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25 October 2009

How can (Should?) Anthropologists Try to Help the People We Work With?

This is the question that I struggle with perennially, and I'm confident that I'll never find a satisfactory answer. I think it's important to try, but I'm afraid I'll have to live with some degree of ethical ambiguity.
Here I am hoping to collect some different answers to the question in order to better understand how Anthropologists view themselves and perhaps find some ideas that resonate with my own. Please contribute whatever thoughts you might have - even if you're not an anthropologist (the question actually applies more broadly to all types of activism/advocacy).
Thanks in advance!

5 comments:

Stacie Gilmore said...

Wow, big question... should the answer be any different than the ethics that drive our relations with any other people we meet?

Outside of context, it's hard to say exactly how certain people or groups should be helped or not helped.

I'll keep thinking about it.

Jeremy Trombley said...

Stacie, I think that's an excellent perspective. I'll have to think about what it means for me.
I think what complicates it is that we are dealing with groups of people, complex issues, and powers both within and external to the community.
I'm not sure, I'm still thinking about it too.

Josh said...

I'm not familiar with the man or his works, but I read this quote by Joseph Epstein:
"For a good writer, there is only one measure of success, and that is found in his honoring the complexity and richness of his subject while telling his story in a lucid way."
I'm not entirely sure what an anthropologist "does," but I would say that someone who is involved with the study of culture could measure his success similarly.

Anonymous said...
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Janet Trombley said...

So how do you know when to stop the "help'? When does help for others become prolification of wealth/resources for the helping group? How do you police your actions and know when to stop "helping"? There have been many instances in the world where certain "groups" have "become involved" to help a situation. In all instances it has been for the betterment of that "group" and not the peoples they are trying to help. The world and all of it's life needs to make it's own statement otherwise we all become THE SAME. Diversity keeps US ALL going.

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