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Grant Opportunity for Cultural Anthropology

The National Science Foundation is offering a grant opportunity for cultural anthropology.  The deadline for the fall funding cycle is August 16, 2011.

This grand is through the Cultural Anthropology Program at the NSF.  The research may be at any scale from local to global so long as it will contribute to theory which is temporally and spatially specific and extends understanding beyond the individual case study.

This grant is open to anthropologist at all levels of their careers as well as for proposals for workshops and training programs or to supplement current awards to support Research Experience for Undergraduates and Graduates.  All sub-fields of cultural anthropology are eligible.

For more information please click here.

Grant Opportunity for Methodological Training

The National Science Foundation is offering a grant opportunity for cultural anthropologists who are active researchers to upgrade their methodological skills.  The purpose of this grant is to help cultural anthropologists improve their research abilities through learn a specific analytical technique.

The deadline is August 16, 2011. For more information please click here.

Nominations are being accepted for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award

According to AAAS, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award is given to scientists or engineers or their associations whose exemplary actions have served to foster scientific freedom and responsibility. Such achievements can include: acting to protect the public’s health, safety or welfare; focusing public attention on important potential impacts of science and technology on society by their responsible participation in public policy debates; or establishing important new precedents in carrying out the social responsibilities or in defending the professional freedom of scientists and engineers.

This prestigious award has been given since 1980. The successful candidate receives a plaque and $5000 and is honored at a ceremony at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

The award is open to all regardless of nationality or citizenship. Additionally, although some award winners are distinguished scientists or scholars, this is not a requirement for award selection.

The nomination deadline is September 1, 2011.

Please click here for information on nomination procedures and a list of past recipients.

For more information or for guidance before beginning the nomination process please contact Deborah Runkle at 202.326.6794 or drunkle@aaas.org.

The Root Article: 15 Facts You Ought to Know About Race

The Root is an online magazine that provides commentary on important newsworthy events from a black perspective. A recent multimedia posting highlights the traveling exhibition, Race: Are We So Different?, by the American Anthropological Association funded by the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation which is currently at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. In the Root article curator of the exhibit, Yolanda Moses, discusses the intention of the Race project as well as 15 facts you ought to know about race. This innovative multimedia article debunks common myths pretaining to race and racisim.

Action Alert: Protect Federal Funding for the NSF

Yesterday the House Appropriations Subcommitee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies passed legislation that recommends $5.6 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and while that number is a $43 million dollar increase over last year’s funding level, it’s a full $646 million less than what was originally requested by the President in his budget request.

A commitment from the current Administration towards developing competent and productive scientific research in all disciplines should be honored by the Appropriations Committee. Furthermore, a multi-disciplinary approach to research and development of technologies for economic and social growth is an important tool utilized by scientists today and should be allowed to continue as it is an approach that has fueled American progress for decades. As the Committee outlined its funding priorities in its legislation, it excluded the areas of scientific research listed under the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). This lack of attention to the SBE will inhibit scientific progress and international competitiveness.

Contact your member of Congress and Members of the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the President’s budget request for the NSF, and outline the work of the SBE as a priority for the agency.

Action Alert: Protect Federal Funding for Humanites

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies has proposed budget cuts  in its FY 2012 spending bill.

Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) were set at $135 million; for NEH this reflects a $20 million cut from last year’s funding level and $11 million less than what was requested by the President in his budget request.

If these drastic cuts are enacted, the National Endowment for the Humanities will see cuts to its core programs and services and their ability to award grants will be severely limited.

-From the National Humanities Alliance:

There is a clear federal role in supporting the humanities, just as there is for the sciences and other fields. NEH grants help support the nation’s education and research infrastructure for fields including history, languages, literature, law, government, philosophy, cultural anthropology, the study of religion, and other subjects. The knowledge and competencies represented by these fields are critical to a broad range of U.S.interests, including: fostering a globally competitive workforce, strengthening civic engagement and understanding, preserving the nation’s historic and cultural resources, and developing expertise to meet local, national, and global challenges.

Please contact your local Congressman or a  member of the House Appropriations Committee to share your concerns and advocate for the President’s level of funding; a full list of members can be found here.

