases for a PERT  analysis of the options identified by the Applied Anthropologist. The analysis enables the Applied Anthropologist to translate his/her/their recommendation.

Translation is often a major barrier between the academical inclined anthropologist and the professional applied anthropologist in their relation to the client. Ideally, the Applied Anthropologist can present a report in the language understandable and actionable by the Client. That is, in terms of the time and cost savings and expense that the client might expect by implementing the recommendations.

This last point is what distinguishes the Applied Anthropologist from the Academic anthropologist. TOC can be a valuable tool in making this distinction.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Reflections on Legacy

Some time ago, 1973, Edward H. Spicer (my mentor) and I (his graduate student) put on an all day event with the title, ACROSS GENERATIONS, at the SfAA Some  A meetings in Tucson, Az. The event pitted the representative of the classic applied projects of the 1940-1960s with a graduate student or young faculty person. Our goal was to evaluate the "present" record of these projects verses what actually was learned, forgotten,or covered up. We packed the room at both session. But I doubt we really solved any of the issues.

While we never got around to turning the papers and tape into a publication -- I still have them. This led me to think about the legacy issue. About a decade ago, Scott Spicer, Ned's grandson, posted something on the SfAA website that caught my attention about "keeping the legacy alive."  This has lead to the founding of the Edward H. and Rosamond B. Spicer Foundation in an attempt to just that. We have found that this is more complicated than it sounds. 

My interest was based in part to the above issue but also to the discovery, on line, of the archive of Ned's papers that his wife assembled, organized, and presented to the Arizona State Museum library after his death. Playing with the archive as it appears in the posting has taught me more about who Ned was and the major contributions he was attempting to make during his lifetime. There is a real consistency and trajectory that you would find only by having the broad perspective of his works -- academic, applied, and human.

I know I was excited by the publication of Malinowski's Diaries and Margaret Mead's daughter's biography of her mother when they came out.. But more important, especially as an anthropologist -- is the insight into the "participant" who is doing the "observing."  The true ethnographer can not divorce themselves from the fact that they are part  of the picture they attempt to paint. The works of Price, Stocking, et al, definitely provide a more human face to our discipline than Lowie's did for me as an undergraduate.

note: This comment appeared previously in the Association of Senior Anthropologist Community of the American Anthropological Association. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Discovery of Anthropology

The raise of anthropology department in the 20th Century frequently came from the original formation of sociology or sociology/anthropology departments, Sociology, based on the divisions within Anglo/European civilization and its institutions, is the method for the study of society. This approach however, left unexplained the more exotic experience with Other peoples and cultures that western colonialism brought back to Europe. An anthropological approach with its holistic approach to the human animal, its organization, and its evolution provides a more objective inclusiveness, based on the "culture" concept, rather than simpler institutional perspective of society.

From my perspective, anthropology emerges as the "superior" approach since it focuses on the whole person as the atom of the socio/cultural world. That is, it incorporates both the physical nature of the human animal as well as how that animal is both aware of itself and its context, environment, history, and evolution. This is not to take away from the other social sciences. They are academic specialties with methodologies and applications that serve the social needs of an Anglo/European civilization to organize and administer its members through institutions. Archaeology and ancient history have demonstrated that civilizations have depended upon the evolution of such institutions. Anthropology provided the connection between the "present" and the "past" by challenging the dominant Judeo-Christian assumptions of Anglo/European society.

The reason we need to create a historical archive for anthropology is to help future generations to understand both that which has been lost in human history, and how we salvaged part of that. It will also show how we have responded to this lose by developing methods and adapting techniques for expanding the length and depth of that history; Most of all, It will demonstrate to ourselves what our basic nature (good, bad and ugly) are and the limits of being a human being. This is, I feel, the ultimate goal that our intellectual ancestors set out to find when they took the wider global view of a "cultural" humanity. And, in the practical, pragmatic sense, what we have learned about ourselves  as anthropologists and how that is influenced by who we are as individuals. We need this to calibrate our selves as "participants" and "observers;" and to enable the discipline and others to evaluate our products.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


“Almost all branches of anthropology have immediate relevance to applied problems.”
 (Margaret Mead, 1979)

Defined, in its broadest sense, applied anthropology means the linkage between teaching academic anthropology to college students, and how the student applies that knowledge.  

