Missouri State University
Applying Anthropology

Special Kids

By Lexi Amos, graduate student in applied anthropology at Missouri State University

I am an applied anthropology graduate student and I am also the mother of an eleven-year-old son who receives special accommodations at school for a high functioning “disability”. My son works hard, but continues to struggle in school, especially with making friends. So it was a huge surprise when my son came home with the phone number of a classmate to call for a play date.

As I dialed the number, I mentally rehearsed what I would say to my son if, once again, our invitation was declined. A woman answered and I introduced myself. I told her that my son would like to have a play date with her child. She paused and nervously told me that her child wasn’t like other children. She told me that her child was different, “special”, and it might be a mistake. I explained that my child was “special” as well. She was obviously excited. She told me I was the first person who had ever asked her eleven-year-old child over for a play date. Her child had a “typically developing” twin who had lots of friends. She explained further that parents never tried to get to know or invite her other child over. I wish I had been more surprised, but this wasn’t the first special needs parent to share with me their child’s social isolation.

As we spoke I realized just how weird it was that we hadn’t met before. Our children have been in the same class for three years. We both drop off our kids at school, are members of the PTA, go to parent teacher’s conferences, etc. We both want our children to have friends, but our efforts have been almost entirely unsuccessful. I began to question how it was possible, in a small Missouri town, where both families have lived for years, that such isolation and seclusion is the undesired reality for many “disabled” people and their families.

Thankfully, our children found each other and became friends. However, the question of why their friendship took so long lingered in my mind. A personal and professional interest in legal policy influenced how I attempted to explore this question. I believe that one possible explanation for the social isolation that some “disabled” people and their families experience is a direct but unexpected consequence of special education legislation.

It is important not to discount the significance of special education legislation. Prior to the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) in 1975, many states had laws barring deaf, blind, learning disabled (previously “mentally retarded”), and emotionally disturbed children from attending public schools. Many of these children were institutionalized or segregated into handicapped schools where little education took place. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created in 1990 out of ERA. The primary goal of both pieces of legislation was to provide “a free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) for children with disabilities. EHA and IDEA as well as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 1974) restrict disseminating information on any individual to a non-authorized third party. These restrictions were implemented to provide confidentiality to persons with “disabilities”.

There is a very real need to protect people’s privacy and confidential information, especially in marginalized populations. However, I have come to believe an unintended consequence of these policies has been the creation of social barriers for the people they “protect”. Communication between parents of special needs children is prevented by IDEA legislation and many “disabled” people are not capable of organizing activities by themselves. The legislative approach toward education as solely academic continues to leave “disabled” people socially marginalized.

Families are stranded, waiting for communication, acceptance, and “normalcy” outside of school. For all the benefits of special education legislation, it does a great disservice to the individuals it serves outside of the school. Many of us find online the support and information we are missing in real life, but I ask you this: How can we better achieve community and acceptance for ourselves, our children, and someone searching for a friend in real life?

I believe it is necessary to find ways that special education legislation can be amended to assist in creating a full life for the people and families it protects, and it is the field of applied anthropology that is uniquely suited for this task.

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Benefits of Cultural Resource Management in Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

By Deseray Helton, graduate student at Missouri State University

This past winter break I attended the archaeological fieldschool in Bluefields Jamaica hosted by Dr. Scott Worman and Dr. Bill Wedenoja. This fieldschool was part of the Bluefields Archaeology Project (BAP), a long-term community-supported investigation of a multi-component site located on Bluefields Bay. A large part of the project depended upon the great relationships formed between MSU and the Bluefields community. This blog strives to showcase how archaeology, in particular cultural resource management, can help the community of Bluefields continue to prosper.

Like many undertakings in life, cultural resource management can have retroactive effects on the area in which they are a part of. Many times these effects are positive. For the community of Bluefields, cultural resources can have many benefits, including economic and educational. In particular, the community already has a sustainable tourism industry, of which cultural resources could help to grow. What better for the environment than using what you already have at hand to bring people into the community to share in their heritage?

A view of Bluefields Bay
A view of Bluefields Bay
Front view of now derelict Bluefields Bay Tavern.  Fun Fact: the building's initial use was as a police station.
Front view of now derelict Bluefields Bay Tavern. Fun Fact: the building’s initial use was as a police station.

First, there are a number of economic benefits to incorporating cultural heritage. A museum or a restored tavern would provide a large number of jobs for the community. Money could be gained from opening a café or restaurant in the museum. The individuals who operate these facilities could charge an entrance fee. There are two building in particular that could be used for the museum/café, the tavern and the other half of the post office. From these central locations workers from the community could create tours of the great houses nearby. Different types of adventurers would love to hike up to Shafton Estate to see the breath-taking views.