Inside the President’s Studio – Tom Boellstorff

(click to listen)

Hosted by AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez, “Inside the President’s Studio” features interviews with anthropologists about their ideas, research and passions. It is part of an ongoing effort to foster public, visible and active engagement with anthropologists. Become a part of the conversation by reading and listening to the interviews, adding your comments to the blog, and suggesting people or topics for future pieces.

This month the studio features  Tom Boellstorff, Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist.


(1) What are you most passionate about–in life? In your work?

Working for intellectual inquiry and social justice, and feeling like I am living my life to the fullest. The joy of being overwhelmed.

(2) What were you like in junior high school? Rebellious? Studious? Popular? Shy? Intense?

Nerdy and shy. Being gay in junior high school in Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1980s was not easy.

(3) When and how did you first encounter anthropology? And when did you decide to embrace it as a profession? Do you remember the moment?

I remember when, as an undergraduate, a friend of mine said “I’ve decided to study anthropology,” and for some strange reason I had a premonition and thought “I will do that someday.” (That friend of mine is still an anthropologist herself!)

(4) I know that you consider yourself a linguistic anthropologist, but I bet that many people who read your books or “meet” you in your current role as Editor-in-Chief of AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST do not know that. How important is your linguistic anthropology training to your current work? Or even to your professional sense of self?

My undergraduate majors were in music and linguistics. But for my final two years in college at Stanford, I did independent studies with Joseph Greenberg and became almost a secretary to him. He was, of course, retired at that time, but he devoted incredible time to me and his work on language typology, language and thought, and other topics influences me to this day. After a year of gay activist work after college, I entered the Ph.D. program in linguistics at Berkeley and worked in cognitive linguistics, studying under George Lakoff and Eve Sweetser. After only a year I realized it wasn’t the right thing for me and left the program, working for another year for an HIV/AIDS nonprofit before entering the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Stanford.

So my training is very odd in this way. I never really trained in linguistic anthropology; I trained in pure linguistics as both an undergraduate and for a year in graduate school. And because I never took any anthropology courses before entering graduate school, it was only while earning my Ph.D. that I really became exposed to linguistic anthropology. I ended up co-editing a book on language and sexuality (Speaking in Queer Tongues) and writing an article published in Journal of Linguistic Anthropology about gay language in Indonesia.

Now, I get to teach undergraduate courses on linguistic anthropology from time to time, and teach language theory in many of my graduate courses as well. It remains important to me and, for instance, if you look at my research on virtual worlds, you’ll see I’m often attending to language and incorporating language theory. Indeed, a keystone of my new project is using theories of indexicality to rethink “digital anthropology,” given the origin of “digital” in “digit,” the pointing finger. It’s also important to my professional sense of self in that it reminds me of the odd paths by which so many of us come to our interests and passions; I tell my story to graduate students sometimes to illustrate how you don’t have to know from the outset “what you will be.”

(5) People who read your work on “Second Life” may be surprised to know that much of your earlier work dealt with sexuality and gender, and I bet the same is true of those who read your sexuality/gender work first. How do you respond to people who express genuine surprise (and interest) in the change of topic? (I know you have immersed yourself deeply in both and do not know if you like thinking about the connections between the two overall projects and delighting in explaining it to others.)

It’s usual for anthropologists after their first research projects (based on their dissertations) to want to try a new research project. In some cases there’s a very close link to the earlier work, in some cases it’s somewhat different, and in some cases really different! In my own case, I really wanted to try something very different from my original work. I’d always been interested in technology and got curious about studying virtual worlds. I purposely decided not to focus on sexuality because of wanting to try something different, so while I discuss sexuality in Coming of Age in Second Life, it’s not the core topic of the book.

I’ve enjoyed doing both projects in parallel even though it’s been a lot of work. So, for instance, my 2009 American Ethnologist article “Nuri’s Testimony” and my June 2011 Cultural Anthropology article “But Do Not Identify as Gay” are about my sexuality work, not the virtual worlds work. Once my term as Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist ends next year, I plan on some research that will bring the projects together in new ways. I enjoy both the distinctiveness of the projects, and then putting them together in ways that surprise me.

