Applications of anthropology seminar 3
©Sarah Pink, s.pink(at)lboro.ac.uk
Seminar 3 was a one-day event attended by approximately 20 participants on 25th September 2003. Participants included representatives of the ASA, RAI, C-SAP, postgraduate students, and employed applied anthropologists (both freelance and employed by organisations) and academia. Its focus was on 'Future Visions'. Its objectives were to explore how academic departments and the ASA might (a) provide training and skills for postgraduates and professional anthropologists working outside academia, (b) develop and maintain formal networks and contacts between academic and applied anthropology. Participants worked with reports on the previous meetings and four presentations, followed by a group discussion to develop recommendations.
The day started with presentations from Riall Nolan (Institute for Global Studies and Affairs University of Cincinnati) Bringing Practice In: A Discussion of Ways to Improve Anthropological Training for Applied and Practice-Oriented Students; Bob Simpson, Simon Coleman and J Starkey (University of Durham) What do people take from three years studying anthropology? Preliminary reflections on a survey of anthropology graduates; Angels Trias i Valls (Lampeter University) Applied students: research practice and work placement for anthropology students - exploring local relations; and Richard Vokes (University of Oxford) Against Dichotomies: A critique of applied 'skills' training for postgraduate students.
Each speaker spoke of their experiences in different contexts and from different perspectives of teaching and learning applied anthropology, and their papers provoked very interesting discussions. Riall Nolan reflected on his experience of teaching applied anthropology in the United States, where there are around 30 Masters Degrees on offer in Applied Anthropology. He emphasised the importance of not only teaching students skills but of preparing them for the job-market and the work-place.
His presentation and handouts are now available from this site - click below for:
the presentation outline; (Word file)
the PowerPoint presentation;
the faculty handouts; (Word file)
the student handouts (Word file)
Bob Simpson reported on a project that followed up the jobs that had been taken by anthropology graduates from an undergraduate Human sciences programme at Durham that includes training in applied anthropology. Angels Trias i Valls reported on the first stages of applied anthropology at Lampeter University where students engage with applied work and the methods and skills implicated by this throughout their degree programmes. Both these presentations gave us some insights into employment destinations for students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels with training in applied anthropology. Finally Richard Vokes reported on a research project undertaken with postgraduate students in anthropology, sociology and politics at the university of Oxford to assess their feelings about ESRC postgraduate methods training programmes. His presentation led seminar participants to conclude that if applied methods training were to be integrated into postgraduate methods training then it might not be most appropriate to offer this before the doctoral research was undertaken, but as and when required. This might be after the PhD thesis had been submitted, but before the actual viva.
Summary of the discussions
- An anthropological training, particularly to Masters or PhD level, gives people a wide variety of attributes in demand by employers - such as flexibility, dealing with ambiguity, and understanding and adapting to different work cultures. In some cases employers will be unaware of the specific research skills that anthropologists offer - it can be up to the anthropologist themselves to demonstrate their contributions.
- The training in applied anthropology that students are given in the UK at undergraduate level might have some impact on the way they think about research projects and their applicability if they go on to do Postgraduate research
- In many cases it is question of 'managing representations', helping graduates understand the applicability of their anthropological training.
- Anthropology students need to have a wider vision of what social research is in order to be able to define social anthropology - an awareness of statistics is part of this. Such awareness can also be important when working in multi/interdisciplinary teams.
- However training in statistics often seems utterly irrelevant to postgraduate anthropology students, who may be doing doctoral research about material culture, art, etc. Therefore it is important to consider when the best point in their doctoral careers might be to offer such training. In some cases it it could be after completing the thesis and when the student is preparing to seek employment. Under this system new methodologies and skills could be learnt when they are most relevant to the student and thus she/he would be prepared to engage with them more purposefully. Students could be offered 'tasters' for different methods at the beginning of their PhD so they could make informed decisions regarding which to take up at the end.
- Add-on and 'Tick-box' skills are of little use as they will become obsolete over the years and need to be constantly up-dated so that they remain valuable to the researchers and on the jobs market.
- On-line resources could be a way of providing training and up-dating to anthropologist who are already working outside academia,
- Should we move a way from the idea of skill sets to think of anthropological training as a series of processes that one acquires experience of over time?
- The question of academic resistance to people who leave academia after gaining a PhD, and the assumption that PhD students will be pursuing an academic rather than applied career, was again highlighted as a problem for students within university departments.
- In the US 30 universities offer an MA in applied anthropology; these attract a lot of students.
- We need to look at the gendered nature of employment patterns in applied anthropology and identify different type of support needed.
In our final discussion we covered a set of different areas in which we might take forward the work of this seminar series. These are summarised below:
A 'wish-list' of the materials we would like to include on a developed Applications of Anthropology website, as part of the ASA web-site. The site would serve both as resources site offering a range of materials and announcements, and at the same time as a gateway site to other relevant sites on the web:
- A place for students to publish their experiences of work placements
- Practitioner's reports and work that is not confidential and not published elsewhere (including reports, bibliographies, bulletins etc) could be published on the site. This would serve as a series of examples of what applied anthropologists do and as a means of disseminating the large amount of research that is unpublished.
- The site could include bibliographies, filmographies and a series of other research and teaching and learning materials. A web-based case-study, based on a GAPP course, has already been developed for the ASA web-site.
- The site could advertise opportunities for work placements, internships, PhD Studentships and jobs in applied anthropology
- The site would have a series of links to relevant sites including: to employers of applied anthropologists; consultancy units and groups; courses; on-line publications and reports
- We might develop a mentoring service - questions and queries about applied anthropology and how to develop a career in this area to be sent to an imagined Dr (or Professor) Mentor
- Training workshops and career clinics might be provided for postgraduates and academics at ASA and other anthropology conferences
- Workshops and summer schools for applied anthropologists
- An on-line or face-to face masters degree in applied anthropology might be developed. But this would depend on an institution being prepared to back and develop this.
- Case-study training - working through a dilemma - works well in applied anthropology training
- Case studies could be shared on-line on the web site
- A resource of videos and ethnographic films could be made more use of for teaching applied anthropology.
- The anthropology in Action is already set up as a common interest group. We do not want to set up a similar or competing network, but to work with Anthropology in Action.
- However there is scope for a more specific network with a defined scope of members and activities to be created. An ASA network of practitioners could provide undergraduate training; postgraduate workshops; meetings for practitioners.
- The network could be represented on the ASA website.