Action Anthropology: UPSC Anthropology
Action anthropology is an approach used by anthropologists and other applied social scientists to help indigenous and underrepresented communities solve problems. Action anthropologists are generally motivated by concerns for social justice, though this is more important for some than for others. A basic tenet of action anthropology is that decisions affecting a community are best made by that community.
- Though it is an offshoot development from applied anthropology, it does not stop with the humanistic study as an applied anthropologist does with the natives and minority peoples. Rather, the action anthropologists involve themselves intimately with anthropological problems and pursue their studies in a context of action. In such a study, the distinction between the pure research and the applied research generally disappears. The anthropologist accepts a problem as his own and proceeds through trial and error method.
- It was coined by Sol Tax in 1958 through his paper ‘Values in Action
- According to him an action anthropologist is to study the process of change in the society and help the people to tide over the adverse effects of change and guide planning in such a way that the people do better in the processes of change.
- The method of action anthropology depends on “a clinical or experimental method of study”.
- While the special interest of the applied anthropologist rests on the humanistic studies in the natives and minority people, the action anthropologist urges upon the value of disinterested consideration of social phenomena, just as “a biologist might view protozoa on his microscope slide”.
- These two aspects of anthropology in action can be viewed as springing from two roots of the same plant.
- The major characteristic of action anthropology, as described by Sol Tax, is that while one is studying the anthropological problems, he pursues it in a context of action. He would not keep himself as a mere observer, but he involves in solving the problem.
- Sol Tax also mentions that the action anthropologist eschews ‘pure science’.
- Further he says “For one thing his work requires that he will not use people for an end not related to their own welfare, people are not related rats, and ought not to be treated like them. Not only should we not hurt people; we should not use them to the degree that the results are imminently useful to the community and easily outweigh the disturbance to it”.
Action anthropology is based on the following commitments:
- giving equal priority to learning and to helping;
- engaging as equals people in the study communities,
- acknowledging their right to self-determination,
- accepting that people have a “right to make mistakes”;
- acknowledging the ways in which power affects research relationships,
- being collaborative rather than directive in choosing research foci;
- seeing the anthropologists’ role as providing scientifically informed advice,
- learning about the community and its context through long-term field research.
- Action anthropology is a branch of anthropology that extends its hand to help a group of people to solve a problem and learns something in the process.
- An action anthropologist is and must be a theoretical anthropologist not only in background but also in practice. In their professional role they can point out the factual consequences of alternative modes of action, or recommended the best technical means for bringing about an end previously value determined.
- The action anthropologist disclaims pure science because of his method called clinical perhaps experimental, in the sense that a physician continually improves his diagnosis with tentative remedies.
- When an applied anthropologist feels the urge for a course of prolonged action to solve a problem, action anthropology is initiated.
- The action anthropology recognizes its own responsibility in solving human problems. Therefore, it sticks on the problems until they are solved. After solving problems, action anthropologists may generate new theories and findings, acceptable to the general anthropology.
- The misuse of anthropological findings by those who controlled power at that time was a matter of deep concern of action anthropologists.
- The research findings of physical scientists were utilized for destructive rather than constructive proposes which posed serious problems before human society. This threat continues even now.
- Active participation of the anthropologist was sought specially on the onset of war when “conquest brought the need to govern peoples with differing cultures, whose conventions could not be flouted”. Occupational officers were given specialized training in respect of the customs of the people of varied cultures. Anthropological linguists were called on to develop interpreters to handle a foreign idiom, and the problems of enculturation.
- The anthropologist can never know everything about a society other than his own, no matter how closely he is associated with it. Hence any recommendation, no matter how expert, is liable to a certain degree of errors.
Topic: Paper 1- Applied anthropology
Q. Applied anthropology 10M
Q. Role of anthropology in modern society 15M
Q. Scope of anthropology 10M
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