(6) What makes you sad?

Injustice, talent wasted, lives cut short. Doing so much work on HIV/AIDS over the years has really impressed this upon me.

(7) What makes you mad?

See the above.

(8) What is one thing that only close friends know about you that you are now willing to share with others?

Nothing really springs to mind. I think this might be part of my own particular experience as a gay man; I’ve been shaped by a discourse of selfhood where being “out,” open about myself, has been very important–because I have seen the terrible power of silence. ACT-UP got it so right, early on in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with the “SILENCE = DEATH” slogan.

(9) Have you ever considered holding public office, starting an NGO, or devoting yourself directly or fully to political advocacy? Do you find yourself laughing at this question or surprised that I would ask?

It’s a great question, not surprising at all, but it has a dark side. I was in Moscow during the 1991 coup attempt, working underground with gay activists and then using computers the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission had brought over (and were in my apartment) to help print fliers for the pro-democracy resistance. I was Regional Coordinator at the Institute for Community Health Outreach in San Francisco and worked with that organization for many years, and have sat on the Board of Directors for that organization, Mobilization Against AIDS, and others. My first two trips to Indonesia I wasn’t even in graduate school yet; I was an HIV/AIDS and gay activist. I’ve helped many LGBT and HIV/AIDS nonprofits in Indonesia and still serve on the advisory board for two; one of them had their inaugural meeting in my apartment in 1993. I’ve also been involved in a lot of community activism in Long Beach, California, where I live.

So, on the one hand, activism has been central to my life; indeed, it was my path into academia. On the other hand, we can never forget the strains of anti-intellectualism in American society and never want to inadvertently strengthen them. I think that anthropologists who do no clearly identifiable activist work are completely legitimate, and that intellectual work is valuable on its own terms. It is not being ensconced in an ivory tower but being engaged in the human journey. Not everyone has to take the activist route I have taken, nor do I or anyone else needs to take it through our whole lives. Of course, I encourage activist work and see no contradiction between activist work and rigorous intellectual work. So the point is that for me it has been very important, and I encourage others to work for social justice and also for greater visibility for anthropology in public discourse, but also that intellectual work is activism, even if its effects are not always immediately apparent.

(10) What is the one question you wish I had asked but didn’t?

What are the challenges and benefits of anthropological publishing now and into the future? But that we can discuss another day!

Why a Public Anthropology?

In the latest issue of American Anthropologist, David Vine thoughtfully reviews Robert Borofsky’s Center for a Public Anthropology and its four major projects. Vine discusses the role the Center has played outside the world of academia and includes discussion on the highly successful and innovative Community Action Project. This unique project  teaches university students how to craft op-ed pieces on ethical issues in anthropology and are encouraged to send these letters to politicians, and newspapers demanding action. Currently, 8,000 U.S. students a year from 66 colleges and universities participate in the project in an online format.

The June 2011 issue of American Anthropologist, available now on AnthroSource (free to members of the AAA) to read full-text articles.

Inside the President’s Studio – Amy Goldenberg

(click to listen)

Hosted by AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez, “Inside the President’s Studio” features interviews with anthropologists about their ideas, research and passions. It is part of an ongoing effort to foster public, visible and active engagement with anthropologists. Become a part of the conversation by reading and listening to the interviews, adding your comments to the blog, and suggesting people or topics for future pieces.

This month the studio features  Amy Goldenberg, Managing Editor of Anthropology News.

(1)    What are you most passionate about–in work? In life?

I feel very strongly about trying to achieve work-life balance, although it usually feels more like a juggling act.

(2) How did you get interested in folklore? Do you remember exactly when and where you were when that happened or at least when you decided to pursue a doctorate in it?

By the time I started college, I was very interested in language and culture, especially Russian. I took a lot of ballet growing up and it was obvious to me that all the best dancers in the US had defected from the Soviet Union. At the same time, in the early ‘80s, a lot of my classmates at school would echo whatever Soviet stereotypes were popular then and talk about “evil commies.” But I was intrigued by the USSR. I was convinced there was something interesting going on over there because they produced the world’s best dancers. Of course, it was also obvious that negative stuff was happening too, since so many of them had in fact defected.