Yet, the American anthropological institutions have failed to define “who is and who is not an applied anthropologist.” Instead, these institutions have defined ““professional anthropology” in terms of one’s academic ties. That is one’s employment, research, publication, and institutional membership.  Yet, the history of “anthropologists” being involved in American public policy goes back to the mid-19th Century, even before it was formal recognized as a discipline by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1848.

Despite the formal structure that has evolved, one can identify the applied anthropologist by a certain set of characteristics. These characteristics are:

1.  The applied anthropologist differs from other management consultants by applying the basic methodologies of participant/observer and to evaluating evidence on the principle of cultural relativity.

2. The applied anthropologist performs services that are designed to aid management (the Client) of the  four phases of the problem situation: Defining the problem, planning a solution, programming (monitoring the execution), and evaluation of the outcome of the plan and its execution.

3.  Has an ability to understand and solve human problems applying  the anthropological holistic perspective.

4.  Is pragmatic, the applied anthropologist seeks to apply “current knowledge” to resolve “current social/cultural" problems that arise.

5.  Translates the client’s definition of the problem into one that addresses the human/organizational problems that they share with others.

6.  Possesses an ability to carry out his/her mission under the management and/or administration of the client’s formal structure.

7.  The applied anthropologist is bound by personal ethics to offer his/her ‘best” recommendations to the decision maker (client), while upholding the highest standards of “professional” responsibility toward subjects and colleagues.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

"Think Globally, but Act Locally"

BACK IN THE 1970s, an number of graduate students and employed applied anthropologist felt isolated. They had very mixed feeling about the manner the professional organization were failing to recognizing them. Despite efforts with the AAA and SfAA, the non-academic anthropologist, PhD or otherwise, did not have the type of national or local professional support that we felt the need for professionally and socially. Much less the esteem we felt our anthropological perspective warranted. 

I was employed as the Director of Research and Evaluation at the time and ABD in Anthropology. My competition were licensed psychologist, sociologists, education evaluaters, etc.  We all worked for very similar state and federally funded social service agencies One major concern that I had at the time was the potential the State of Arizona might require licensing of program evaluaters and anthropology as a skill would be left out.

I was asked to write a piece for the AAA Newsletter in 1975 about what we did locally. This is reprinted here. 

The following material was written by Barry R Bainton,founding member of the Society. —DDW

In recent years a growing concern among anthropologists and their students has been the changing employment market. If an anthropologist obtains employment outside of the "traditional" academic setting, he or she often finds it difficult or impossible to maintain professional identity as an anthropologist. In November 1974, a group of non-academically employed anthropologists in Tucson, Arizona, began a series of meetings to discuss this problem. Out of these meetings the Society of Professional Anthropologists (SPA) was formed.

The Professional Anthropologist
The use of the term "professional" has stirred and continues to stir debate within the group. Other names for describing the group have been offered, e.g, "applied," "nontraditional," "practicing," etc. Yet none so completely encompasses the concept that the group seeks to express as does "professional." What is a professional anthropologist? At first glance, the answer is obvious: one who is employed as an anthropologist is a professional anthropologist. Very few persons trained as anthropologists, however, are employed specifically as "anthropologists." To restrict the professional identity to those whose job title or description specifies "anthropologist" or "anthropology," is too strict a definition for it excludes all those who have developed new and possibly unforeseen "uses" for the art and science of anthropology and the anthropological perspective. A broader, and for the group useful, definition is an individual who is formally trained in anthropology, is employed or seeking employment in a professional capacity, and identifies anthropology as his or her primary source of professional focus. By "primary source of professional focus," I mean the basic intellectual and ethical foundation of his or her approach to his/her professional activity. That is, the individual brings to his/her employment an anthropological perspective or ethic. Thus, the Tucson group includes in its membership the traditional university level teaching anthropologist and the less traditional anthropologically trained businessman.

