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Why I am AAA
One of the first tasks for CoPAPIA, stemming from recommendations of the former PAWG (Practicing Anthropology Working Group), was to help increase awareness of work being done by anthropologists outside of academia through the avenue of Anthropology News – a “career cameo” set of columns. These would supplement intermittent profiles of anthropologists that appeared in past ANs or individual Section columns, and it would focus explicitly on professional anthropologist-practitioners. The idea was to provide broad coverage across a range of sectors–anthropological pioneers in areas with which we are not as well acquainted, such as finance, banking and investment, marketing, housing, tourism and heritage, philanthropy, museums, and corporate strategic planning, to mention a few. It would include Masters-level anthropologists as well as PhDs, and archaeologists and curatorial specialists as well as cultural anthropologists. In addition, the goal was to interview or solicit comment from profiles across a standard range of topics so there would be continuity across job sectors and anthropologists’ work. We started with four general questions but left room for contemplative and creative response by the profiles.
The questions were: (a) What happens in the ‘world of finance’? (or whichever sector is under discussion); (b) What was your career path to getting to where you got? (c) Why are anthropologists or anthropology critical or important? (d) What are the challenges in your work and what are the challenges that a national association, such as AAA, can address? Are there ethical, gender, structural, or political dimensions to those challenges?
During the year and a half that the column ran, the basic idea was broadened with the feedback from CoPAPIA, to include “institutional profiles,” which would approach a profile the same way except would concentrate on an entire organization rather than one individual. In these cases where an institution employs a critical mass of anthropologists, I asked the lead contact to describe the work of the range of anthropologists who work at the corporation or federal agency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Intel, and the Bureau of the Census are institutional profiles and give a flavor of the types of work that anthropologists do in various units in the organizations.
I would like to thank a number of people for their assistance in this effort: Linda Bennett and AN Editor Stacy Lathrop, for their excellent suggestions in the formation and throughout the column; and to Dinah Winnick who took on the editor’s mantle marvelously. I also would like to thank all the anthropologists who agreed to be interviewed for the series who were willing to put themselves and their professional identities “out there” for the greater good.
-Shirley J. Fiske
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