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What Anthropologists Do, and What They Do Wrong in Business

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Ashkuff. Read more posts on Ashkuff’s blog: http://www.ashkuff.com

Put simply? Sociocultural anthropologists specialize in describing one group of people, to other groups of people. Obviously, with such a broad yet elegant specialization, sociocultural anthropologists should find themselves awash in more political, business, and consultancy opportunities. So why don’t we?

We sometimes get lost in communicating with our research subjects, and forget how to communicate with our audiences. Unsurprisingly, research creates little opportunity, if nobody understands it. Take, for example, the communication habits of American sociocultural anthropologists (abbr. “anthropologists”) versus mainstream American businesspeople (abbr. “businesspeople”).

Anthropologists communicate via thick description and comprehensive ethnographies, based on extended field research. By contrast, businesspeople communicate concisely, in terms of deliverability and value generation (i.e. “the bottom line.”) Although businesspeople certainly need “other” groups explained to them — foreign labor forces, new market segments, multiculturalism within their own workspaces, et cetera — businesspeople usually cannot process what anthropologists have to say about those other groups. Therefore, it’s on us job-seeking anthropologists to understand businesspeople just as deeply as we understand our own research subjects, and communicate our research accordingly.

Remember, of course, communication breakdowns between anthropologists and businesspeople are only one example. Anthropologists also communicate with politicians, lawyers, jurors, grantors, activists, home viewers and readers. I urge anthropologists to prioritize communication with any audience, just as they prioritize communicating with their research subjects.

— Ashkuff | www.ashkuff.com | How to venture out of “armchair” scholarship and into action? One anthropologist tackles business, occultism and violence! He gets spooked and roughed up a lot.

New PhD Program at George Washington University

In contrast to our recent post about schools closing anthropological programs, we are pleased to find the Anthropology department at George Washington University to be flourishing to the point that they need to expand to a PhD program in Anthropology.

George Washington’s Anthropology Department was established in 1892. Faculty train students in the fields of Sociocultural Anthropology, Archaeology, Linguistic Anthropology and Biological Anthropology.

The department’s long-standing partnership with the Smithsonian and access to Washington, DC’s archival collections and influential policy-making institutions encourage intellectual creativity, effective communication and vigorous scholarship.

The department is seeking candidates with a strong background in anthropology or related disciplines. Contact Professor Richard Grinker or visit the website for more information. Applications will be accepted in the Fall of 2011.

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