So I signed up to study Russian as soon as I could. The department also offered a series of Russian folklore classes. I didn’t really know what it was, but the course descriptions spoke directly to my interest in culture. I signed up and loved the class. Plus the teacher was inspirational. So I signed up for the next one. One afternoon after that class, something clicked and it seemed everything in the world could be explained through folklore. Then I took some classes with another folklorist who was in the anthropology and English departments. I found out that the subject was fascinating no matter what culture or region we were discussing and I just kept on going with it.
(3) What else were you interested in when you were growing up—-say, when you were 10 or 13 or 15? And what happened to those interests?

At that time I was definitely into ballet. I did it until I was about 15 or 16 when my knees started to wear out.

 (4) You now mostly work for the AAA as Managing Editor of our monthly ANTHROPOLOGY NEWS. How did you end up going from having a scholarly interest in folklore to editing a substantive monthly newsletter for the American Anthropological Association?

Like most graduate students, I had many, many, many jobs throughout school. A lot of them used and developed my editing skills, and a couple gave me design skills. I had also found that I was better at editing than teaching. By the time I was writing my dissertation, I knew academia wasn’t for me, but I had this compulsion to finish. After I did, I continued to work at the university as a writer and editor (that’s when I learned InDesign) while my husband finished his doctorate. After he finished, he got a job out here, so we moved and I started looking for a new job. I was fortunate to get some professional resume help, and that showed me that I actually had a lot of experience in publishing and editing, so I targeted those jobs. When AAA popped up in one of my searches, it really stood out to me because I already knew a little about it. Luckily, at the time they were looking for someone who had my skills, and the folklore background seemed to help.

(5) What did you most like about folkore as a scholarly field when you were pursuing your doctorate, and do you miss it (at least a bit) while working in editing and publishing for the AAA?

The most rewarding part for me was learning new skills to do the research I wanted to do. For my dissertation, the original research plan was to study amber jewelry, so I took a metalsmithing class to develop an eye for evaluating metal work in jewelry. During fieldwork I also spent a lot of time learning how to take photographs in different situations. I enjoy learning new things and being able to get in depth with things like with metalsmithing and photography. Now I don’t have the time to spend a 25 hours a week metalsmithing or 2 days in a museum experimenting with my camera because now my job revolves around AN, and then my job was to do the dissertation. Still, there’s always more to learn and do, it’s just that now it revolves more around technology and the publishing industry.

But I think what I miss most right now is catching up with my friends at the AFS annual meeting. The meeting is usually a few days before AN goes to press, and that’s just not a time I can be away.

(6) What makes you mad?


(7) What makes you laugh?

Babies, toddlers and kids. Everything is new and unique to them, and they always seem to come up with a new take on things that I take for granted or just don’t notice.

(8) There are people with Ph.D.s in anthropology who specialize in folklore and others who study folklore without it being embedded within anthropology programs. Can you usually tell which ones have anthropology degrees and which have other degrees? I know of people in the USA in American Studies and in Folklore who consider themselves folklorists. And I have met colleagues in Europe with degrees in “European Ethnology” who remind me of folklorists I know in the U.S. Are the differences palpable? Is it interesting or surprising to you to note differences or similarities—-in training or even in people’s research, curatorial work, or writing?

I have a hard time telling a person’s home discipline since folklore is incredibly interdisciplinary by nature. Because there are so few dedicated folklore programs, a lot of folklorists are trained or work in other departments, so I think they need to incorporate approaches important to their home department. But I believe a good researcher or scholar will reach to whatever body of knowledge they need for their research, regardless of disciplinary boundaries. This is key to people developing and strengthening their own voice in research, writing, exhibits, and projects.

(9) Do you ever think of yourself these days as a “closet folklorist” working with the 11,000-12,000 anthropologists who are members of AAA, or perhaps as a “closet anthropologist” in the world of folklore?