Sustainable tourism would build on this concept. Townspeople along with archaeologists could create an interactive section of the blacksmith site where people can stop in and see how archaeology is conducted. The entire route through the town could be marked with cultural heritage markers. The route could be turned into a driving tour of sorts. This would bring more business to vendors along the streets like Jah Cahlo and Gerry, two amazing wood carvers who sell their wares in Bluefields. People coming to the Bluefield’s Peoples Community Association could also go on other sustainable tours offered Raj Tours, owned and operated by Wolde Kristos.

Jah Calo, a local artist, along with myself and a group of fellow students.
Jah Calo, a local artist, along with myself and a group of fellow students.
Bluefields Greathouse, a short walk from the archaeological site.
Bluefields Greathouse, a short walk from the archaeological site.

Education is another area that can benefit from cultural resources management. The people who obtain jobs in the museum, in the café or as tour guides will need to be trained. They will gain more knowledge of their heritage and be able to spread this knowledge into the community. To reach a larger audience, a traveling trunk of artifacts collected could be created and taken to schools in Bluefield’s and surrounding communities. I have also seen a generic archaeology CD given out at the Society for American Archaeology. A CD like this could be adapted for the Bluefield’s site into a PowerPoint or small booklet to give to students, too.

I have seen both sides of tourism in Jamaica and am a firm believer that eco-tourism is the way to go. The Bluefield’s community, I feel, should remain a quiet fishing village. Keeping tourism focused on cultural heritage and sustainability will help prevent big business from coming in and altering the community’s way of life. Cultural resources are a perfect addition to the sustainable tours that are already under way in the community.

 

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So You Dig Up Dinosaur Bones, Right?

So You Dig Up Dinosaur Bones, Right? The Jamaican Field School and Public Archaeology

by Laura Bruns, graduate student in Applied Anthropology, Missouri State University

This past winter (December 2014-January 2015), I participated in the archaeological field school in Bluefields, Jamaica. I had many valuable lessons throughout this field school including: how to excavate in a North American context, shovel testing, and dealing with the public while conducting each of the previous methods. The reactions that people have when you explain that you are or have been working on an archaeological excavation are quite diverse but almost never on the mark.

This has been true for the Jamaican field school that I have recently participated in over the winter break. Over the course of the field school, we had the opportunity to talk with several locals who stopped by the site. It was great to see so many people interested in what we were looking for and a general interest in their history.   However, the conversations always started with a similar question: Are you looking for gold? After the initial “unfortunately, no” and a good laugh, we were then able to have a conversation not only on what was being done at the site but also on what the local lore was as well.

The most frustrating reaction came from a retired scientist. The entire shovel testing trip that I participated in was an exercise in public archaeology due to the fact. At the end of the day, he was frustrated that we had not found any artifacts that supported his working hypothesis for the site. Throughout the discussion, the fact that we only performed five shovel tests for the site had to be reiterated. We also had to remind him that just because we had not found any evidence for a Spanish occupation at this time, it did not mean we would not find some in the future. It just meant that we could not support his hypothesis right now.

While my family and close friends were very aware of the work that I was doing while I was in Jamaica, my coworkers seemed to have the idea that I was on vacation. The questions that I had to answer regarding my trip included whether or not I learned Swahili, the amount of fruity drinks that I consumed, and if I brought home banana rum. The one time I was asked about the dig itself, I was asked the question that all archaeologists loathe – did you find any dinosaur bones?

Overall, I had a great experience with the field school in Bluefields. I learned many things while I was there and I gained more archaeological field experience. The most memorable part of my experience, however, has to be the interaction with the public while I was there. I learned so much about the local history and culture just by listening to the locals talk about the history of the site.

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La Belle of the 2014 SAA Annual Meeting

My experience at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in Austin, Texas was very informative and enjoyable, but the most fascinating aspect was a tour and presentation of the La Belle shipwreck and its artifacts.  I was able to meet the archaeologist who was in charge of the excavation, Dr. Jim Bruseth, who gave us a presentation on his work at the La Belle site.  We were also allowed to see and handle some of the artifacts (while wearing gloves) and were shown a recently produced film that will later be part of the museum tour.

