ANT369 –Anthropology in Action
January 13, 2013
Overview of what anthropology in action is:
– how anthropology has been very influential in our culture
• start thinking about essays early on in the course
Looking at 12 Areas:
– Why Medical? MedicalAnthropology journals held more weight, if you published work in a
medical anthropology journal your work was more likely to be cited within and outside of
– Why would anthropology be of interest to medicine? Imbalance or variation in terms of diseases
that inflict human populations. Example: disease called, kuru. Kuru is a neurological disorder
caused by an infectious disease, passed on from human to human, if not treated within days you
will die, its fatal. Why kuru is interesting because a population called the, Fore', in Papa New
Guinea, had it more than any population in the world. What was interesting about the
distribution of Kuru was the gender imbalance, females and children were more likely to
become infected. Why? That was the unanswered question. Kuru was what they called a 'slow
virus', no longer called this now called 'prions' – highly infectious. Why the gender and age
distinction? Doctors couldn't figure that out, that's why the anthropologists came in. They
witnessed a ritual called endow-canabilism, when someone died as a sign of respect you ate a
small piece of them. Particular pattern, the body was prepared by the fire by the female
relatives, women were running the villages and the hearth, and the first thing they would eat
was the brain. So women & the young were eating the brain and that's where the kuru was
concentrated. Really have to look at culture to understand disease and disease patterns.
– Overlap in the categories in the readings but some of these categories cross-cut.
– What is identity politics? Its a term that emerges out of the politics of left and right. The labour
movement, the working class, the politics of business industry, the states, the high paid
government workers and so forth. The major axes of politics for a long time was this left/right,
the struggle for worker's rights. What happens in the 20 century, you start getting these new
identifications, people from both sides, became more common for people to assert other things
like racial identity, gender identity, sexual identity. Taking politics that cross-cut left and right.
Gay/Lesbian politics, for example, cross-cuts left/right. Race, cross-cuts left/right. Ethnicity,
– One of the reasons identity became really important had to do with the post-war development.
The United Nations puts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a result of the
Holocaust. That's why it was drafted. So the idea that you have rights comes from there, first
time we have a global organization saying these are the basic human rights among the nations.
That logic of protecting human rights is extendable. If we're going to protect Jews, Ethnic
minorities, then we have to protect minorities of all kinds.
– Side note (random?): Walter Williams was anAmericanAnthropologist who wrote many books
on sexuality, native sexuality. Now on FBIs most wanted list for being a paedophile.
– Ableism a big identity category now. People who are deaf, people who are physically “disabled” etc.
– Body art & cosmetic surgery, ways of playing or writing your identity. There's an ethnography
of cosmetic surgery in Brazil.
– Right from the early part of the century anthropology was very much involved in the civil rights
movement in the USA. France Boas, for example, was a very influential force in combating
racial thinking. Boas really emphasized cultural conditioning, it's not your race, it's cultural
conditioning as the overriding factor in terms of your behaviour. His idea was every culture is
unique and you loss that when you simply compare them.
– Anthropologists were very much apart of the anti-apartheid movement.
– Also very influential in the 'counter-culture' (culture against the established status-quos, hippies
for example) movement of the 1960s.Appearance and consumption habits are very important
especially in urban environments. In the 1960's anthropologists were hired at a fairly high rate.
Counter-culture consisted of all the lifestyles that were contrary to what was perceived as the
'norm'. What happens with counter-culture? Their kind of like social movements, essentially
unorganized, social movements are spontaneous, people are angry about something and they
begin to see a commonality. Often an act of violence starts social movements (Stone Wall Riots
& the Gay Movement). Vietnam war was another thing making people angry – military service
was mandatory. Huge anti-war movement.
– What happens with social movements? The development of social-movement organizations.
Organizations become sort of official spokes people for the movement. They often become
hierarchical, contrary to what they were opposing in the first place!
– Anthropology was also very influential in the knowledge of mind-expanding narcotics in the
1960s.Anywhere who did field work in SouthAmerica or NorthAmerica encountered drugs.
Carlos Castenada, wrote about his experience becoming an apprentice to Yaqi. Had to take
copious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs. He became the center of a cult, had followers.
– Has to do with anthropologists involvement in developing poor countries. Involved in specific
types of projects. Projects can be government sponsored or NGO sponsored. Going into places
like Haiti and coming up with interesting ideas as to how to alleviate poverty.
– Whole process of modernization. Some people are very romantic about 'traditional' culture or
tribal society. But when talk about 'modernity'