A subject that keeps coming up in my classes at UNT is that of “practicing anthropologists (practitioners)” and “applied anthropologists”. The distinction, according to some, is that “practitioners” work solely in the private sector and “applied anthropologists” work in both academia and the private sector. We read a few articles this semester in my theory course about what both terms mean to people, where and why the divide came about, and the lack of dialogue between the two. I find this topic to be very interesting. I think its in part due to the fact that I want to be a “practitioner” but I see the importance of keeping in touch with “applied” anthropologists- mostly due to my interest in theory and “being in the loop”.

A few months ago my quantitative methods professor tasked us with finding a social/educational program on the web and developing a program evaluation plan for it. I chose Making Business Management a Profession, from an article I read in Fast Company. The gist of the article is: Devi Vallabhanneni, a Harvard MBA graduate, believes that business managers should be held to the same standards as professionals. By this, Vallabhanneni means that business managers should be certified through a series of tests that evaluate a person’s knowledge of the skills needed to practice as a person of that profession; e.g., the bar for lawyers, etc.

From this article I got the idea of a “certification for anthropological research”. I think it’s kind of a neat idea– and while I haven’t done a lot of research into it, I think it’s something I might look into a bit further. I’ve made a vow to myself to try to work on establishing a dialogue between “practitioners” and “applied anthros”.

Here’s a snip from my paper (I’ve uploaded the full paper- it’s about program evaluation methods):
“Anthropological methods are becoming more popular in the private sector, and currently there is not a way of determining who has the qualified skills to utilize such methods other than a degree in anthropology. Employers can seek to exclusively hire trained (people with degrees) to conduct anthropological fieldwork, however exceptions may be made for people that have enough experience with such methodologies. In the world of practitioners what qualifies someone as an “anthropologist” and will unqualified people claiming to be anthropologists hurt the reputation of the discipline?
It has been suggested (see Goldschmidt, Baba, Nader *) that there is a lack of communication between practitioners of anthropology, those working exclusively in the private sector, and applied/academic anthropologists. If such a divide does exist and conversations of theory and current trends are not taking place between academia and the private sector, how will a qualified practitioner that has graduated keep up-to-date with the discipline? If a certification program for “practicing anthropologists” were to be created, people qualified to conduct anthropological fieldwork would hold a certification. Announcements could be made to businesses seeking to hire anthropologists that such a certification is available and they could be encouraged to hire only certified researchers.
Additionally, certified researchers could be held to the code of ethics established by the association (perhaps the NAPA could oversee the certification, in which case the NAPA code of ethics could be used). In order to keep practitioners in communication with non-practicing anthropologists, certified practitioners would be encouraged to publish research in a peer-reviewed journal (or perhaps a shorter publication to make the effort more realistic) and to take part in continuing education programs where current theories and musings would be emphasized. In theory, the certification and continuing education would help to lessen the gap between the academy and practitioners, encourage practitioners to conduct ethical research and lessen the chance of non-qualified people conducting anthropological research incorrectly and tarnishing the reputation of the discipline.”

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*Baba, Marietta L.
1994 The Fifth Subdiscipline: Anthropological Practice and the Future of
Anthropology. Human Organization 53(2):174-186.
Goldschmidt, Walter
2001 Notes Toward a Theory of Applied Anthropology.
Human Organization 60(4):423-429.
Nader, Laura
2002 Missing Links: A Commentary on Ward H. Goodenough’s Moving Article “Anthropology in the 20th Century and Beyond”. American Anthropologist 104(2):441-449.