Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Case for Applied Anthropolgy : Part 1

Part 1- Population dynamics and Market Realities

I recently received an email from the AAA/NAPA’s   Anthrocurrents with the following challenge.

A case for applied anthropology PhDs.  The struggle is real.  Are you one of these PhDs? Do you have a master’s a decided not to get a doctorate?  We’d love to hear your stories.  

My response to the question is, “This is the problem that anthropology has been facing since the mid-1970s.”

I remember in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the demand for anthropologist with any graduate work was high.  The supply of PhDs fell well below demand to staff the many new departments of anthropology that were being created.  Maybe if I had been smarter, I might have rushed through the dissertation and grabbed one of those jobs or even stopped at the MA.

The demand for faculty arose from the combination of two factors. The Viet Nam War drove many to enroll in graduate school in order to get a draft deferment extension. Second was the demographic curve that came with the WWII baby boom coming of age.

Many graduate students from that period were recruited as ABDs (All But Dissertation) to fill these vacancies.  At the same time, arising from the Civil Rights Movements of the 60s, came the push for Affirmative action for women and minority hiring in the 1970s.  Women and minorities were encouraged to apply to graduate school and for the open jobs. When affirmative action favored the minority applicants for faculty openings and the demographic curve started to wane, the traditional Anglo male, white anthropology graduate were deemed a less desirable hires. This forced some of us to seek alternative career paths. The Lamphere Case at Brown University had a particularly significant impact on the anthropology department at Brown but even more so on the profession and academic institutions in general that persists today. 

Once the demographic wave passed through the academic system, many ABDs, male and female, Anglo and minority, found that they would lose their jobs if they failed complete their dissertations and earn their PhD degree. Many were forced into contingent teaching roles or careers. Others sought employment elsewhere. And for some it meant dropping out of anthropology all together. For those who did get tenure, their positions were essentially locked up for 25 to 30 years by tenured employment practices then standard in the teaching professions. This cut further into the decline in the academic job market.

For some of us, the handwriting was already on the wall in 1975-76. That is when the Society of Professional Anthropologist was formed in Tucson Arizona. SOPA was formed around the cadre of anthropologist (all levels - BA to PhD) who were either associated with the University or, more to the point, many who were already feeling the closing of the academic market. They found employment  as program trainers, evaluators, ethnic art and crafts shop keepers, government workers, substance abuse counselors, etc. in the greater Tucson market.  Margaret Knight, a graduate student at the U of A at the time, had been to the AAA meetings 1973. She found that there was an undercurrent of concern among department heads about an impending demographic shift. We met after her return and discuss her findings. We decided  to call a meeting of those might be interested to share her observations.

A surprising number of people came to the brown bag lunch to hear Maggie’s presentation. She reported that the department heads were begining to discuss, among themselves, the implications of the demographic shift and how it was going to impact their departments and the AAA. In the discussion that followed, we were surprised by the very strong and negative feelings the group members had toward the professional establishment and anthropology departments. Yet, they voiced a profound commitment to anthropology as a subject and credited the anthropological perspective with their personal successes in their current lines of work. As a result of the meeting, those present decided to continue meeting. They felt they would benefit from sharing issues and common concerns, especially in the context of the local Tucson and Pima County community. So we formed a group, the Society of Professional Anthropologist or SOPA.[i]

Over the next year, SOPA met several times and its membership grew. The group attracted the attention of Dr. Edward H. Spicer (Professor of Anthropology at the U of A and then President of the AAA). He spoke about the local effort with Mr. Edward Lehman, Executive Director of the AAA. This lead to SOPA meeting at the home of Dr. Spicer with Mr. Lehman to hear about our idea of forming local grassroots organizations. At the end of the meeting we (SOPA) were invited to conduct a workshop at the 1974 and again at the 1975, AAA Annual meetings. With the support and encouragement of Spicer and Lehman, we prepared and delivered a program of how to form a local professional anthropological organization. We also held one with Society for Applied Anthropology.

We were both surprised and pleased by the turn out and acceptance of the idea. More than that, we were surprised by the commonality of concerns expressed by graduates and junior faculty who felt abandoned by the AAA organization. Out of this was born the idea of a national movement of local grassroots professional anthropological organizations. 

Participants in these workshops went home and in some cases attempted to form their own local organizations. From these efforts emerged of other local organizations, e.g. WAPA, SCOPA, High- Plains Association, etc.  Some of these groups took off while others died on the vine. But the efforts pointed to a need and desire many graduates from anthropology programs, whether at the BA, MA, or PhD level, for local anthropologically trained individuals to share their interests and support one another professionally and socially in the local community. In some cases, it involves the presents of a local academic department to help sponsor such activity. In other case it may require a more neutral venue that does not have the “academic” vs. “applied” stigma.

WAPA, with its central location and the relative multitude of jobs that called for social science preparation has become a central model for many groups. Washington has served as the center of American anthropology organizational development for more than a century. Meanwhile as the political climate changed and funding dried up for many of the social programs of the 1970s, SOPA was forced to dissolve in the early 1980s.

See Part II The Reorganization of the AAA

[i] This was not to be confused with SOPA, the Society of Practicing Archeologist that was attempting at the time to organize contract archaeologist and establish some standards for cultural resource management.

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.