I’ve joked with some of my friends that I can pass as an anthropologist, but I’m really a folklorist. But the truth is I’m really an editor and facilitator. I’m not doing my own research – and thank goodness, because I’m awful at grant writing. What I’m really here to do is help the people who are doing anthropology talk about issues important to anthropologists and anthropology.

(10) What have been the 1-2 things about anthropologists that have surprised you the most since beginning to work for ANTHROPOLOGY NEWS? Good or bad or perhaps just surprising?

When I started at AN (as the production editor) I noticed how some of the columns or articles criticized AAA. This surprised me because with some other publications I had worked on, such things had to be reworked – we had to be very careful about not offending this important person or that influential office. But in AN, it was not only fine, it was welcome. The important thing was that it was their opinion, and we were there to let them share it. That was both surprising and refreshing.

(11) How and when did you become interested in Poland? I know it was the focus of your dissertation research. Do you have plans to pursue other work on Polish life and culture?

I spent a year in Russia after graduating college. After that year, I spent a few weeks traveling in Eastern Europe, including Poland. Later, when I was thinking about future research and fieldwork, I just kept on thinking about Poland and the possibilities. So I made the plan to revolve around work there.

(12) Have you ever considered moving into politics, foundation work, or advocacy, using your training in folkore? What positions high up in government, in foundations, corporations, educational institutions, or international organizations of various sorts might interest you or colleagues trained in folklore? Any? And are there roles for which folklorists would be especially good?

Of course, I have to start by saying that during Bill Clinton’s presidency, we had a wonderful era of folklorists heading up two big organizations – Bill Ivey was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and Bill Ferris was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. That was inspiring.

But generally, folklorists and anthropologists are incredible assets to any organization because we’re good at looking at a lot of contextual information and know that things are usually more complex than they appear. These skills can be applied to any of those areas you mention, but it really depends on the person’s other interests and strengths. Positions as analysts and program developers would be especially good. Being in DC, I of course think of the government as a potential employer for folklorists and anthropologists – obviously the NEA and NEH, but also the Census Bureau, State Department, Smithsonian, USAID, Department of Education and so on.

(13). What is one thing that only your close friends and family know about you but that you might be willing to share with me and our STUDIO listeners now? I have had guests tell me that chocolate is their secret passion, that they used to want to be a truckdriver, that they are rabid fans of a specific sports team, and more.

I’m a Jane Austen fan. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, followed by Sense and Sensibility.

(14). What is the one question you wish I had asked here and didn’t?

Inside the President’s Studio – Ed Liebow

 (click to listen)

Hosted by AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez, “Inside the President’s Studio” features interviews with anthropologists about their ideas, research and passions. It is part of an ongoing effort to foster public, visible and active engagement with anthropologists. Become a part of the conversation by reading and listening to the interviews, adding your comments to the blog, and suggesting people or topics for future pieces.

This month the studio features  Ed Liebow, applied anthropologist at Batelle, whose work is primarily in medical epistemology .

(1) What are you most passionate about–in work? in life?

My family matters most to me. My wife, Erin Younger, is Associate Director of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. We have been together 35 years, since the first week of graduate school, and I can’t begin to list the ways in which my world is better because of her. Our daughter, Nabina, will graduate from college this spring, and she is our light. In my work, I am fiercely committed to crafting better public policy, policy that makes public investments in the pursuit of social justice. And I feel fortunate to lead a team of talented, compassionate scientists who share this commitment.

(2) When you did first imagine yourself becoming an anthropologist?  Do you remember where you were, how old you were, or even what you were doing at the time?

First term as an undergraduate, I took an introductory seminar from Paul Riesman, and I was hooked. He was a new prof, had just finished his dissertation from the Sorbonne, and had it published as Freedom in Fulani Social Life. He had written this manuscript, in French, exploring the concept of freedom and the relationship between the individual and society among a group of pastoralists of Burkina Faso. I had never been exposed to such careful, thoughtful discussion; we read 10 autobiographies in 10 weeks, all chosen from different settings. I loved the vocabulary, the problem sets, the alternative points of view.

(3) How would you describe the kind of anthropology you do?  Medical? Applied? Practicing? Social/cultural? General?

