What Is Applied Anthropology Essay Ideas

When you are in search of great anthropology topics that you can use for your next paper, there are many items from which to choose.

The list below should serve as a bank of potential research essay topics that might be useful for your next writing assignment:

  1. Why Ethnographic Studies Are a Primary Method for Gathering Research Used Prevalently since 1928
  2. How Religious Diversity in Middle Eastern Villages Differs from African Villages
  3. How Gender Differences in Middle Eastern Villages Differ from African Villages
  4. How Ethnographies Are Viable Teaching Tools Designed to Integrate People in Another Community
  5. The Comparison of Cross Cultural Concepts between Two Cultures of Your Choice
  6. The Similarities between South Korean and American Hip Hop
  7. The Immigration Patterns in South American from Cities
  8. What Role Agriculture Has Played on Social Relationships between Different Towns in Egypt
  9. Non-Conformist Sub-Cultures such as Star Trek Fans or Porn Stars
  10. Work Completed by Non-Field Workers and Whether Their Ethnographic Contributions Are Valid Scientific Studies
  11. How Alternative Women’s Roles and Gender Rights Can Be Historical in One Culture, a Thing of Ancient Past, But Current and Well-Accepted in Another
  12. Human Rights in America versus China and How They Differ
  13. How People View Other Cultures through a Lens of Their Own Culture and What Problems This Can Cause
  14. How Anger or Pity toward “Others” Is an Easier Emotion than Empathy
  15. Cultural Shifts Which Have Happened since President Obama Was Elected
  16. The Trends That Take Place after Key Historical Moments, such as How When Famous Television Shows End, People Will Become Depressed and Will Make Emotionally Driven Decisions to Sell Their Stock
  17. The Cultural Limitations Which Exist between Hmong Patients and Western Doctors
  18. The Anthropological Issues between Eastern Healers and Western Biomedicine
  19. The Ethical Problems Which Arise When Parents Refuse to Consent to Necessary Medical Interventions or Surgeries for Their Child Because of Cultural Limitations, Without Which the Child Will Likely Die
  20. The Power of Hand Gestures and Facial Expressions in Overcoming Cultural Barriers and Language Differences

These topics are designed to direct you in the right sphere if you want to write a great paper. However, you can make it even better by using various facts on applied anthropology or checking your work according writing guidelines for research essays. With those topics in mind, below you can also find an example on the cultural limitations which exist between Hmong patients and western medicine:

Sample Research Essay on Newborn Hmong Children

The Hmong people are proud and stubborn. They have defended their culture against invasion from many nations including France and China. Having succeeded in never submitting to foreign rule, the Hmong people have always fought hard against their enemies and succeeded in being left alone to farm for themselves among the hills of Laos. After helping the CIA in a covert mission against Vietnam, the Hmong people were driven from their homes, making their way on foot to refugee camps in Thailand before being sent to the United States as migrants without a place to call “home”. In spite of being placed in cities completely foreign to them, and given items that were of no use to them (such as stove tops they had never seen), these Hmong people maintained a strong tie to and defense of their culture. They continued to practice traditional healing by growing medicinal herbs in any patch of dirt they could find including the small patches of dirt in parking lot medians and to make animal sacrifices with their official medicinal healer.

There have existed many conflicts between Hmong patients in America and Western Medicine. This began in the refugee camps in Thailand where vicious rumors were spread to Hmong refugees about the bad nature of the Western doctors and the deplorable things they would do such as eat the organs of the dead Hmong. It took years before an authority figure was called in to address these rumors. Many adult refugees still refused to visit regular medical facilities, instead relying upon the shamans of their culture to practice rituals and animal slaughtering. The belief of the Hmong is that there are many evil spirits roaming the earth and many acts which can cause or allow an evil spirit to catch someone, or take their spirit from the body. When things such as this take place, the individual becomes ill. Sometimes, when parents do something wrong earlier in their life, they are punished with illness or with a deformed child, something they must bear with dignity. However, there was a prominent rumor in America that if children were not born in an American hospital, they would not receive citizenship.

This rumor led to an extremely high number of Hmong women entering into emergency rooms as soon as labor began. The Hmong have strict rules regarding marriage and as such, they have married from among their own people for hundreds of years. Their strict diets, lifestyle, and marriage traditions have led Hmong women to enjoy very healthy pregnancies and easy birth, given that their hips have been genetically designed to perfectly deliver a Hmong baby who is typically the same size as all others. That being said, no pre-natal care is sought, and in many cases during the 1980’s and 1990’s in America, women would enter with the baby already coming out.

Once the women were admitted, the doctors would attempt to aid labor in whatever fashion the situation demanded. But surgeries were not always approved of by the women. Without proper interpreters, many times the women were unaware of what medical treatment they were receiving or why, and thought the worst of their medical doctors. The doctors felt that the patients were not listening to their advice, instead opting to sacrifice a pig or cow and to drink herbal teas. The biggest point of contention was the afterbirth. The Hmong believe that the afterbirth must be buried in a unique location with a proper ritual so that when the person dies later on, their spirit can make its way back to the afterbirth, whose name translates to “first coat” and from their wander the afterlife. But the doctors were often under the misguided view that the patients wanted to eat it, or did not care why the patients wanted it and instead would throw away the afterbirth. This is a representative of the culture viewpoints that each had about the other. The western doctors were under the personal belief that western medicine was the best and there was no reason to keep the afterbirth. The Hmong had been horrified that the doctors were noncompliant, an act that would force their child’s spirit to wander naked and confused in the afterlife.

Chambers, Erve. Applied anthropology: A practical guide. Prentice Hall, 1985.
Eddy, Elizabeth M., and William L. Partridge. Applied anthropology in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.
Ervin, Alexander M. Applied anthropology: tools and perspectives for contemporary practice. Allyn & Bacon, 2005.
Foster, George McClelland. Applied anthropology. Boston: Little, Brown, 1969.
Pfeifer, Mark E., and Serge Lee. “Hmong population, demographic, socioeconomic, and educational trends in the 2000 census.” Hmong (2000): 3-11.
Purcell, Trevor. “Indigenous knowledge and applied anthropology: Questions of definition and direction.” Human organization 57.3 (1998): 258-272.
Quincy, Keith. Hmong: History of a people. Eastern Washington Univ Pr, 1988.

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Read this essay to learn about Applied Anthropology !

Daniel G. Brinton (1895) in his paper ‘The aims of Anthropology’ first put forward the concept of applied anthropology. According to him “Applied anthropology aims accurately to ascertain what are the criteria of civilization, what individual or social elements have in the past contributed most to it. How these can be continued and strengthened and what new forces, if any may be called in to hasten the progress”.

The concept of ‘Applied Anthropology’ was developed in United States particularly after the Second World War. It contributed in administration and development policy in the third world. Applied anthropologists in general tried to improve the lives of the people who were in a disadvantageous position in the modern world of colonialism or imperialism.

They realized the need for change and so undertook the challenging task of development in the sphere of colonial administration. They also made themselves involved in monitoring the efforts of others in changing people’s lives. The most famous test case of ‘applied anthropology’ is Cornell University’s Vicos project in Peru, where an anthropological team under the guidance of A. Holmberg handled the role of ‘patron’ in a large estate.

The team carried out a basically paternalistic reform plan but aimed at developing power to the producer. Another successful case may be cited with the tribe ‘Ashanti’ in western coast of Africa. The Ashantis traditionally possess a gold-decorated stool, which is believed to have descended from the sky.

It is extremely sacred to the members of the tribe; they never put their stool down on the bare ground. To maintain the sanctity they always cover it with an elephant’s skin and the whole thing is wrapped within a special cloth. In 1896, when British came in contact with Ashanti, they tried to snatch the stool.

But that was not possible as the Ashantis could hide the stool very carefully. In 1921, suddenly it was discovered that the gold decorations on the stool had been stolen out. The Ashantis became furious and turbulent; they demanded the offenders to be killed.

Day by day as the situation was getting worse, a government anthropologist was recruited to manage the whole. The anthropologist stepped into the problem, considered the pros and cons of it and lastly allowed the Ashantis to keep the stool with them and punished the offenders with the order of banishment.

In Indian situation, the renowned anthropologist S.C. Roy among the Oraons of Chotonagpur provided a happy solution. It was a dispute with flag. Traditionally each Oraon village was in the possession of a flag, which were used in their inter-village dancing program called yatra.

Once a contractor, at the time of construction of a new bridge over a river, presented one flag containing a picture of a railway engine to the Oraons of the adjacent village. It was not a mere presentation, it was associated with some superstitious belief by which the spirit dwelling in the river under the bridge was appeased as the previous bridges were washed away due to rain and flood.

However, the flag became the symbol of power. This created resentment among the Oraons of another village and they painted a railway train on a large flag in order to increase their respective power. Naturally the original possessors of painted flag did not tolerate the imitation and protested vigorously. Heavy quarrel and fight was followed for which police had to intervene.

A large number of people were prosecuted for the breach of peace. S.C. Roy tackled the dramatic situation by making a flag with the picture of an aeroplane. He presented that to the Oraons of the first village who got the flag from contractor. At this time he called the village elders in a meeting and explained the superiority of aeroplane. They became satisfied with the explanation: their anger subsided and peace came back in the region.

Applied anthropology did not acquire the same importance in all countries. Even in United States where it first developed, could not build a positive image. Non-applied anthropology was considered more prestigious than the applied anthropology. But some developing countries like Mexico, Latin America etc. appreciated the dignity of applied anthropologists.

Again, Dutch, British and later French put great value to anthropology or anthropological training, as they were interested in developing markets for European industrial goods and enlarging the production of raw materials in different colonial setting.

They felt the necessity to study the languages, customs and practices of the people for getting them under the stronghold. It should be remembered that though Americans realized the utility of anthropology before the British, but in practice Dutch and French were the forerunners.

Writings about anthropology in human welfare first appeared in the documents of American anthropological association. It was depicted that all human problems involve changes in behaviour, attitude, institution and relationship. Most of the scientists, even, who devoted themselves in pure research, cherished this idea. But until Second World War majority of the anthropologists in America used to work in colleges, universities and museums and applied scope was absolutely unknown. In 1933, Commissioner John Collier tried to associate anthropologists with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Soil Conservation Service also asked the help of the anthropologists in their programmes to check the depletion of natural resources as well as to assist the Indians in managing their own affairs. During the Second World War, Government of United States hired many anthropologists in order to use their knowledge of culture in predicting the behaviour of enemy. There were at least two reasons for which applied anthropology bore a negative image and the general field of applied anthropologists stood outside the colleges, universities and museums.

Firstly, for a long time applied anthropology was the monopoly of exploitative colonial administrators of some European nations, therefore a sort of apathy was grown among the anthropologists to select this chore for professional involvement.

Secondly, anthropologists who lacked the academic job opportunities were prone to accept the unusual jobs outside the traditional academic field under the public and private organizations. The agencies that employed the anthropologists in different programmes were highly placed and amply funded.

The anthropologists became the servants of those powers; their freedom in work was lost. Though the applied knowledge of the anthropologists was highly appreciated to bring desired solution to difficult problems, but they did not get the due respect.

They were never allowed in formulation of new social policy; their roles were largely confined to the execution of policies framed by others. Naturally applied anthropology was not viewed favorably in anthropological profession.

However, the British and the American both utilized applied anthropology in different purposes. British Government employed anthropologists in colonial administration. American Government used the knowledge of anthropology in their-own home. A number of native races of North America were uprooted and exterminated from their own territory due to want of a sensible policy.

By the application of anthropological knowledge they were brought to the mainstream. Dying Red Indian communities were also saved. In the post-war years, the United Nations and many agencies of the United States Government consciously inaugurated programmes of planned change throughout the world, particularly in the so-called underdeveloped nations.

American anthropologists were entrusted with the task of administrating the Pacific Trust territories. The National Indian Institute of Mexico was not only advised but also administered by the anthropologists. In Mexico most of the anthropologists were absorbed in Government agencies and institutes to work on social problems.

Anthropologists began to serve in different development organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (AID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) etc.

Since backward nations or under developed areas were found to face enormous problems, many American and British anthropologists were sent forth to develop economic potential of the people. They also tried to minimize the various concomitants of poverty such as illiteracy, high infant mortality, substandard diet and housing, inadequate public health and so on.

They handled the areas like education, public health, urban affairs, industry, etc. All human problems that required intercultural understanding demanded the presence of anthropologists. Anthropologists were also able to show their excellent performance in the field of training and research.

