SfAA President’s Column

August 19, 2010

Allan Burns and local police in a village in El Salvador, 2010

By Allan Burns
University of Florida

Expanding the Influence of Applied Social Science is the theme of the Seattle meetings. Why is this important? Answers to that are practical, ideological, and even personal. Practical reasons for expanding the influence of applied work results in more economic opportunities for social scientists: more contracts and grants, more students in classes, more jobs in different institutions and countries, and more recognition that what applied social scientists do is valuable. Backing up these practical concerns are the values attached to applied work: applied social scientists take the responsibility of interventions, evaluations, and policy work as positive and needed. This responsibility is welcomed. Applied social scientists are policy makers, designers of programs, and evaluators who expect that their recommendations will be constructive. Some of the decisions turn out to be wrong, some of the solutions do not actually solve much, and some of the recommendations fall flat. Engineers have always had the ideology that problems are there to be solved, and the more puzzling a problem, the more interesting the solution. Applied social scientists are likewise attracted to solving problems rather than avoiding them.

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The Gulf Coast Oil Disaster: A View from the Field

August 19, 2010

By Becky Blanchard
PhD Candidate, University of Florida

Becky Blanchard

I was conducting participant-observation in a meeting of climatologists, water managers, and estuarine resource users at the mouth of the Apalachicola River when I first heard the news that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico had exploded, killing 11 workers. In brief breaks between presentations, discussions focused on the impact the event – which we then still conceived as singular, bounded – would have on then-ongoing negotiations over the proposed federal climate bill. None of us expected that the flow of oil from the Macondo Well would continue through most of the summer, becoming the largest marine oil spill in history.

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Anthropologists and Business: Through the Looking Glass

August 19, 2010

By Robert J. Morais
Principal, Weinman Schnee Morais, Inc. http://www.wsm-inc.com

Robert Morais

For most anthropologists engaged in marketing research, ethnography is their unique selling proposition. However, by restricting their role to a single methodology, anthropologists limit opportunities for business employment. In my new book, Refocusing Focus Groups (2010), I suggest several ways that anthropological perspectives and techniques can be applied in focus groups, the most common marketing research setting. If anthropologists added this methodology to their toolkit, they would expand their business employment opportunities. My recommendation is based upon my training as a PhD-level anthropologist with nearly three decades experience in advertising and marketing research. I am currently a Principal at Weinman Schnee Morais Inc., a New York City-based marketing research firm with clients in health and wellness, household, food, beverage, industrial manufacturing, and other product categories.

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Holistic History Online: Collaborations Among Tribes, Museums and Schools

August 19, 2010

By Patricia Erikson
University of Southern Maine, Portland

Patricia Erikson

One never knows where a research interest will take you. At first, it took me to the northwesternmost point of the lower 48 states: the Makah Indian Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. As a UC-Davis doctoral student, my passion for tribal museums drew me to the Makah Reservation, particularly to work at the Makah Cultural and Research Center (http://makah.com/mcrchome.html). My passion was directed at understanding how the widespread development of tribal museums/cultural centers in North America was impacting non-Native museum exhibits and collection practices. I found that tribal museums were places of negotiation between “autoethnographic” (or self) portraits and representations framed by anthropological or natural history paradigms (Erikson et al. 2002).

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Public Archaeology Update: Investing in Archaeology as Applied Anthropology

August 19, 2010

By Barbara J. Little
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology,

University of Maryland, College Park

Barbara Little

It’s exciting to see a new building dedicated to applied anthropology. The New College of Florida, which is the state’s Honors College for the Liberal Arts, has built a new space to house the New College Public Archaeology Lab (NCPAL) on its campus in Sarasota. For several years, public archaeology at the college has been one of the innovators of archaeology as applied anthropology focused on community engagement, service learning, ethnography, oral history and partnerships as well as traditional archaeology.

As described on the lab’s web page, it is seen “As both a physical space and intellectual project curated by New College students and faculty . . . and dedicated to the ethical advancement of knowledge about past human cultures and societies in order to engage with social issues of the present.” The new space, which broke ground in March of this year, is expected to be opened sometime this fall. (http://www.ncf.edu/pal)

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Doing Anthropology as an Environmental Journalist Tales and Tips, Part 2

August 19, 2010

By Brian McKenna
University of Michigan-Dearborn

Brian McKenna

When fishing for a topic, why not muckrake your lake? That’s what I did in a cover story for Lansing’s City Pulse in 2002 where I was the weekly “Health and Environment” columnist (McKenna 2002). You can apply a device I call “The Anthropology Dozen” and write something that defamiliarizes your lake by epistemological critique (Marcus and Fischer 1986). In this article I present excerpts from the story, “Can Glory Days Return to Lake Lansing?” which shows some of how to do it. You can read the entire work at the URL below (McKenna 2002).

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Gilbert Kushner

August 19, 2010

By Maria D. Vesperi
New College of Florida

Gilbert Kushner

Gilbert Kushner, Professor Emeritus and longtime chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, passed away on May 30, 2010 following surgery for a recently discovered brain tumor. He was 76.

On his SfAA personal web page, Gil described his academic areas of expertise as “applied/practicing anthropology; culture change/persistence.” Persistence was much more than a key word in Gil’s life; it was a moral stance. Persistence informed his research, his contributions to the academy and his enduring commitment to ethics and human rights. Gil was internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in establishing applied anthropology as a graduate discipline. Less known beyond his community was how he practiced anthropology as a way of life since joining the USF faculty in 1970. Over those four decades, Gil’s deep scholarly and personal understanding of persistence in the face of suffering and loss impelled him to give generously of his time and expertise to many community initiatives, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council—where many applied anthropology interns learned their craft—and the first hospice care service in the Tampa Bay region. Among the rare long-term survivors of lung cancer, Gil continued to travel and to remain deeply engaged with his family, his community and his intellectual network at a time when others might retreat from the world. He allowed the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to videotape his experience, in the hope that his story would encourage others to persist when faced with discouraging odds. Until the end of his life, he retained active status as a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology and as a member of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists.

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