It is definitely “applied,” and the principal application is in medical epistemology; I have been working my entire career on research projects that have at their core the central problem of how people from different backgrounds view the credibility of evidence of health hazards, risks, and effective diagnosis and treatment modalities. Ethnographic research settings have ranged from the frontier outback of Australia where the British tested nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s to communities throughout North America, and among healthcare facilities including community clinics and clinical laboratories.  I don’t quibble with the terms “applied,” “practicing,” “public,” “engaged,” and so forth; although I have taught courses from time to time, I have never had a full-time academic appointment. I can recall when I was wavering about completing my graduate studies back in the early 1980s, Micki Crespi came through town on her way to see some of the National Park Service sites that had just come into her province as the founder of the Park Service Ethnography program. I think it was a set up from her fellow Ecuadorianist (and my wife’s then colleague at the Heard Museum), Louisa Stark, but it was Micki who took me on a road trip, in the course of which she told me: “get the strongest theoretical and methodological training you possibly can, because you may well find yourself our discipline’s only representative in whatever non-academic setting you land, so you better be prepared to represent us well.” My mentors at Arizona State, particularly Jim Eder, Don Bahr, John Martin, and historian Bob Trennert, were tough but fair, and helpful guides. The exposure to these intellectual traditions – ecology, literary criticism, social demography, quantitative history – could not have prepared me better for my career.

(4) You have worked for Battelle for a long time.  How and when did you first start working there?  What drew you to the job?  Who do you work with?  Is it a mix of anthropologists and people trained in other professions?

I was first hired at Battelle in 1986, the year I finished my degree. We were looking for possible places to move, and I applied for a position at the University of Washington. I came for an interview, and while I was in town I met someone I had known in Phoenix who was now working at Battelle. After an initial discussion, they were quite interested in having me take part in a project that was just getting started. The University received many applications from much more senior scholars, and changed the position from a tenure track job to a temporary teaching appointment, so they could re-advertise and hire a more senior person. The more I compared the two work environments, the more attractive the temporary Battelle project seemed. It was even more attractive because my wife is from Seattle, so moving there meant we would be closer to her family.

At first, it was a project-specific hire, a bit of a gamble on both Battelle’s part and mine – I was the first anthropologist Battelle had ever hired, and the job didn’t come with any promise of longevity for me. I had to try to make myself indispensable – find a way to contribute to the organization’s success. The initial assignment actually involved two projects, one to examine the social and economic impacts of storing spent fuel rods from nuclear power deep underground where the surrounding basalt rock formation would prevent the radioactive material from contaminating the biosphere (the nuclear material would remain toxic for 10,000 years, and we generally trust rock to remain much more stable over such time periods than government institutions). The rock formation being examined was on the Hanford site (southeast Washington State) in the heart of treaty-protected territory for several tribal groups, and I was asked to work with the tribal groups to assess long-term social, cultural, and economic impacts of nuclear waste storage. At the same time, the historical weapons production activities at the Hanford site were coming to light after a court-ordered release of secret documents, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was asked to examine the health effects of weapons production activities. I was asked to devise a process by which the 9 tribal groups that were downwind and downstream from the Hanford site could participate in the assessment of health effects among Indian people from these environmental releases. My colleagues at Battelle included health physicists, epidemiologists, economists, social psychologists, biostatisticians, and health educators. My colleagues among the tribal collaborators included public health researchers, natural resource managers, and tribal elders. Other anthropologists were involved in these Hanford health studies from the University of Washington (Gene Hunn), Colorado University (Deward Walker), and special studies on historical agricultural production were done by rural sociologists from Washington State University and applied anthropologists working in the private  sector (Niel Tashima, Cathleen Crain, and their colleagues at LTG Associates). Related studies were conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. At the same time the Hanford site was being considered as a permanent storage repository for spent nuclear fuel rods, a cadre of anthropologists from the University of Arizona were also involved in related work in southern Nevada, and a group from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory was looking at interim storage solutions while the search for a permanent storage place dragged on.