Viewing this film was a unique experience for me because it was “4D”, meaning that three screens were showing different angles of the story simultaneously, and there were special effects such as vibrating seats, wind machines, flickering lights (to simulate lightning) and smoke billowing from the stage.  All of this combined to make for a very memorable experience and was the highlight of my trip to the SAA conference.  It was also an inspiring example of good public archaeology, because presenting the archaeology in an engaging and entertaining way helps to inform visitors and helps them to retain the information.

In 1681 La Salle commanded an expedition that explored the Mississippi River from New France, believing he would find a path to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, La Salle found a route to the Gulf of Mexico. Although Hernando de Soto had explored and claimed this area for Spain 140 years earlier, La Salle claimed the Mississippi River valley for the French king, Louis XIV, and named the territory Louisiana in his honor. La Salle proposed to his king that France establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, which would provide a base for attacking the Spanish at Nueva Vizcaya and gaining control of its lucrative silver mines. Since Spain had declared war on France in 1683, Louis agreed to back La Salle and gave him the La Belle to use as his flagship.

La Belle was one of four ships used by Robert de La Salle in 1685 to explore the Gulf of Mexico and start a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. He miscalculated his position, ending up on the coast of Texas but convinced that the Mississippi River was nearby. The ship was wrecked in present-day Matagorda Bay the following year, one of a chain of events that doomed La Salle’s colony to failure.  The colonists had transferred most of their supplies onto the ship in order to protect them from raids by natives, but a storm soon sank the ship, leaving the colonists without most of their food and equipment. After three centuries underwater, it was discovered by a team of state archaeologists in 1995 and was regarded as a very important find and a major excavation was launched by the state of Texas that recovered not only the ship, but also over a million artifacts.

When the team of state archaeologists began diving on the wreckage, they discovered that the dark waters of the Bay severely limited visibility for the divers, and the decision was made to construct a cofferdam around the wreck site. They built a double-walled structure, around the entire wreck and then proceeded to excavate the site as if it were on land.  An interesting point that Dr. Bruseth made was that they had to teach the underwater archaeologists how to dig in squares like those of us who work on land do.

The ship was still fully loaded with cargo (the La Belle had contained all of the salvaged supplies from La Salle’s wrecked store-ship the L’Amiable) giving us insight into what colonists of the era thought was important to bring to the new world when founding a colony. There were many weapons on board including three bronze cannons, one iron swivel gun, several boxes of muskets, many casks of lead shot and gunpowder, a handful of ceramic firepots (used like hand grenades), and several sword handles. There were also numerous trade goods, including glass beads, brass finger rings with Catholic religious symbols, brass pins, brass hawk bells, wooden combs, and a barrel of iron axe heads. Tools and supplies such as smelting crucibles, a cooper’s plane, a shovel, rope, and long bars of iron stock were also recovered, as were a wide variety of ship’s hardware and rigging components. One complete human skeleton was discovered, that of a middle-aged male with signs of arthritis, who may have been the guard who was on the ship when it went down in a storm. I was able to view some of the recovered artifacts at the Texas State History Museum, where the hull of the ship will eventually be displayed.

An interesting discovery was that the La Belle was originally a “kit”, meaning that all the boards and planks had Roman numerals and letters on them, to be able to be assembled as if it were a puzzle. It is believed that the ship was originally intended to be brought over in pieces and assembled in Louisiana, so that it could be sailed up the river.  There was no room for it along with the rest of the cargo, and so it was assembled in France and sailed with the rest of the fleet. The entire ship was disassembled by the archaeological team, piece by piece, and transferred to a preservation facility. It was then reassembled in a special cradle to be preserved by being soaked in polyethylene glycol.  Dr. Bruseth noted that this process was too slow for such a large vessel, and so they built the largest freeze-drying chamber in North America in order to complete the preservation process in a timelier manner.

Once the excavation was finished, the French government filed an official claim for the ship and its contents, which was challenged by Texas. Dr. Bruseth told us that Madeleine Albright conceded to France’s claim just before the end of the Clinton administration.  Today, the official title to the wreck and its artifacts belongs to France, but control was granted to the Texas Historical Commission.  Dr. Bruseth jokingly noted that he had inserted language in the treaty recommending professional consultation and collaboration, which has enabled him to travel to Paris several times.

The excavation and presentation of the La Belle is a great example of how public archaeology can be informative, engaging, and entertaining.  Starting with the film that hooks visitors into the story of the ship and ending with a large display of interesting artifacts and information, the project should be a popular attraction for visitors to the museum.

Contributor Chris Dukes is an applied anthropology graduate student at Missouri State University. His focus is historical archeology. He is currently researching the history and disappearance of a small Ozark town in Southwest Missouri.

