Presidential - Oral Presentation Session
Anthropology is challenged to demonstrate its value in illuminating the serious problems facing government, the public sector agencies, businesses, economic institutions – everyone who must navigate culture effectively. My own public health clients come seeking “what we do” even when they can’t articulate what that is. Their problem is that they are getting signals from program staff that are hard to reconcile with the desired outcome of a program. They need applied culture theory, demystified to show how communities live it. They need expert ethnography with results grounded in data to support evidence-based decisions about what to fund and what results to expect. Turning ethnographic findings into evidence requires us to deliver the theory that underlie its methods. To do this effectively practicing anthropologists must be connected to the larger community of anthropology on the one hand and the broader communities in which practice occurs on the other. Yet practitioners continue to leave AAA and even anthropology. They use anthropology every day in their jobs but they themselves may no longer identify as anthropologists. Anthropology gets no credit for the good work they do. Collaborative projects bringing together academics and practitioners will lead to a higher public profile for the discipline, support linkages with organizations and communities, and strengthen the discipline. The kind of projects presented in this session can reinforce the value of an anthropological perspective beyond the academy and keep talented people in anthropology as well as in the environments where the 21st century is being built.