My work on environmental health issues and judgments about risks and hazards branched out from the Hanford site to other consequences of ‘living better through modern chemistry,’ and about 8 years ago, I left the environmental research unit within Battelle that originally hired me to become a part of the public health unit with which I am now affiliated. Same policy-related work, just a different organizational subdivision within the Battelle Memorial Institute.

(5) What might a fairly typical work week look like for you?  Do you travel most weeks?  Do you lead a team of researchers who do fieldwork for you?  Do you spend a great deal of time analyzing data, designing research projects, writing reports, or doing public speaking?

I now manage a public health research organization that has about 70 staff members. I spend about 40% of my time doing administrative tasks (purchasing, hiring, performance reviews, committees, helping staff solve problems, and all the daily stuff that keeps a research organization running). I spend about 60% of my time leading research projects, perhaps two or three at a time; these are all contract-supported projects rather than grant-supported projects, and this is a key distinction. With grants, the investigator thinks up the problem and has a great deal of autonomy in pursuing its solution. With contracts, the problem originates with a client, who has sought out our research services to help solve it. In contract-supported research, a good deal of time is spent working with clients on understanding the context for the problem, and also the real-world operational constraints on a range of appropriate solutions. It doesn’t serve the public interest to propose solutions that cannot or will not ever be implemented. Because of this client-focus, I travel a fair amount to Atlanta, national headquarters for the CDC, and Washington, headquarters for most of the other agencies of the US Public Health Service.  We also do a fair amount of primary data collection, and up until recently, I liked to reserve for myself at least some small bit of fieldwork. In the past two or three years, with additional management responsibilities, I have been able to let more junior staff members have more of the fun. I do a great deal of public speaking – one project that I lead having to do with improving clinical laboratory operations will have me making at least half a dozen presentations this year alone on our evidence-review methods and findings to date.

In addition, I serve on the boards of the American Anthropological Association, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, and a Seattle-based arts organization called the Jack Straw Arts Foundation. In the past two years, I also have gotten involved in the Washington Global Health Alliance’s Global Nexus 2012 project to celebrate Seattle as an emerging hub for global health work, and this past year have been involved in local arrangements for the Society  for Applied Anthropology’s Annual Meeting (March 29-April 2, 2011). These activities also take up some of my waking hours, and allow me to stay in touch with colleagues over an eclectic range of mutual interests.

(6) What makes you smile?

Clever use of language; colleagues and staff showing their appreciation for one another; practically anything my wife and daughter do; a cold beer after a long run; a day out on Puget Sound in my sailboat.

(7) What drives you crazy?

When someone says they are going to do something and then don’t do it.

(8)  Does your job allow you to publish your research results, or does Battelle consider Battelle employees’ research results to be property of Battelle?  Is publishing, in fact, only a secondary part of your job?  Is this a source of frustration (at times) or not at all an issue?

We are encouraged to publish. We reward our staff for publishing. We recognize that our professional standing depends on our publication record. However, I do not have nearly the robust publication record as friends from graduate school who took an academic career path. It is frequently a challenge in contract-supported research (in contrast with grant-supported research) to translate a technical report into a publishable manuscript. The client often contracts for detailed technical report, but does not provide additional funds for the distilled publishable version. This is not always the case. Indeed, some clients specify in contractual terms that publishable manuscripts must be produced. All the same, it is a self-compounding phenomenon, as grant-supported publications beget more grant support, while the cumulative effect of contract-supported technical reports is to push careers along a different path.

(9)  You have been enormously active in the National Association of Practicing Anthropologists (NAPA) over the years.  You were President of NAPA before being elected to the Executive Board of the AAA and then being asked to be Treasurer of the AAA.  Are there aspects of these roles that you especially enjoy?  Can you give us a couple of examples of activities, changes, events, or moments for which you take a good amount of credit and of which you are especially proud?

Because I am not around other anthropologists all day long, my service to the AAA and its sections helps me stay in touch with discipline. That is my greatest reward for remaining active in service to the Association.