 

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In Search of Historical Archeology at Annual SAA Meeting

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) held its 79th Annual Meeting in Austin from April 23 through April 27. Among the Mayan, prehistoric, and European archaeologists were the historical archaeologists who study the relatively recent past of the United States. So, what does the SAA meeting have to offer historical archaeologists? The answer, this meeting has quite a lot to offer if you look hard enough. Among the hundreds of forums, symposiums, general sessions, and poster presentations, there are historical archaeologists sharing their research. They may have their own society, the Society for Historical Archaeology, but they still remain connected to the archaeological profession at large by presenting at the SAA annual meetings.

The list of historical presentations at this most recent meeting is long. Not long relative to the number of other talks, but long enough that no one person could attend them all. I spent a good hour searching for presentations on historical archaeology and the dog-eared pages of my program attest to this. Even after my careful planning, I found myself missing presentations I really wanted to catch or getting stuck in a really boring presentation because the presenters did not stick to the schedule. Also, some presenters did not show up to their presentations. So, because I know I missed some really interesting topics, I returned to the program to search out session topics with papers on historical archaeology.

Several sessions dedicated entirely to the topic of historical archaeological include general sessions on American History, the Historical Archaeology of the Western United States, and the Historical Archaeology of the Eastern United States that dealt with gender, marginality, health, subsistence, the Civil War, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. Other general sessions dealt with historic Texas and Spanish colonialism in the United States, and Historic Cemeteries. There was also a symposium on historic cemeteries focusing on remembrance and a few poster sessions on historical archaeology. These sessions generally contained papers on almost every major topic popular in historical archaeology today.

Other historical archaeologist’s papers were scattered throughout other sessions focusing on a variety of subjects. There were general sessions on archaeological practice, Cultural Resource Management, culture contact, and Maritime archaeology. There were symposiums on what archaeology should be, Native Peoples in missionized areas, New Spain, Geophysical applications, modes of production, marginality landscapes, sound and human experience, the Irish Famine, bioarchaeology, consumption, working with the Navy, and diaspora. All of these topics had at least one or two papers on historic sites. For example, the session on sound and human experience had a paper on the Industrial past. So, even if the general topic of the session was not historical archaeology, some of the papers within these sessions focused specifically on historical archaeology.

In the end, I was able to listen to nineteen papers on historical archaeology from five different sessions, as well as an entire poster session on historical archaeology, many of which were applicable to my current research interests. Some of my favorite papers were focused on topics I had recently begun exploring, including gender, class, identity, company towns, and African American communities. In particular, the paper about public space in the home is directly related to a paper I am working on about the cult of domesticity and the paper about a company town was fortuitous because I am helping with a dig at a company town this summer. Overall, the broadness of the sessions on historical archaeology allowed for such a wide variety of papers to be presented that when I did miss a paper due to unforeseen time issues there was still something interesting going about historical archaeology somewhere else.

Contributor Grace Gronniger is a graduate student in the MSU Applied Anthropology Graduate Program. Her research focus is historical archeology, specifically pattern glass in the archeological record. Visit Grace’s webpage for more information.

 

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A Night at the Museum: Internship Opportunities in Applied Anthropology

Finding internship opportunities in applied anthropology is easier than one thinks. Simply typing ‘applied anthropology internships’ into a web search-engine brings up countless opportunities. The different options available present endless possibilities to gaining experience in applied anthropology careers. Have you ever seen that movie where a man becomes a night security guard at the National History Museum in New York City and all the exhibits come to life?! Well, I personally can say I have never seen an exhibit actually come to ‘life;’ however, I can say that while creating exhibits as an intern at Wilson’s Creek Museum, I was excited to tell someone’s story and bring back their voice.
Museums, in particular, offer many internship opportunities. A museum’s scope of collection can span anywhere from the Archaic era to modern times; and if there is a certain area that interests you, then apply for an internship at that particular museum. There are over 18,000 museums in the United States alone and they offer many opportunities (check out http://www.aam.org for more information about museums and the different programs they offer).

Doing an internship at a museum will increase hands-on experience, knowledge on how a museum operates, and skills for managing a collection. Getting a chance to learn about museums can be quite an experience. Many museum internships will have specific jobs that need to be completed, such as building new exhibits, organizing collections, using conservation techniques on certain objects, and preserving and storing objects properly. Throughout an internship, learning the collection is the hardest part, since many collections have objects that number in the tens of thousands. Becoming familiar with a collection just takes a little time and some hard work.

If interning isn’t something you have time to do or you’re not quite sure what career-path to pursue, try volunteering. Many, if not all museums are suffering from budget cuts and cannot afford to pay for a full staff, so they rely on volunteers to assist with most of the work. Volunteering at a museum can be just as educational as doing an internship and you still gain the hands-on experience. A great attribute to volunteering at a museum is that after many hours it doesn’t have to end like an internship does. A benefit to volunteering at the museum you did your internship at is that you already have a rapport with the staff and they might assist you in finding a job after you finish your degree.
Museum internships can open a large array of job opportunities. Even if the particular museum you completed your internship at isn’t hiring, this doesn’t mean the curator doesn’t know of another museum looking for someone to fill a position. This type of communication is common among museums, especially with museums affiliated within the National Park Service, the Department of Conservation, and even museums within the Department of Defense.

In and around Springfield, Missouri there are quite a few museums. In Springfield alone, there are at least five large museums, including the Springfield Art Museum, History Museum on the Square, the Discovery Center, Air and Military Museum, and the Sports Hall of Fame. In the surrounding areas, the museums consist of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Museum, the Nathan Boone Homestead, and many local town Historical Museums.

It is never boring working with a collection, because looking at objects from the past can allow you to discover something new. Here are some questions to ask yourself: “Are you the type of person to give life to a figure from the past by telling their story of their existence? Are you the kind of person that believes that the possibilities of learning and discovering new things are endless?” If you answered ‘yes’ to both of these questions, then pursuing an internship or career in museums might be the right path for you.

Contributor Shauna Lee is a graduate student in the MSU Applied Anthropology Graduate Program. She is currently working on a research project in coordination with Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield where she has served as both an intern and volunteer.

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Public Archaeology: Bring the Past to the People

When thinking of anthropology in the community, archaeology may not be the first thing that comes to mind for some people. Public archaeology passes along information discovered in academic archaeology to people outside of professional circles. Anthropology is an integral part of archaeology, especially when the information found in the artifacts is being presented to the local community, as well as the world at large.

Popular movies and television programs tempt their audiences with images of finding buried treasures and lost civilizations, exploring ancient ruins and uncovering the origins of humans. Unfortunately, there is disconnect between popular concepts and scientific research produced in academic settings. Since archaeology for the public involves connecting with local communities, it is often referred to as “community archaeology.” The challenge in public (or community) archaeology is to bring the two areas together in ways that are engaging, scientifically accurate, and relevant to the public.

Academics are often reluctant to engage in public archaeology. There are many reasons that scholars may take this position; it takes time away from their research, they may be uncomfortable speaking in public venues away from their colleagues, there are privacy concerns of the descendants of the people being studied, or they don’t know how to deal with the issues arising when culturally sensitive information is brought before the public. Public archaeology can be a complicated endeavor. But when these dilemmas are successfully overcome, people gain the knowledge they need to construct stories of their own past, to understand the relevance of archaeology, and to become stewards of cultural resources. The knowledge that is gained from examining our past can help us plan for our future.

Once a professional decides to undertake a program of public archaeology, it is often helpful to involve other disciplines and/or rely on the talents of other professionals. Other archaeologists, academics from other institutions, people with training in K-12 education, public relations, and those who have experience in interpretation, as well as other project stakeholders, should all be considered as valuable resources in bringing archaeology to the community.

Unless a major television network is interested in the project an archaeologist is working on, the odds are that a televised program is not going to be in the budget. But there are still many ways to share information with other professionals and the general public. Books, lectures, pamphlets, and museum displays are all ways that information can be distributed. The Internet has opened up unlimited resources for disseminating information about research and data. Social media makes the distribution manageable as well as user friendly. Archaeologists need to learn to take advantage of digital platforms to show the importance of their research, as well as to get others involved in learning about archaeology and what can be gained from the research.

Another venue for educating the public about archaeology is opening up excavations to the public. There are many advantages to doing this. It gives the public hands-on experience in conducting research. Participants are then better able to understand the challenges that archaeologists face. They will also gain an understanding of the legal and cultural aspects of archaeological research. Another advantage is that people will become more invested in preserving their community heritage. This will make them want to protect sites from looters, and make more informed decisions about commercial development. The public may develop a greater appreciation of museums and cultural centers, and communities may be better able to develop heritage tourism sites to benefit the area. And let’s be honest – allowing interested people to help with the projects is great for the archaeologists’ budget. Volunteers make up a large part of many community archaeology projects around the world.

