Anthropology and Cultural Change

With a degree in a field like anthropology, the inevitable questions are "What is that?" and "What can you do with it?" While the field of anthropology can be glossed as "the study of humankind"---and thus encompass everything from biology and material remains to language and religion---my interests lie more in the direction of contemporary social study (i.e. cultural anthropology) in relation to social change and cross-cultural interaction. During my studies, my focus fell on international development.  This meant looking at both how people in particular societies have adjusted to the economic and social changes happening around them as well as how cultural misunderstandings have contributed to a rather disastrous run of development and aid projects in the past. More than just an academic study, however, my interests were also in how this knowledge could be applied---of  how an appreciation for the complexities of a given culture could change the process of "development" itself and make it a more "people-centered" enterprise.

I have carried this interest over into my current work with refugees in America.  I deal everyday with people having to adjust in a totally new cultural environment.  My training gives me a particular perspective of how people adapt in the new surroundings in which they live, about how connections to their cultural traditions and expectations affect their lives today, and, most of all, how to step back from a particular situation and seek to identify possible bridges of understanding between the two.  I am always excited to see how an 'abstract' field of study like anthropology can resonate in so many facets of daily life.

Anyway, I hope that the links on this page can provide a little insight into exactly what the discipline is as well as just what "applying" anthropology entails. (And for those of you who are still confused---No, I do not dig bones nor do I study bugs!)

American Anthropological Association - For both professionals and those seeking a general introduction to the field of anthropology, the "Triple-A" website is a good place to start. There are a lot of links here to various anthropology-related sites as well as a general overview of what is going on among academics in the discipline.

Society for Applied Anthropology - Since I am also interested in "applied" or "practicing" anthropology, this website has been very helpful. It contains explanations of what anthropology in practice involves as well as links to related sites. In fact, it is thanks to its list graduate programs in applied anthropology that I went to McGill!

More to come...

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