With the technical specialization, anthropologists are expected to study the local situations, make recommendation for an action for the desired result. An applied anthropologist should possess the skill to train up the personnel in order to run rehabilitation or a resettlement program successfully.

They must learn to identify the needs of the people and to innovate the ways of change, anticipating the sources of resistance. In the realm of administration, they have to interpret the ends and interests of the employer.

Sometimes the administration wants an anthropologist in creating an atmosphere where a dominant subordinate relationship can be maintained but sometimes he is directed towards aiding of the people. According to Sol Tax, an anthropologist can show his best performance as an administrator.

As the work of an administrator involves policy making as well as policy implementing, it requires a clear understanding about the people in concern. The non-anthropologist officials often fail to apprehend the needs and aspiration of the native people that in turn hampers the success of the plan and threaten the credibility of the officials.

Unlike the members of the bureaucracy, the anthropologists analyze the basic characteristics of the society and culture along with the pattern of interaction. They try to locate the cultural barriers that inhibit change, stimulants to change and other motivations of the people for the overall good in a society. G.M. Foster (1962) had rightly pointed out the limitations of an ordinary administrator or a technician who makes a decision without weighing the evidence finished by an anthropologist.

In Foster’s words, “it is not so easy for a technician or an administrator to accept the fact that an understanding of his attitudes, values and motivations is just as important in successfully bringing about a change. It is painful to realize that one implicitly accepts assumptions that have little validity beyond tradition and that one’s professional outlook has been uncritically acquired.

It is not easy for either the technician or administrator to admit that the way he views his assignment and how his works are conditioned by such things as how he perceives his role in the bureaucracy to which he belongs, how he reacts to his supervisor, and how he deals with his colleagues and those who work under his direction”

Eliot D. Chapple (1955) had commented in the same context that “by using anthropological methods the administrator can attain a control in the field of human relations comparable to that which he already had in the field of cost and production. He can understood and estimate the effects of change and see what steps have to be taken to modify his organization or to restore it to a state of balance. He can do this both through acquiring a knowledge of anthropological principles and by using anthropologists to make analyses of existing situations”

Ordinarily anthropologists are called only after the administrator has decided the policy. Such a policy is not usually devised to utilize the existing system of relations and most of the problems are left undefined. Therefore, every administrator should learn to formulate his or her objectives in terms of the principles of anthropology.

Applied anthropology may bring planned culture change. It requires pushing of new alternatives to a society in such a way that its members would accept those. But if those new alternatives violate the existing norms or deep-seated taboos in a society, a great chaos is created. People either reject or resist the novel ideas as the traditional customs and institutions come in conflict with the changes. It is not possible to know definitely that whether a proposed change will be truly beneficial for a target population or not.

Sometimes, in spite of delivering best efforts, the long-range developments may appear detrimental, even those which initially seemed to be advantageous. Therefore, for the successful implementation of a plan, some expert anthropologists are wanted who can develop an all-round idea about a culture within a short period or can reach the root of a problem very easily.

He is the best performer among all other social scientists. His judgements of good or bad, right or wrong are not governed by the sentiments; they are wholly concerned with the disposition of recipient people. For this very reason, values of western civilization can never be applied to a peasant society.

Further, anthropologists believe in the functional relatedness among the different aspects of culture, so they remain alert while proceeding from one step to another. For example, the introduction of any new concept, whether an agricultural technique or a new health practice eventually affects on other areas of life.

Applied anthropology has been criticized particularly for its apolitical philosophy. Some scholars like to designate it ‘developmental anthropology’ where greater political awareness is involved. According to the critics, applied anthropology focuses on cultural differences and thus obscures the structures of social and politico-economic dominance for which developmental problems arise out.

Van Willigen (1986) traced the development of applied anthropology through different stages, which he named as the ‘applied ethnology stage’, the ‘Federal Service stage’, and the ‘role extension, value—explicit stage’ and the ‘policy research stage’.

He also reviewed the offshoots of applied anthropology, which have been resulted from various theoretical and ideological attitudes. For example, the ‘action anthropology’ as proposed by Sol Tax ‘research and development anthropology’ as shown by the Cornell-Peru project, the community development approach and the more recent approaches like advocacy anthropology and cultural brokerage.


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