Why a Separate Group?
Another issue the Tucson group has considered is "why a separate group, why membership in AAA, the Society for Applied Anthropology, or other special interest groups?" In the discussion it quickly became evident that there exists a very large gap between the needs of the professional anthropologist and the current services available from the national organizations. Among these needs are: timely information about job openings in the range of fields professional anthropologists have exploited or seek to exploit; information about local developments within the professional activity area in which the anthropologist finds himself; a forum where anthropologists employed in similar and/or complementary areas can get together and discuss issues of local concern from an anthropological perspective; creation of a local pool of consultants by fellowship in a common interest group; role models for those who wish to practice their anthropology in a non-academic setting; and contact between the teaching and practicing anthropologist to help each understand and benefit from the perspective of the other.

On another level, then is a need for a local group representing a wide interest base to monitor local legislation and lobby for anthropological interests. Current federal funding  patterns, ie, formula grants, revenue sharing and planning and review requirements, make it crucial that anthropologists on the local level be able to influence state and  local agencies in the development and implementation of local legislation designed to take advantage of federal legislation.  The critical point in the system is frequently the person in the local or state agency who writes the rules and regulations that ultimately put flesh on the bare skeleton of legislation. Therefore, those who initially met and who continue to meet in Tucson feel that the formation of a locally based professional association of anthropologists is desirable for their purposes. Membership in the SPA does not require membership in any other anthropological association, nor does it exclude it. One's professional interest may require membership in a wide range of special interests groups. In fact, the SPA encourages its members to be active in other groups. The information derived and shared with the membership of SPA can only help to meet the needs of group members.

The Purpose
The Society recently adopted the following purpose statement: "The purpose of the Society of Professional Anthropologists is to promote anthropology as a profession. The Society seeks to develop the art and science of anthropology and to promote its use for the betterment of the community. To further these goals, the Society and its members seek self development through active support of formal and informal means of communication between members and to promote the public's awareness of the values of anthropology and the anthropological perspective."

The History of the SPA
The Society developed out of two general local movements in Tucson. One movement evolved among local program evaluaters. Recent federal social legislation has included the requirement of program evaluation as a program component.

In Tucson, program evaluaters have been hired by the city government, local school district, health and research planning agencies, behavioral health programs and by private consulting firms, among others. In some cases, one-man evaluation programs operate in social or health service agencies. As these evaluaters developed contacts with colleagues in other agencies and programs, a number of anthropologists discovered one another. From these discoveries they began meeting to discuss common problems in evaluation and to rekindle their anthropological interests.

At the same time, archaeologists at the Arizona State Museum, located at the University of Arizona, have for several years been doing salvage and contract archaeology throughout Arizona. In the last year, a new program was introduced at the University. The program, Cultural Resource Management, was stimulated by the federal legislation requiring a historical and archaeological impact statement to be filed as part of the environmental impact statement for major construction projects. As a result a number of archaeologists trained as cultural resource managers have been matriculated and have met to discuss common problems.

In November 1974, a meeting was called by the author and Margaret Knight to discuss the major events of the AAA annual meeting in Mexico City, which Knight had attended. Members of the evaluation and archaeological groups, as well as persons who were known to share an interest in professional applied anthropology, were invited. Out of that meeting was born the Society of Professional Anthropologists.

The Society has a mailing list of 125 persons, and an active membership of approximately 105 drawn from the Tucson and southern Arizona community Functionally the membership is drawn from the following activities areas: Services, 20; Teaching and Training, 19; Administration, 20; Research, 16; Students, 25.

Broken down by discipline, the membership shows the following distribution: Education, 32; Government, 7; Health Related Fields, 11; Social Services, 8; Business, 12; Archaeology, 6; Housewives, 3; Students, 25.

The Society is governed by a Steering Committee composed of 18 persons. The Steering Committee meets regularly to plan group activities. A workshop on Consultancy, as well as discussion groups on Program Evaluation and Environmental Impact Statements, have been held. A newsletter has been created and published. A jobs network has been created to advise members of local employment opportunities. Plans are currently being made to monitor local and state governments for developments of concern to anthropologists and to prepare the group to help lobby for and against legislation that directly affects anthropologists and anthropological interests. One final point should be made concerning the Society of Professional Anthropologists. That is, it is a local, grassroots organization. Its activities and structure are designed to meet the needs of the professionally employed anthropologists in Tucson. Others in other locales may find their needs are different. We would encourage others who wish to, to form their own groups to serve their local needs. We would welcome word from any such group in the country.

If anthropology is to be successful in marketing its perspective, skills and students in the non-academic market, it will require those of us who profess to be professionals and anthropologists to demonstrate the utility of that perspective and those skills to the public and to potential employers. We may do this individually, but we can also do it collectively. In Tucson, Arizona, we have chosen to do it both ways.

ANTHROPOLOGY Newsletter  October 1975

Vol. 16 No. 8 pp. 4 - 6

P.S. SOPA disbanded in the early 1980s when the employment market changes and older members moved on. Meanwhile, a number of local groups sprouted up. Some are still around with WAPA (Washington Association of Professional Anthropologist) the most recognizable. The reorganization of the AAA led to the formation a National Association of Practicing Anthropologist (NAPA). From our efforts, a number of local groups were formed and NAPA owes its success to the disciples and their efforts that came out of this movement.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Managing Our Anthropological Legacy

During that period between the end of WWII and today's anthropology so much data has been published. One can see this in the evolution of the AAA, and its Anthrosource. The number of articles available electronically is more than one can read in a life time and since 1980, the number journals/newsletters listed there has expanded tremendously.  

The published record is only a small sample of the record accumulated by field anthropologists. There is so much more data out there that has gone unpublished just sitting in personal files. Also, the technology for recording and storing the data has changed some much since 1945. The question of accessibility becomes a real practical concern.

 I am facing this now, especially since the mid-1970s when my tool was a TRS80 with 64 kilobytes of memory and today my tool is a Dell laptop with a 20 gigabytes hard drive, Windows 10 and ports for tetrabytes of more storage available. I have information stored in multiple formats and for multiple platforms. Most no longer exist. I feel, this is creating a negative inertia on the development of Anthropology by contributing to the fragmentation (or some might say "specialization") within the "holistic study of human kind."

 Aside from academic research, there is the whole domain of applied work that we will need to archive. There is an idea, among some in the profession, that those trained as anthropologists but not academically employed, are NOT REAL ANTHROPOLOGIST. This is a real lose to the profession. The applied domain is where we actually field test theory and method, especially when framed as an experimental anthropological design.

Where do the applied anthropologists archive their professional work and how is it fed back into the collective anthropological experience? The contribution that the applied anthropologists have to offer to society is, as valuable, if not more so, than the theoretical based academic research. The applied anthropologist tests what works and what does not work in a given sociocultural context. While academic anthropologists often make policy statements about the issue of the day at their annual meetings, they are rarely held to account for their positions, much less listened to beyond a very narrow circle of their colleagues .

The applied anthropologist is dealing with policy alternatives daily. Applied anthropologists are testing theory and practice through their work in the policy arenas of planning, programming, and evaluation activity. Further, they are generally members of a cross discipline, cross-cultural team. How do we train students and prepare professionals for policy work?

Just as auto-ethnographic material, such as Malinowski’s diary, have proven especially valuable for understanding the context of the participant/observer role; such insights into one’s role on such teams on one level, and the role that anthropologists play in the policy process on another, could be valuable for training future students if fed back into their training.

