Free «Applied Anthropology» Essay Sample


Applied anthropology is one of the anthropological methods which uses theories and anthropological findings to solve human problems. This field of study uses culture of humankind, its history, diversity and social processes to provide the required analysis. The Department of Anthropology offers two degrees to its students; they are the Master of Applied Anthropology and the Doctor of Philosophy. Nevertheless, both degrees reflect the department’s interest and methods of work. As a rule, applied anthropologists usually work for nonacademic customers; among them are tribal and ethnic associations, advocacy groups, governments, development agencies, educational agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses. An applied anthropologist should not start his/her personal activist work which bases on his/her personal interest.

The anthropologist’s work should be the result of the social requirement. In other words, when the society needs to receive the study in a particular field, it requires an anthropologist.  The methods that applied anthropologists use are not limited only by observation, ethnography, interviews, snowballing or focus groups; these scientists also use archival research, surveying, textual analysis and other empirical approaches. Hence, the work of an applied anthropologist is studies which are oriented on social problems and are initiated by the society itself.  These scientists work to make the differences between the cultural and social group less tangible and decrease possible conflict which arises in the result of misunderstanding the cultural diversity. Thus, the contribution made by applied anthropology is to make people perceive differences as something new but not hostile.

The Applied Anthropology Field

Applied anthropologists use approaches and methods to solve real problems which exist in the world. Their work can be connected with biology, language, behavior, cultural specifics and other social issues. The goal of anthropologists is to help people to understand others who are different from them (Schlegel, 2010). They use such tools as observation, collecting data, making research and provide the analysis of different aspects of human life from holistic perspective.  The entire field of work can be divided into 4 subfields; they are linguistics, biology, ethnology and archeology. Applied anthropologists work for government institutions, help businesses to provide the analysis of a particular tendency in the society, work in the economic and political fields as well as in communication sphere and medicine. The researchers usually work on such issues as extinction of people and their cultural identity throughout the history. The received information is used by anthropologists to show people what affects the world and people and what contribution modern technologies have on this process.

Applied anthropologists use three approaches when they study issues related to the human race (Lewis, 2001). The first approach is holistic; it predetermines the usage of cultural environment and biological aspect to provide the explanation of the studied culture or target people. The second approach is the comparative analysis which consists of two opposite directions. A researcher should choose between studying differences between two or more targeted groups or to analyzing the internal and external specifics within one cultural group. The third approach is the evolution one which predetermines that humans constantly change and adapt to new conditions of life. According to this fact, the research of the targeted group should be provided taking into consideration the evolutionary mechanisms which are introduced with the evolution of cultural, lingual and biological aspects.

Applied Anthropology Benefits

The understanding of other people’s values, cultural specifics and differences is necessary to establish adequate communication with others and develop a good background for positive relations. Applied anthropology demonstrates what one may find in common in two diverse groups. One may probably oppose this science to xenophobia. However, these two phenomena are absolutely opposite. Xenophobia means that one cultural group does not recognize any features of other cultural groups and all attempts to find a compromise are viewed as hostile actions towards the wellbeing of this cultural group. Applied anthropology works in a different way; it compares various cultural groups in order to find something that can be viewed as positive in both of them (Schultz & Lavenda, 2009). For instance, these may be some values, customs or traditions which both cultural groups perceive equally. Hence, applied anthropology is an open-minded field of science which shows the unknown and strange as differences in cultures, but not as something that should be viewed hostile.

Applied anthropologists use their researchers in order to help people understand their own culture and explain why they view common features of other cultures differently. Anthropologists often search for an answer for such complex questions as the development of prostitution, racism and drugs in the society. They state that a culture can be understood if it is analyzed from different perspectives. For instance, if one wants to understand the American culture, he/she should pay special attention to its subcultures. Many people view them as something wrong because they reflect only values of a small group of people (Malinowski, 1961). Nevertheless, every subculture has its own contribution and impact on the development of the society. Thus, studying subcultures is as important as studying people’s history or traditions. Hence, when one talks about the benefits of applied anthropology, it is necessary to mention that the biggest contribution of applied anthropology is an attempt to make people perceive each other more tolerant and trying to see more things that are in common instead those ones which are different.

Applied Anthropology Disadvantages

Applied anthropology is often viewed as a positive phenomenon which brings benefits to the world explaining the differences in cultures and finding compromises in order to limit the xenophobia influence. Nevertheless, there might also be some negative effects which this science might bring. One of such disadvantages is the anthropologist’s involvement in the topic. In other words, the issue of how deeply a researcher may study the topic in order to present the data. Applied anthropologists should learn to study an issue without involving his/her own attitude or personal cultural specifics. In fact, he/she should obey the neutral position and analyze the particular aspect from the neutral point of view. Unfortunately, it is a difficult task, and some even experienced anthropologists cannot always provide an independent research. Thus, the first disadvantage of applied anthropology is a research which is influenced by the scientist’s involvement.

Another disadvantage is the research which is made in order to satisfy the client’s demand. An applied anthropologist does not work as a social activist; all the researches which he/she does are ordered by some government or non-government institution. According to this fact, this institution has its own interest in the results of the research. An anthropologist has to satisfy the client’s need, but he/she should also provide the adequate data which will demonstrate real facts (Henry, Nuñez-Janes, Jordan & Re Cruz, 2013).  A good example of such disadvantage is the Japanese concentration camps during the World War II. The research provided by applied anthropologists was oriented on the government’s interest rather than on the revealing the true nature of the researched issue. As a result, many Japanese Americans lost their homes and property because of the wrong advices of the scientists concerning the way the country should protect itself from Japanese spies. American government and society united against the Japanese who lived on the territory of the United States during the World War II. The oppression experienced by Japanese Americans was the result of the wrong anthropologist’s data that did not reflect the true nature of the studied issue. As one can see, the mistake made by an applied anthropologist may turn into a serious problem for people who are the topic of such research.


The world has become more globalized today, and the diversity of cultures causes many issues which can be viewed both from a positive and negative perspective. Applied anthropology studies differences in the cultural and social development of different nations in order to understand human needs better. Human society is viewed by anthropologists as an individual unit which requires answers for global questions and as many individuals which require answering the question which refers solely to a particular cultural group.

Despite the benefits that the work of the applied anthropologist brings to the world, there is also the risk of harm that they may bring to the particular social or cultural group. The scientists are hired by a governmental or non-governmental client. Thus, they have to do the work that will satisfy the customer’s expectation. However, it means that sometimes an anthropologist faces a dilemma where he/she has to choose between the correct data and the desired data that will satisfy his/her client. The wrong choice may lead to dramatic consequences for the targeted group.

Thus, the major goal of applied anthropologists is to provide a trustworthy research about a targeted topic. Their goal is to help people understand each other better in order to ruin the barriers which lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Hence, the object of applied anthropologists should be oriented first on the global wellbeing and after that on the client’s satisfaction.

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