The NAPA Careers Video, originally made in 1993 under executive producers Elizabeth Briody and Dawn Bodo, has been phenomenally successful and has shown great staying power. While I was not directly involved in its production, I took on the role of planning for its marketing and distribution. Together with a long list of committed volunteers over the years, this video continues to introduce new cohorts of students to career possibilities outside the academy.

I also managed the NAPA Mentoring program for about 10 years, and found that activity to be remarkably rewarding. I am still surprised when I am approached by students who are looking for career advice, and who report that their faculty advisors feel ill-equipped to guide students towards non-academic career paths. The unmet need is great, and I am glad that the NAPA Mentoring program has been of service to so many.

Working with the Executive Board, the Section Assembly, and the AAA staff has been especially rewarding, as I think we have been responsible stewards of the Association’s resources, navigating some particularly tricky passages of financial market volatility, successfully negotiating the transition to a digital publishing platform, instituting an income-based membership dues structure, and providing the Association with a sustainable investment portfolio that will allow us serve the Association membership and the profession well into the future.

(10) Were you a model student in elementary school or more of a rebel?  What were you like in high school?  Would your family and closest friends at the time ever have anticipated your choice of profession or your place of employment today?

I was not much of a rebel. I was a good student, actively involved in athletics and theater, and moved easily among a number of different crowds. My parents expected me to prepare to go to law school. Many of my closest friends in high school aspired to change the world from positions of influence. I don’t think many of us were exposed to applied research as a world-changing path.

(11) What policy–at the federal, state, county, city, or international level–would you most like to affect, direct, change, or applaud?  Could you do this in the context of your current job or would it be something you could only imagine doing if you started your own foundation or NGO or ran for public office?

I spend all of my professional energies working on monitoring the implementation of various aspects of the current health care reform legislation (2010) and its companion provisions from the 2009 economic stimulus legislation that focus on promoting health information technology. This legislation, distilled to its simplest form, aims to do three things: (1) bring just about everyone into the health care delivery system through various means; (2) use improvements in healthcare technology to collect much better information on how people are diagnosed and treated, helping us understand what works and what doesn’t; and (3) use information about what works to improve care delivery. I know there are loads of other provisions in thousands of pages of legislative and regulatory language, but in its most basic form this is it, and I want to make it work. I believe we can contribute to its success through our current, fairly high-level access in the policy-making machinery.

I would like to have a chance, before I am too old and infirm to do so, to capitalize on the work we have done over the last six years with policies to improve clinical laboratory practices by applying this work in low-resource settings outside of North America. Laboratory tests are absolutely critical to accurate diagnosis and treatment in modern medicine, but do not receive adequate attention. If there is one area of international health and medicine where the opportunities for improvement are great and the costs for achieving these improvements are affordable, it is with laboratory medicine.

(12) The profession of anthropology in the U.S. and (at least) Europe is increasingly populated by people wanting to work for NGOs, health providers, policy-oriented organizations, government agencies, and other institutions not easily categorized as institutions of higher education.  Colleagues in Europe told me just months ago that they estimate that about 70% of anthropologists trained in Europe work outside the university system, and I have heard for more than a decade that over 50% of Ph.D.s trained in the U.S. also work outside the U.S. system of higher education.  Would you agree with these estimates?  Have the proportions grown over the course of your career?  Are you less unusual now than you were when you began your career?

Based on periodic tracking studies funded by NSF, these estimates for the US seem reasonable. AAA discontinued its own survey some years ago and I think we ought to consider renewing it. It is my sense that among PhDs trained in the US, the proportions have not changed that much over the past 25 years. However, I believe that even on the university campus, the proportion of anthropologists working outside of conventional anthropology departments (in health and medicine, environmental resource management, women’s studies, area studies, even business schools) has grown substantially.

What I believe has changed significantly over the last 25 years is the explosion in MA-level anthropologists, practically all of whom work outside institutions of higher education. The AAA’s Committee for Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA) just finished analyzing the results of a fascinating survey that shows in depth the career paths of people who have a Master’s degree. These people are in responsible positions everywhere, and there also is a large cadre of community college teachers, who, in terms of contact hours, introduce many more students to the discipline than their counterparts in 4-year colleges and universities.

(13) What do you most wish I had asked you but didn’t?



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