How To Be An Anthropologist

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Adventurer Scientist

It is safe to say, that Anthropology as an occupation and endeavor, gets a pretty bad rap nowadays.

Called a useless college degree by many, including writers in Publications such as Yahoo-education, who ranked it thirteenth in their top twenty useless degrees.

Former Florida Governor Rick Scott even attempted to rid colleges of the major saying, “How many more jobs do you think there is for anthropology in this state? Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who cant get jobs?”

While it is true that engineering majors certainly more often than not, earn a much higher salary than Anthro majors, Anthropology certainly didnt stop the likes of Sebastian Junger or Michael Crichton from reaching success.

In truth its not just the career opportunities that propel many to throw flack at Anthropology, its the many professionals in the field that attract broad scorn and rightfully so.

With many Anthropology Professors professing far left, lunatic views like the non-existence of gender, a support for de-funding the police and an inherit hatred of Western Civilization, it is understandable why the field’s reputation has suffered.

Just this year, an Anthropology Professor at University of Pittsburgh claimed there was no differences between male and female human skeletons.

Unfortunately this lunatic still has a job and is being paid to teach college students on Gender studies and “Black Feminism.”

The reality is that pop culture figures such as Indiana Jones can no longer protect the public image of the field.

Instead we often have blue-haired professors, spouting all kinds of fucking nonsense to college students who give FoxNews everything they want and more.

Real and authentic Anthropology is not political and doesnt deny basic scientific truths like gender, real anthropology is the study of human behavior over time. It is the examination of culture, language, history and social structure.

In essence, there are four sub-fields of Anthropology:

1.) Archaeology- examines historic materials, as well as architectural and human remains.

2.) Bioanthropology- Examines human and non-human primate evolution

3.) Linguistic Anthropology- studies how language influences culture and social life

4.) Cultural Anthropology- studies cultures, history and social patterns across human populations.

Cliff Dwellings built in the 1100’s by The Puebloans in Southwest Colorado

As a whole, Anthropologists aim to put themselves outside their comfort zone and into different worlds and time periods.

For example, Anthropologists of old would live with The Planes Indians, learn how they hunt, how they eat, their history and what they believe spiritually.

They would travel to the ruins of the ancient city of Uruk in Mesopotamia and conduct excavations while learning all they could about a people and culture who are long gone.

Engaging in this kind of endeavor for the Anthropologist, is called Fieldwork but its not just professionals who can successfully benefit from Fieldwork.

There is a priceless value in putting one’s self in a radically foreign environment and in the place of a person whose culture of origin, is far different than your own.

Conducting Fieldwork

Photograph from my own fieldwork expedition in Yunnan. China

“Fieldwork” is research that takes place away from the laboratory, office, or classroom. The fieldwork site can be a burial ground for ancient Mayan Indians, a fossil site looking for human ancestors in East Africa, or a village where hunter-gatherer peoples live in the dense forests of Central America. Fieldwork can also be done where a collection of fossils or artifacts are held, such as at a major museum like the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Museums are important because they help keep fossils and artifacts safe.

Before Fieldwork became the required right of passage for serious Anthropologists, scientists would study cultures, religions and civilizations from the comfort of University Libraries.

It was a laughable endeavor, as scientists would claim sufficient knowledge over a certain part of the world or even specific period in time without actually setting foot directly within the precipices of the subject of study.

In terms of Cultural Anthropology, one of the basic theories is called cultural relativism. This is the understanding that differences in behavior between different populations of humans is the result of variations in culture.

The term was coined by the Father of American Anthropology Frank Boaz, and has since been strengthened by Anthropologists conducting extensive fieldwork across continents.

The hallmark method of ethnographic fieldwork in Anthropology is known as participant-observation. This type of data-gathering is when the anthropologist records their experiences and observations while taking part in activities alongside local participants or informants in the field site.

An example of this, could be as simple as attending St. Patricks Day in Dublin, Ireland with a local Irish family, along with attending Mass and participating in the local festivities, while recording one’s interactions and observations.

Serious anthropologists also engage in informal conversations, more formal interviews, surveys, or questionnaires, and create photos, sound or video recordings, as well as conduct historical or archival research into correspondence, public records, or reports, depending on their research area. Some anthropologists use quantitative methods when analyzing their research, such as producing statistics based on their findings.

The knowledge we have of many indigenous and non-indigenous societies around the globe, is owed to early Anthropologists who cut their teeth through immersing themselves in this process.

Contemporary Anthropologists such as Bill Porter who travelled extensively through China and studied the lives of Hermits, or Paul Stoller, who documented the spiritual rituals in West African Tribes, have contributed enormously to our understanding of cultures on the fringe of existence.

But again, one doesnt have to be a professional Anthropologist to benefit from engaging in Fieldwork.

If one truly desires to know the truth behind cultures, religions or communities that are foreign to one’s own personal background, engaging with it directly can break through the walls of speculation and misunderstanding.

Careers For Anthropologists

Its not just Universities where Anthropologists can use their skills to be successful, those who are trained in Anthropological theory and the basics of fieldwork can be successful in a variety of vocations.

1.) Law Enforcement– Police officers and detectives are involved directly and interpersonally in the communities in which they serve. In big cities, Law Enforcement often has to interact with highly diverse populations and ethnic groups.

Thus, having knowledge of diverse cultures and human nature can go a long way in being a competent police officer.

Understanding Cultural Relativism can help officers in developing mutual understanding and empathy.

2.) Healthcare– Healthcare professionals like Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics also often interact with highly diverse populations. Understanding human nature and a patients cultural background can go a long way in producing an effective treatment plan or in acute life or death situations.

3.) Social Work– The skills of an Anthropologist are a near perfect fit for those working in Social Work. Understanding how culture, language and social norms impact human behavior can be tremendously helpful when working with the homeless, drug/alcohol addicts and domestic abuse victims.

4.) Business/Financial Services– One would think that in the high flying wallstreet world, being a math wiz or finance bro is the only ticket to success. NOT TRUE. Those with skills in Anthropology can have a one up on their peers in the realms of relationship building, socialization and marketing.

Competent Anthropologist’s have great people skills and the ability to relate with those from multiple backgrounds. This can go a long way in identifying prospects, working with existing clients and understanding how to market to a particular group.

Famous Anthropologists

1.) Sebastian Junger is the author of multiple bestselling books, including The Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont, Tribe and Freedom. He graduated with a degree in Cultural Anthropology from Weselyn University in 1984. He also produced the film Restrepo, where he joined a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley and documented their perilous deployment

His anthropology background is extremely present in his books and specifically in “Tribe,” he examines the social and psychological aspects of veterans in the midst of an increasingly isolated western society. Junger examines the primal needs of humans such as community and belonging, components that were often integral in hunter-gatherer societies.

2.) Michael Crichton was one of the greatest writers of all time. He wrote more books and more bestsellers than most successful writers could write in two life times.

His most well known works include Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Twister and Westworld. He graduated with a degree in Anthropology at Harvard in 1964.

He recounts his own fieldwork expeditions in remote locations in his memoir, “Travels.”

3.) Paul Stoller is an Anthropologist at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who is known for his work among the Songhay Tribe in West Africa.

Stoller conducted fieldwork among The Songhay Tribe in The Republic of Niger for years and in the process, learned extensively about their religious practices.

Stoller has also worked with West African Immigrants in New York City. His captivating books and memoirs of his adventures in Africa, invite readers to a culture and way of life that most will never have the courage to explore.

A review of his book, Stranger in The Village of The Sick, can be read here

Paul Stoller’s Memoir, “Stranger in The Village of The Sick”

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