fact should not detract from the intellectual contribution and the genuine
commitment to social amelioration that characterized many early pioneers and
later practitioners of the discipline. Anthropologists have often acted as 'buffers'
between cultures, aiding to soften the effects of western domination while
functioning as reformers and intermediaries. They have also positioned
themselves as 'disinterested' observers, intent on recording the life ways of
people before they became extinct. Curiosity about other lifeways; interest in
survivals2 and salvaging3 are factors that promoted interest in other cultures.
In Canada, anthropology originated within academic departments, museums
and with applied work among aboriginal communities.
Many anthropologists in all parts of the world today engage in grass-roots work in
collaboration with local communities, influence government policy and function as
advocates for the human rights of marginal groups such as women and children,
indigenous communities and ethnic groups. Anthropology's shift towards the
political and intellectual center stage came about through its sensitive
appreciation of cultural differences or of the politics of such differences. At the
same time, anthropologists, particularly feminist anthropologists (who deal
with gender issues) have been active in correcting male biases based on male
perspectives (androcentrism) in early anthropological studies (for an example of
this read the Original Study on Trobriand Women in Ch. 2 of your text ). Feminist
anthropologists also try to balance the appreciation of cultural differences with
respect to gender roles with the human rights of women, since cultural values
may give more importance to males than to females.
More than any other social science, anthropology's cross-cultural and holistic
perspective may provide a better understanding of the ethnic conflicts and other
problems that pervade the societies of the third and first worlds today. Their work
promotes understanding and appreciation of different life ways and behaviors and
draws attention to global changes and their local impacts. Anthropology is the
“most human of the sciences” with its emphasis on qualitative research and
commitment to understanding, experiencing and knowing others‟ values,
literature, arts, language etc.
If you want to learn more about anthropology, go to the American
Anthropological Association (AAA) website:
Anthropology contributes to other social sciences as well as to history, biology
and geology. The expertise of anthropologists is (are) used to address practical
concerns in the public realm. Applied anthropology uses its holistic knowledge
of societies to create policy and resolve problems related to urban, corporate,
military, medical, health, and indigenous and gender issues. Forensic
anthropologists are employed as experts who identify “human skeletal remains
for legal purposes” (Haviland et al, 2013, p.10). A good example of this is their
involvement in the Pickton farm murders in Canada.
Read the section in Haviland on “Anthropology and the Humanities” and
“Anthropology‟s Contributions to Other Disciplines” for an understanding of the
importance of anthropology for other social sciences.