Then there is the middle ground. These are the anthropologically trained individuals, who hold an academic teaching position outside a tradition anthropology department. Instead, they hold positions in a professional training program such as medicine, business, education, etc. Whether a full time, or as adjunct, this individual is expected to teach a subject designed by the department or profession to introduce a social science or even an anthropological perspective to their students. I have experienced this type of role. I have recorded notes on how to integrate and apply anthropological knowledge to and within the specifics of the professional topic being taught. But these are notes that sit in my files.

Today where we live in a multi-cultural and international environment, this is the challenge for both the discipline and the professionals it services. I found, for example, a Masters Degree in International Management extremely useful for status reasons in the business school setting while the anthropological training and experience at the PhD level gave academic status in the University setting. Besides, the institutional creditability however, is the reality of today’s business world, which is multi-cultural and international.

Another aspect is the type of academic employment the student might expect to find. Tenure, which is based in part on research and publishing , is an unrealistic goal for many students today. More and more, graduates are being hired as teachers, that is adjunct teachers who are paid on a class by class basis and at a much lower rate than tenured faculty. This often precludes the time for the types of research and writing that does not generate revenue but would be required for tenure.

On the other hand, like the adjunct teacher, the research faculty is grant funded and held to researching and writing on the topics specific to the project. This means that as long as the project is being funded, the research anthropologist has a job. But, he/she must also be researching or searching for new opportunities to pick up when the last project ends. That is, marketing one’s skills and expertise competes with creating the record of those very skills and expertise.

On a personal level I found that one might leverage an aspect of the current “topic of the day” to apply for the “next topic of the day”, e.g. "alcoholism treatment", to "alcohol use among the elderly", to  "research management" to "consulting to non-profits" etc.. This keeps you employed and broadens your expertise and skills. But, rarely do you get a chance to share these experiences beyond the immediate clients. Instead, the record remains in a file draw, or thrown out to make room for the next project.

The technological changes just make it more of an issue. For example, I have progressed from pencil and paper to IBM Selectric, the IBM data punish cards, to TRSDOS data on a single sided 256 K 51/2” floppy to a 15 Gigabit thumb drive with Windows 10 on my Dell Laptop and everything in between. Archiving and recovering these materials, I feel, are the greatest problem for our discipline and profession. Otherwise, it is a lot of wasted time, money and effort spent, for what many see is as a dilettante's discipline.

Maybe its better to be an English major! 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Legacy: An Anthropological Concept

“Legacy” and its various translations is a term that we humans use to define and describe the worth of our individual lives; and the lives of those who have gone before us. As a concept, writers frequently use the word to describe a historical connection, especially between their subject and the historical period in which they lived.  A legacy is the “transorganic” product of a life lived and remembered. 

For the living, consciously or unconsciously, a legacy is something we hope to leave behind for our family, friends and society. It is how we want history to judge us. A legacy is a desire by the living to influence the future memory and judgments of their lives made by others. As long as we are alive, we can try to control what we do and how we do it. These are the basic elements of any legacy. However once we die, figuratively or literally, history will render the final judgment. 

A legacy has a transorganic quality. It is the existential consequence of our actions. It is the result or consequence of our actions. The future will assign meaning to our legacy. That meaning will be based on our impact on the social and physical environment we occupied in reference to the present supraorganic. Thus, a legacy is our connection with the superorganic (culture), i.e. the traditions, beliefs, values, and meanings, that we pass on to the future generations. For most, this is a fading memory of our time on earth maintained by those who knew us. For some, however, our legacy transforms into a metaphor for who we were in the past, and a mythical personality that influences  the present  somewhere located in the superorganic.

Legacy, in the transorganic sense, is unique to self-reflective species. It combines the existential or physical result of the actions that are a result of our physical existence. And, with the ideational effort that went into their creation. That ideational effort was our purpose for doing it and the meaning we attached to that purpose. The legacy is how the future remembers it.

American anthropology is the legacy of western European contact with the peoples and places in the New World. The intersection of Morgan, Boas, Lowie, Wissler and Mitra marks the legacy of early American anthropology – the holistic perspective.

Note: This is the first of a set of short essays on the concept of legacy and anthropology, to be published through The Superorganic Blog