Missouri State University has many resources to offer for those who are interested in archaeology. Undergraduate and graduate programs in the anthropology department feature a variety of archaeology courses and every summer archaeological field schools are offered. The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) is engaged in contract archaeology and offers opportunities for student research. You can view a video of one of their projects here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9vOq0482yU. CAR also hosts monthly meetings of the Ozarks Chapter of the Missouri Archaeological Society.

If you are interested in becoming involved in archaeology in Missouri, check out the Missouri Archaeological Society website at http://associations.missouristate.edu/mas/default.htm . There are local chapters around the state and there are several opportunities for participating in field schools, workshops, and excavations.

Contributor Cynthia Prasse Collins is a graduate student in the MSU Applied Anthropology Graduate Program. She is an intern at Myer Library Special Collections as well as a Summer 2014 intern at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Cynthia’s focus is public archaeology and historic archaeology. Her research interests include and trade goods and Spanish Colonization in the Southeastern U.S. Visit Cynthia Prasse Collin’s webpage for more information.

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“You majored in what?” Making the Case for Anthropology

When asked “What can you do with a degree in Anthropology?” honestly, I cringe. The media spin scary unemployment statistics, changes in the job market, and relevance (or irrelevance) of college degrees on a daily basis. The other thing that makes me nervous about answering that question is the look of concern bordering on impending doom on the questioner’s face. Then, I take a deep breath and a smile lights up my face. I smile because I love the answer: “Everything.” Anthropology’s relevance is so integrally tied to human life that it will never cease to be important. Well, as long as we humans inhabit the Earth.

Culture is what defines us as “human.” This distinction is what drives us to seek understanding of ourselves and others. This quest has been a part of humanity since its inception and will remain the impulse of our species into the future. Because culture is an essential part of us, knowing ourselves and others depends on examining culture. A degree in anthropology provides practice in the art and science of understanding culture, these skills enrich ourselves as much as humanity.

Today’s need for cultural competence is greater than ever. The global nature of the world today is both an exciting and alarming prospect. Communication between people around the world is easier. Travel (both real and virtual) is faster. Our awareness of each other has increased. This interconnectedness highlights the fact that culture is not a static, isolated object, but rather a dynamic and integrated process. In this process, cultures collide. The alarming part is that this can lead to significant problems for society. The exciting part is that this increased cultural contact can lead to increased welfare for humans as we achieve greater awareness of ourselves.

Using anthropological knowledge to address the problems of a globalized society is the biggest contribution of Anthropology. Practitioners have shown that anthropological methods and theory can be applied to a range of human problems resulting from the dissonance of cultures colliding with each other, with technology, with the environment, with our biology/physiology, with our past, with our future, with time and space. These problems cannot be addressed in the vacuum of a laboratory or with the rubrics of academics; however, these issues can be solved by looking outside the paradigms in our own mind.

Breaking free from academic prescriptions and embracing worldviews outside our own is the aspiration of a practicing anthropologist. This technique can be applied in any occupation or workplace setting. This is the key. No degree can do anything in and of itself. However, your education can be applied to everything you encounter. Sure, you might not be getting paid a wage for your contributions to humanity through the understanding of culture, but you are nonetheless contributing. Maybe you’ll get rich, save the world, increase production, make your co-worker feel more accepted, or teach your children the value of diversity, or maybe you’ll only have improved your own wellbeing; nonetheless, your education means something as long as you are applying it to something.

The key to using a degree in anthropology is demonstrating its value. I feel that my BA in Anthropology has helped me land jobs that were not even in the anthropology field in the traditional sense. I just had to highlight the value of cultural competence and the relevance of anthropology to the position I was seeking to achieve. When I tried out for a Park Interpreter position, the theme of my presentation was Parks and People/People and Parks. I used my background in anthropology to show the role that parks have in our culture and also how parks exist because of the people who visit them. My point in this example is that you, as a practitioner, have to know what anthropology means in order to convey anthropology to anyone else, or to apply anthropology to any issues or problems.

Anthropology means many different things to each individual and has had varied public images throughout its history, but on the most basic level, seeking an understanding of ourselves and others is not only worthwhile, it is essential. Oh yeah, and I got the job.


Contributor Natalie Casey is an applied anthropology graduate student at MSU. She is interested in community development, cultural and natural heritage, resource conservation, sustainability, and youth outreach. As a National Park Service Intern, she will be directing a Youth Conservation Corp program in the summer of 2014. Visit Natalie Casey’s webpage for more information.

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