Corporate Market Research is not Anthropology

Is corporate sponsored research really
anthropology? I don't think so.
Image courtesy of NeighborhoodLink.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on February 26, 2013
Anthropology is back in the national U.S. news, and yet again, the coverage does not cast the most flattering light on the field. New books by infamous anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, and naturalist-turned-geographer, Jared Diamond, have been framed by the national press as igniting long-standing conflicts among anthropologists, about issues that include the role of science in anthropology, and the search for universals of human behavior and evolution. My experience within the discipline tells me that this framing by the national media is mostly overblown, although the attention has caused a good deal of discussion and hand-wringing among anthropologists.

My own attention at the moment is consumed with writing my dissertation (and teaching), and so I have not found the time to read either of the new books. And while I have read much of what people are writing about this latest splash of attention, without actually reading the new books, I have reserved my comments here and elsewhere. Still, one piece that I think is mostly missing from this latest discussion, has to do with ethics - the ethical considerations of not only how we conduct ourselves in the field, but also why we're in the field in the first place, and how and what we write about our work.

In the middle of this scrutiny, yet another piece came out in the Atlantic, Anthropology Inc., about the rise of corporate anthropologists. Again, the ethics of such work are left unexplored. The article details the approach of ReD, a market research firm that has incorporated the skills of anthropologists into their attempt to better understand consumer habits.

Consuming Black History: Washington, the Harlem Renaissance, and Black Media

The inaugural issue of The Crisis, 1910
Consumption Junction
by lana lynne on February 22, 2013

Since the 1920s, February (all or part of) has been designated as Black History Month. Each year, this designation rekindles a debate about the necessity of singling out a month to celebrate or acknowledge historically significant African-Americans. Instead of segregating black history, many argue, aren’t history lessons integrated all year long anyway? Isn’t it time to move on? Others believe that such views are shaded by short-sighted idealism, and that Black History Month remains an important placeholder in the long history of race in the U.S.

February also marks the passing of Presidents’ Day, a holiday celebrating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Both fit nicely in the context of Black History Month. The former, obviously, for bringing an end to slavery in the U.S., and the latter for signing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which laid out the legal means by which slaveowners could recover their escaped slaves. In Philadelphia, Washington’s dichotomous celebrity in U.S. history is on display at the Presidents’ House, an outdoor museum of the first “White House,” where Washington lived when Philadelphia was capital of the country immediately following the Revolutionary War. Dividing his time between Philly and Mount Vernon, he shuttled his slaves between his two homesteads, effectively skirting the laws which would have required him to free his slaves if they resided in the same state for six months. Today’s Presidents’ House places this element of U.S. history front and center – integrating the consumption of African-American history with so-called mainstream history.

Seeing, Hearing, and Feeling: Reflections on Ways of Knowing

The forest offers much to see, hear, and feel. What do you hear when
the plants communicate?
Photo by douglas reeser.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on February 15, 2013
One of the more widely read pieces that I have written for Recycled Minds is a short article I wrote just after the American Anthropological Association announced that it would remove the word "science" from its mission statement back in late 2010. I was one of the first to comment on the development, so my article received a good amount of attention as coverage of #AAAfail, as it became tagged, reached beyond the world of anthropologists, and even got covered by the New York Times. While recognizing the importance of a scientific approach in anthropological endeavors, I offered a voice of support to the move away from the prominent placement of the word science in the mission statement. And while I did receive some support from other anthropologists, my article was widely bashed, especially by bloggers outside of anthropology from the so called "hard" sciences.

Name calling accompanied some of the criticisms, and I was variously referred to as a hippy, a fluff-head, and a foolish postmodernist. I was simultaneously excited and disappointed at the attention, and I realized quickly that I must have hit a nerve with something I had written. If I am to go by what was most quoted from my article, that nerve appears to have been firmly attached to the concept of knowing:

Can Health Care be a Human Right?

The UN declared access to medical care a human right in
1948, but 65 years later, many still remain without access
 to health services.
by douglas reeser on February 11, 2013
The concept of human rights remains at least slightly murky in the public mind, and is especially so when it comes to the right to health care. As stated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, health and medical care fall under the domain of human rights:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood,old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 
This declaration, however, leaves it unclear exactly how far these rights are extended. Does the right to medical care include cancer treatment? Does it include mental health care services? Does it include a monthly check up? The implications of the universal right to health and medical care are steep: health services must not simply be available, they must be freely available to all people at all times. Under this framework, the concept of health and health care as a human right has not been widely accepted around the globe. How then, can we begin to move towards making this right a reality? 

Honor the Treaties: A Native American Resistance Project

February 6, 2013
Honor the Treaties is a new and growing movement from within Native American communities in the US that aims to create a complete database of treaties signed between the US government and Native American groups, while becoming the hub of action for treaty issues facing tribes today. Learn more and take action by visiting, and watch this moving short film that helps explain why we all need to get involved.

First Friday Picture Show: "A Beautiful Mess" by Jake Keeler

Winter Chrome: Birds of America #2 | Jake Keeler | 2012 | 8″ x 5.5″ | Mixed media on book cover
Recycled Minds Picture Show
February 1, 2013
February's First Friday Picture Show features the artwork of Minnesota artist, brewer, and fly-fisher Jake Keeler. Jake has a background in fine arts, with an MFA in Painting and Drawing and years of exhibitions under his belt. He started his professional career as an artist and college professor, then transitioned to pursue a career in homebrewing/craft beer, and now does a lot of both. These two pursuits make up ⅔ of his “character-trifecta.” Fly-fishing occupies the other third. He's been fishing almost as long as he's been drawing, so the two have gone hand and hand, year after year. The making, and drinking, of great beer came a bit later, but weaves itself into all paths seamlessly. Along with family, these three things are what make him tick.

The work itself draws its inspiration from nature: fish, birds, bones and the beautiful mess that they make together. The style is derived from a background in drawing dragons, painting in the open air with his mother, painting miniatures with his brother, reading comic books, listening to Dio, and a stint as a graffiti writer. There is an explicit goal in the current work to create a look that bridges imagery and techniques from tradition, and fuse them with a contemporary take on how to express the beauty of what he sees in nature; the richness of color and line on a brown trout, the enduring form of the human skull, the complexity of feather/line/color of an overlooked sparrow.

Jake resides in St. Paul MN with his wife, his son, two cats and cold, but functional, basement studio/ brew cave. To see more of his work, and to occasionally find out about his adventures in fly-fishing and homebrewing, go to:

Fucking Bird | Jake Keeler | 2011 | 12”  x 12” | Pen and ink on paper

Check out the rest of the show by clicking: