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Anthropology Ethics
by
Leslie E. Sponsel

Introduction

Ethics in anthropology basically reflects general moral principles of what is bad and what is good in terms of what one should not do and what one should do as a professional in the discipline. However, in practice the emphasis is mostly on the negative; that is, in essence to avoid harm, and most of all to research subjects. Often concern with professional ethics within anthropology has been more reactive than proactive, and more a matter of defensive maneuvering to save face in public on the part of the individuals and organizations involved, rather than grappling with the issues head on let alone resolving them constructively and conclusively. Ethical concerns, and sometimes even actions such as new codes or revision of a previous one, intensify during periods when controversies and scandals erupt, especially if they reach the general public to threaten the image of the profession. Throughout the history of anthropology during the 20th century and into the present one, many of the ethical controversies, and some scandals as well, have erupted in connection with research associated with war, especially secret or clandestine work. Politics is usually involved as well, aggravating the difficulty and heat in issues. But there are numerous and diverse cases of ethical problems beyond the association with war as well because ethical dilemmas and choices are inevitable in many different kinds of situations. Most anthropologists try to be ethical in their own work even if they do not become engaged in controversies. Courses on professional ethics are rarely offered in departments of anthropology at universities and colleges for undergraduate and even graduate majors as an elective let alone as a requirement. However, a surprising abundance of useful literature and various codes of professional ethics are readily available for those individuals who are personally concerned to read, contemplate, and discuss them with others. Since the 1990s, and especially during the 2000s, there has been a marked increase in attention to professional ethics in anthropology in publications, conferences, and other venues. However, when all is said and done, the ethical conduct of an anthropologist ultimately remains almost entirely a matter of personal morality and conscience in becoming familiar with and following the institutional codes and guidelines. This bibliography focuses on professional ethics in anthropology in the United States for the most part because of limited space and other constraints.

General Overviews

A most useful survey of ethics in anthropology is provided by the foremost authority on the subject, who also published a concise chronology of historical developments (Fluehr-Lobban 1998, Fluehr-Lobban 2002). Earlier explorations of the subject remain useful and illustrate the diversity of opinion in some aspects of ethical matters (Cassell 1980). Key questions are especially helpful to stimulate and guide thinking, discussion, and debate about ethical issues (Glazer 1996, Kingsolver 2004). At universities and elsewhere, institutional review boards or human subject research committees may present difficulties for anthropologists because their framework and guidelines are often based on rather different kinds of research such as psychological and biomedical experimentation (Marshall 2003). Serious violations of professional ethics have sometimes led to public scandals as well as heated controversies (Spencer 1996).

  • Cassell, Joan. 1980. Ethical principles for conducting fieldwork. American Anthropologist 82.1: 28–41.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1980.82.1.02a00020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Because the risk of harm to subjects in most anthropological fieldwork is relatively low and the methods are usually very different than biomedical experimentation, federal regulations to protect human subjects are not always applicable or effective. The Kantian categorical imperative with its principle of respect for human autonomy might be more appropriate.

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  • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 1998. Ethics. In Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology. Edited by H. Russell Bernard, 173–202. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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    This volume is a detailed survey of the subject by the foremost authority on it.

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  • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 2002. A century of ethics and professional anthropology. AAA Anthropology News 43.3: 20.

    DOI: 10.1111/an.2002.43.3.20Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an especially useful one-page chronological list of the major issues in the history of the development of professional ethics in American anthropology beginning with the controversy surrounding its founder, Franz Boas.

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  • Glazer, Myron Perez. 1996. Ethics. In Encyclopedia of cultural anthropology. Vol. 2. Edited by David Levinson and Melvin Ember, 389–393. New York: Henry Holt.

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    This is the best concise overview on this subject. Glazer asserts that any anthropologist genuinely concerned with professional ethics must inquire about the ethics of power, reciprocity, respect, and accountability.

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  • Kingsolver, Ann. 2004. Thinking and acting ethically in anthropology. In Thinking anthropologically: A practical guide for students. Edited by Philip Carl Salzman and Patricia C. Rice, 71–79. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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    This brief chapter stimulates thinking about many major ethical issues in anthropology by posing penetrating questions about them.

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  • Marshall, Patricia A. 2003. Human subjects protections, institutional review boards, and cultural anthropological research. Anthropological Quarterly 76.2: 269–285.

    DOI: 10.1353/anq.2003.0028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Institutional committees that review research proposals by anthropologists may not always be sufficiently informed about the nature of such fieldwork. Recommendations are offered to improve the review process.

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  • Spencer, Jonathan. 1996. Anthropological scandals. In Encyclopedia of social and cultural anthropology. Edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, 501–503. New York: Routledge.

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    A brief discussion of recurrent anxieties that arise among anthropologists in response to scandals, including concern about the integrity of an ethnographer’s fieldwork, ethical implications, and the image of traditional cultures.

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Reference Works

Various encyclopedias and other reference works may include an entry on ethics in general, for the social sciences, or on anthropology, in particular. The most useful one by far is Smelser and Baltes 2001. The Anthropological Index Online and AnthroSource are most helpful for identifying articles on ethics from the main periodicals in anthropology.

  • Anthropological Index Online.

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    Published by the Royal Anthropological Institute and Centre for Anthropology of the British Museum, this is an extremely useful resource for searching with key words for relevant journal articles including by year or decade.

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    • AnthroSource.

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      Available to individual members and through institutional subscription, AnthroSource of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is a premier online portal affording access to a century of anthropological knowledge in a single place through a searchable digital database of AAA periodicals.

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      • Smelser, N. J., and P. B. Baltes, eds. 2001. International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences. New York: Elsevier.

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        More than a dozen articles on a diversity of topics about different aspects of research ethics including institutional oversight, ethical codes, funding, informed consent, confidentiality, deceptive methods, intellectual property rights, objectivity, cultural relativism, and publishing.

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      Textbooks

      The subject of professional ethics was rarely broached in any venue prior to the 1960s. Courses on the subject in anthropology are rare and usually elective rather than required. Thus only in recent years have teaching materials begun to be published, most recently in Whiteford and Trotter 2008. A few years before that the best anthology in terms of breadth, diversity, and substance was published in Fluehr-Lobban 2003.

      • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn, ed. 2003. Ethics and the profession of anthropology: Dialogue for ethically conscious practice. 2d ed. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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        This is the best anthology for surveying the subject with in-depth introductory essays on the history of the development of ethics in anthropology including by some who have been closely involved.

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      • Whiteford, Linda M., and Robert T. Trotter II. 2008. Ethics for anthropological research and practice. Long Grove, IL: Waveland.

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        This is the first textbook on ethics in anthropology. A clear and straightforward summary of the subject considering national and international aspects, but most examples are from medical anthropology. The fifth chapter discusses maximizing justice as well as minimizing harm. The last chapter provides a detailed problem-solving guide.

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      Anthologies

      By now there are more than a dozen anthologies, mostly sets of case studies with an introductory chapter for background and to integrate the cases. The earliest anthologies appeared during the late 1970s (Appell 1978, Rynkiewich and Spradley 1976). About a decade later, the American Anthropological Association realized the need for more material and published a handbook on ethics that is now available on the organization’s website (Cassell and Jacobs 1987). Other anthologies have appeared since, especially in the 2000s (Caplan 2003, Fluehr-Lobban 2003, Meskell and Pels 2005, Armbruster and Larke 2008). These provide heuristic examples of ethical problems and dilemmas that can be very helpful to individuals in thinking through their own professional ethics as well as personal morality in their studies and careers in which ethical considerations inevitably arise from time to time. Some ethical controversies even become scandals that generate even more interesting reading, discussion, and debate among students and others (Robin 2004).

      • Appell, G. N. 1978. Ethical dilemmas in anthropological inquiry: A case book. Waltham, MA: Crossroads.

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        Following the introductory chapter, ninety-one brief case studies remain relevant for thinking about ethical responsibilities to different interest groups in research and the related dilemmas. Also includes a section on teaching.

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      • Armbruster, Heidi, and Anna Larke. 2008. Taking sides: Ethics, politics, and fieldwork. New York: Berghahn.

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        An informative and provocative set of ten critical, candid, and reflective essays on the realities of political engagement combined with an ethical commitment in promoting social justice and peace in conflict zones of the world.

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      • Caplan, Pat, ed. 2003. The ethics of anthropology: Debates and dilemmas. New York: Routledge.

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        In response to the rise in concern about professional ethics during the Darkness in El Dorado Controversy, this anthology of insightful and challenging essays by eleven prominent anthropologists integrates theoretical and case studies. It raises penetrating questions including about why and for whom anthropology functions.

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      • Cassell, Joan, and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, eds. 1987. Handbook on ethical issues in anthropology. Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 23. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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        Seven chapters cover the history of ethical concerns in anthropology with an annotated bibliography, issues, sources, cases, teaching, and workshops aimed to improve the ethical adequacy of anthropology work.

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      • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn, ed. 2003. Ethics and the profession of anthropology: Dialogue for ethically conscious practice. 2d ed. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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        This is the best anthology for surveying the subject with in-depth introductory essays on the history of the development of ethics in anthropology including by some who have been closely involved.

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      • Meskell, Lynn, and Peter Pels, eds. 2005. Embedding ethics. New York: Berg.

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        Eleven authors from different subfields radically rethink and reposition ethics in anthropology beyond the narrow confines of formal codes. They assert that active engagement with ethics should be at the core of the discipline rather than merely an occasional afterthought.

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      • Robin, Ron. 2004. Scandals and scoundrels: Seven cases that shook the academy. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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        Three of the seven discussed cases that shook the academy are from anthropology: Patrick Tierney on Napoleon Chagnon, Rigoberta Menchú, and Derek Freeman on Margaret Mead. The book contains useful introductory and concluding chapters on why scandals erupt and their meaning, respectively.

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      • Rynkiewich, Michael A., and James P. Spradley, eds. 1976. Ethics and anthropology: Dilemmas in fieldwork. New York: Wiley.

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        The first collection of case studies that also underscores the recency of the development of this subject in anthropology. Twelve cases reveal ethical dilemmas and decisions encountered in fieldwork covering a wide range of considerations from choosing a research topic to publishing the results and the many challenges in between.

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      Journals

      The anthropological periodicals that most frequently publish occasional articles on professional ethics are Anthropology News, Anthropology Today, Current Anthropology, Human Organization, NAPA Bulletin, and Practicing Anthropology. Articles on ethics in these and other periodicals can be identified with a key word search of their websites: Anthropological Index Online and AnthroSource (both cited under Reference Works).

      American Anthropological Association

      The largest professional organization of anthropologists in the world, the American Anthropological Association (AAA), was established as early as 1902. However, the articulation of formal guidelines for professional ethics came decades later and only grew intermittently through a succession of occasional declarations beginning with the brief “Resolution on Freedom of Publication” issued in December 1948; a more extensive “Statement on Problems of Anthropological Research and Ethics” in March 1967; the “Principles of Professional Responsibility” in May 1971; and, most recently, the “Code of Ethics” in February 2009, which is currently under review yet again. It was not until 1971, that the AAA finally established a standing Committee on Ethics, although by 1996 its function was reduced almost entirely to education. During the 1960s, the AAA was one of the leaders in developing a statement on professional ethics. Also organizations representing the five subfields of archaeological, biological, cultural, linguistic, and applied anthropology have each constructed their own codes (American Anthropological Association Committee on Ethics, Hill 1987). Anthropological associations in many countries have developed their own separate code of ethics. It would be challenging to make an in-depth comparison of the similarities and differences among the various codes (Pels 1999). However, in recent years postmodernists have been raising questions about essentializing and universalizing principles of ethics (van Meijl 2000).

      • American Anthropological Association Committee on Ethics.

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        This site contains useful documents on the committee’s objectives, annual reports, case studies, current and previous statements, code of related organizations, and online resources.

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        • Hill, James. 1987. The Committee on Ethics: Past, present, and future. In Handbook on ethical issues in anthropology. Edited by Joan Cassell and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, 11–19. Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 23. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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          This chapter covers the history of the development of the AAA Committee on Ethics, formal statements on professional ethics, and related matters.

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        • Pels, Peter. 1999. Professions of duplexity: A prehistory of ethical codes in anthropology. Current Anthropology 40.2: 101–136.

          DOI: 10.1086/200001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Morals have been conceptualized and institutionalized in different ways in the history of anthropology and only very recently have they been codified. The author suggests that in the future codes may become unnecessary as the emphasis shifts toward the researcher negotiating with the study group and the research sponsors.

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        • van Meijl, Toon. 2000. Modern morals in postmodernity: A critical reflection on professional codes of ethics. Cultural Dynamics 121:65–81.

          DOI: 10.1177/092137400001200103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A critique of codes of ethics in anthropology which argues that morality is essentially ambivalent and cannot be universalized. Instead, postmodern ethics aims at the emancipation of the autonomous moral self to assume responsibility.

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        Colonialism

        Since its beginnings, anthropology has often been associated to some degree and in various ways with colonialism, imperialism, and more recently, neocolonialism. At the same time, this affiliation has been the subject of criticism, controversy, and debate, including its ethical implications. To this day, anthropology still struggles with such matters.

        General

        It is indisputable that the historical development of anthropology often went hand in hand with Western colonialism. It is also indisputable that colonialism involves the subjugation and exploitation of other peoples and their land and resources, rationalized in part by various versions and combinations of evolutionism, racism, and ethnocentrism. In extreme cases, this degenerated to crimes against humanity of ethnocide and genocide (Bodley 2008, Rose 2005). Evolutionism allowed many anthropologists the delusion of being separated from the indigenous and other victims of colonialism by viewing the so-called other as distant in time (or primitive) (Fabian 2002). Critiques of this colonial relationship have come from within anthropology (e.g., Gough 1968) as well as from outside by the colonized and victimized (Biolsi and Zimmerman 1997, Deloria 1988, LaDuke 2005, Smith 1999). Although most anthropologists seem to have been rather unconcerned about this, it has all generated considerable retrospection and introspection on the part of some anthropologists who have contributed substantially to the development of ideas and codes of professional ethics (Wax 1991).

        • Biolsi, Thomas, and Larry J. Zimmerman, eds. 1997. Indians and anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr., and the critique of anthropology. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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          Twelve essays assess the impact of Deloria’s critique of anthropology on the discipline after nearly three decades. Deloria wrote the concluding chapter.

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        • Bodley, John H. 2008. Victims of progress. 5th ed. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

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          One of the most important books in the entire history of anthropology. Bodley documents worldwide through time and space the recurrent phenomena of the different kinds of impacts of colonialism among indigenous peoples and their responses. The last chapter directly addresses the moral and ethical bases of the state-forced assimilation in contrast to the self-determination of indigenous societies.

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        • Deloria, Vine, Jr. 1988. Anthropologists and other friends. In Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. By Vine Deloria Jr., 83–104. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma.

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          A penetrating but often humorous critique of academic colonialism including the deficit of genuine reciprocity and social relevance in many anthropological studies of Native American communities at the time.

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        • Fabian, Johannes. 2002. Time and the other: How anthropology makes its object. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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          Author argues that viewing “the other” as “primitive” provided the rationalization of temporal and evolutionary distance for not taking moral and ethical responsibility in colonial situations.

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        • Gough, Kathleen. 1968. Anthropology and imperialism. Monthly Review 19.11: 12–24.

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          This article is a classic indictment of the role of anthropologists in colonialism and imperialism.

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        • LaDuke, Winona. 2005. Recovering the sacred: The power of naming and claiming. Cambridge, MA: South End.

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          This book includes chapters titled “Imperial Anthropology: The Ethics of Collecting” and “Vampires in the New World: Blood, Academia, and Human Genetics” critiquing aspects of anthropology.

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        • Rose, Deborah Bird. 2005. Reports from a wild country: Ethics for decolonization. Sydney: Univ. of New South Wales Press.

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          The book investigates through case studies the major ethical challenges facing Australia in reconciling the relationships between Aborigines and others as well as with the environment in difficult times.

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        • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York: Zed.

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          A critique of Western academic colonialism and the advancement of an alternative agenda for reclaiming indigenous ways of knowing and being.

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        • Wax, Murray L. 1991. The ethics of research in American Indian communities. American Indian Quarterly 15.4: 431–456.

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          A detailed and insightful discussion of the results of a survey exploring the perspectives of different interest groups regarding anthropological research with Native Americans.

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        Ishi and Kroeber

        The specific case of Alfred L. Kroeber (b. 1876–d. 1960) at the University of California in Berkeley and Ishi (b. c. 1860–d. 1916), the last surviving member of the indigenous Yahi culture in the colonial context of American anthropology, illustrates ethical dilemmas, many of which persist to this day. The case was originally documented by Kroeber’s wife (Kroeber 1961). She coauthored a subsequent compilation of historical documents (Heizer and Kroeber 1979). It has been the subject of a superb documentary film (Riffe and Roberts 2002) and a moving television docudrama that nicely contextualizes the human relationships involved (Miller 2004). Criticisms of Kroeber’s professional ethics have been elaborated (Sackman 2010), while his sons have published extensive documentation and defended him (Kroeber and Kroeber 2003). There has also been a detective-like investigation pursuing the brain of Ishi, which was extracted and preserved during an autopsy in spite of Kroeber’s objection and then sent to the Smithsonian Institution for study (Starn 2004).

        • Heizer, Robert F., and Theodora Kroeber, eds. 1979. Ishi, the last Yahi: A documentary history. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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          This book reprints most of the articles on Ishi, his Yahi culture, and related subjects including eyewitness accounts. Provides ready access to the extensive historical documentation and a glimpse into the history of Indian-white relations and anthropology in the colonial history of California wherein many moral and ethical issues are apparent.

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        • Kroeber, Theodora. 1961. Ishi in two worlds: A biography of the last wild Indian in North America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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          Classic moving biographical account of Ishi’s life as a “wild Indian” and then from 1911 to 1916 at the University of California–Berkeley Museum of Anthropology. A deluxe illustrated edition was published in 1976.

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        • Kroeber, Karl, and Clifton Kroeber, eds. 2003. Ishi in three centuries. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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          The editors are Kroeber’s sons and distinguished university professors. They and contributing authors provide personal and historical depth and perspective in this very detailed documentation of the relationship between Alfred Kroeber and Ishi as well as a diversity of related subjects like the controversy over repatriating Ishi’s remains. Demonstrates the continuing relevance of Ishi for anthropology, Native Americans, and many others.

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        • Miller, Robert Ellis, dir. 1992. Last of his tribe. DVD. 2004. New York: Home Box Office.

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          Originally made for television in 1992 on the anniversary of the Columbian Quincentennial, this docudrama is based on Theodora Kroeber’s book on Ishi (Kroeber 1961). It is a very informative and deeply moving portrait of the human context of the relationship between Ishi and Alfred Kroeber, and it raises many moral and ethical questions. This film can also be streamed online.

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        • Riffe, Jed, and Pamela Roberts, prods. and dirs. 1992. Ishi, the last Yahi. DVD. 2002. Berkeley: University of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning.

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          An award-winning documentary film based on original research building on the work of Robert F. Heizer and Theodora Kroeber in their coauthored book on Ishi (Heizer and Kroeber 1979).

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        • Sackman, Douglas Cazaux. 2010. Wild men: Ishi and Kroeber in the wilderness of modern America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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          A nuanced account with new revelations about this episode of anthropology in the American frontier. Describes how well Ishi adapted to his new life and environment as well as how deeply involved Kroeber became in working with Ishi to the point that he questioned his own civilization and profession.

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        • Starn, Orin. 2004. Ishi’s brain: In search of America’s last “wild” Indian. New York: W. W. Norton.

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          This book covers an anthropologist’s adventures in search of Ishi’s brain, which had been extracted and preserved during an autopsy, then stored for study at the Smithsonian Institution. Contextualizes the sordid political history of the immoral domination and exploitation of Native Americans.

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        Wars

        Most of the more serious ethical controversies and periods of moral introspection by the profession in general followed by further development of some statement or code of ethics by organizations have been associated with the involvement of anthropologists in some kind of government service in warfare including with the military, and especially in the case of clandestine and secret work. Anthropological involvement has not been revealed for wars prior to World War I, a task for future historians. The Korean War is also a forgotten war in terms of anthropological collaboration, another project for future historians. However, for other American wars, beginning with World War I, and especially most subsequent wars, a body of literature has been accumulating progressively in recent years. World War II has been called the “good war.” However, afterward many anthropologists developed reservations about some activities. The Vietnam War was by far the most controversial in the United States and beyond, and that controversy was reflected within the organizations of anthropology as well as the profession in general. Much more than any other war, the Vietnam War generated not only heat but also light; namely, within the American Anthropological Association (AAA) with the development of the first substantial code of ethics in 1967 and the establishment of the permanent Committee on Ethics in 1971. Thus an entire publication or course could be constructed around the history of anthropology and warfare, and in that context the sole focus could be on the correlated development of professional ethics.

        World War I

        Franz Boas (b. 1858–d. 1942), commonly considered as the founder of American anthropology and a public anthropologist, was also a pacifist (Stocking 1992). He publicly exposed several US government spies working under the guise of anthropologists conducting field research in Mexico during World War I (Boas 1919, Weiler 2008). His moral courage as a whistle-blower was rewarded with censorship by the very organization he helped to establish, the American Anthropological Association (AAA). However, he was uncensored by a vote of the AAA membership in 2005. The issues of clandestine and secret research have erupted sporadically to this day (Price 2000).

        • Boas, Franz. 1919. Scientists as spies. The Nation 109 (December 19): 729.

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          The original letter disclosing US government spies disguised as anthropologists conducting research in Mexico that generated an ugly political backlash within the anthropological establishment and beyond. It is often cited as the first ethical controversy in American anthropology for lack of research on previous eras.

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        • Price, David H. 2000. Anthropologists as spies. The Nation 271 (20 November): 24–27.

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          Price discusses the recurrent ethical issues with clandestine and secret research that have been exposed periodically by whistle-blowers since Boas to this day.

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        • Stocking, George W. 1992. Anthropology as Kulturkampf: Science and politics in the career of Franz Boas. In The ethnographer’s magic and other essays in the history of anthropology. Edited by G. W. Stocking, 92–113. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

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          The foremost historian of anthropology provides a substantial overview of the career of Franz Boas as a public intellectual and scientific activist focusing on the ambiguities and ironies of his campaign to establish the reality, meaning, and significance of culture and cultural diversity as well as his moral and ethical concerns.

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        • Weiler, Bernd. 2008. Thus spoke the scientist: Franz Boas’ critique of the role of the United States in World War I. In Academics as public intellectuals. Edited by Sven Eliason and Ragenvald Kallberg, 65–86. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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          Argues that the pacifist Boas as public anthropologist politically criticizes the American role in World War I on scientific grounds including those of cultural relativism to legitimate his normative statements.

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        World War II

        Many anthropologists applied their knowledge, theories, methods, and skills in various ways during World War II. Among other venues, this transpired in the government and military service of American anthropologists; in the employment of anthropologists as researchers, administrators, and social workers in the relocation centers for Japanese Americans; and also in the uses of anthropology to rationalize and implement the genocidal and other policies of the Nazi regime in Germany. These and other uses and abuses of anthropology during World War II have many ethical implications that have been exposed and critiqued during recent years.

        American Anthropology

        The so-called good war was a period when the overwhelming majority of anthropologists in America were employed in some capacity with the government or military during the war effort without much questioning about the ethics involved (Goldschmidt 1979, Price 2008, and Price 2011). Only afterward did some individuals reflect critically on their efforts with a few even expressing regrets (Mabee 1987).

        • Goldschmidt, Walter, ed. 1979. The uses of anthropology. Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 11. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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          Eighteen seminal essays explore the development of applied anthropology through its early uses in the Bureau of American Ethnology, the politics of Franz Boas as public scientist, and its uses during the Great Depression and World War II, and afterward.

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        • Mabee, Carleton. 1987. Margaret Mead and behavioral scientists in World War II: Problems in responsibility, truth, and effectiveness. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 23.1: 3–13.

          DOI: 10.1002/1520-6696(198701)23:1%3C3::AID-JHBS2300230102%3E3.0.CO;2-USave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Mead enthusiastically pursued applied anthropology research as part of the war effort as did the great majority of American anthropologists at the time, but she also had misgivings about some aspects of the work such as the deceitfulness in tactics of psychological warfare.

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        • Price, David H. 2008. Anthropological intelligence: The deployment and neglect of American anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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          The foremost authority on the uses and abuses of anthropology during World War II reports on his meticulous research which uncovered a wealth of information, especially through skillfully taking advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. Demonstrates how anthropological work for the government and military impacted on a humanistic science, generating ethical and other questions.

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        • Price, David H. 2011. David Price’s Homepage.

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          Contains a wealth of information including free access online to many publications about aspects of American anthropological involvement in World War II, the Cold War, and the war on terror. Also extensive links to other key resources.

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        Relocation Centers for Japanese Americans

        Only since the 1980s have a few scholars begun to expose a much neglected subject in the political history of anthropology and its professional ethics; namely, the employment of anthropologists in the ten detention centers of the fundamentally racist forced relocation of completely innocent Japanese Americans into internment camps in the United States during World War II (Starn 1986, Suzuki 1981, and Suzuki 1986). However, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) has repeatedly failed to respond to the allegations of ethical misconduct by some of the anthropologists employed in the camps (Suzuki 2006).

        • Starn, Orin. 1986. Engineering internment: Anthropologists and war relocation authority. American Ethnologist 13:700–720.

          DOI: 10.1525/ae.1986.13.4.02a00070Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          In spite of their mostly good intentions, the reports of anthropologists working in internment camps had several unintended consequences including restrictions on discussion about the removal, its legitimacy, and facilitating racial and ethnic stereotypes about the Japanese Americans.

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        • Suzuki, Peter T. 1981. Anthropologists in the wartime camps for Japanese Americans: A documentary study. Dialectical Anthropology 6:23–60.

          DOI: 10.1007/BF02068210Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Critically analyzes the involvement of some of the most prestigious anthropologists in community analysis and policy reports in the camps. Argues that the methods, assumptions, and pretensions of conventional American anthropology were tested in the camps and found deficient. Pays special attention to the distorted observations of Weston La Barre at Topaz Internment Camp in Utah.

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        • Suzuki, Peter T. 1986. The University of California Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement Study: A prolegomenon. Dialectical Anthropology 10:189–213.

          DOI: 10.1007/BF02343105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Drawing on documents in the National Archive, this article critically analyzes certain activities of camp anthropologists not considered in the previous publication, including the Tule Lake segregation center for interns alleged to be disloyal with irreparable damage done to their reputations.

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        • Suzuki, Peter T. 2006. Anthropologists must confront, openly discuss, and honestly teach the truth. AAA Anthropology News 47.6: 24.

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          This appeal for the AAA to finally take a responsible public position on the unethical conduct of some of the anthropologists who worked in the camps has gone unanswered, which itself is an ethical problem.

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        Nazi Germany

        Only more than half a century afterward is something of a taboo being broken, namely, the investigation of the moral and ethical misconduct of some anthropologists who collaborated in important ways with the Nazi regime in Germany. Among other things, they helped provide a “scientific” rationale for the racism and even identified “racial types” for extermination as part of the state eugenics program. The historical context has been documented (Evans 2010, Penny and Bunzel 2003), while the very disturbing specifics have been meticulously exposed (Schafft 2004).

        • Evans, Andrew D. 2010. Anthropology at war: World War I and the science of race in Germany. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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          Traces the history of anthropology in Germany from a liberal science in the late 19th century to its abuses by the Nazi party.

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        • Penny, H. Glenn, and Matti Bunzel, eds. 2003. Worldly provincialism: German anthropology in the age of empire. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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          The diversity within German anthropology from its imperial era into World War I challenges common understandings of the relationships among anthropology, colonialism, and racism.

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        • Schafft, Gretchen Engle. 2004. From racism to genocide: Anthropology and the Third Reich. New York: Berg.

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          This most disturbing account exposes how many anthropologists helped Nazis justify racism, developed practical applications of racist theories, and were actively involved in every stage of the Holocaust. The professional and financial support from the United States is revealed as well.

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        Vietnam War

        The heated controversies and opposition in American society surrounding the Vietnam War generated vigorous discussion and debate in American anthropology and beyond including about professional ethics. Among other things, apolitical and amoral science was challenged as a myth. Unethical aspects in the past and present of anthropology were exposed, including colonialism, racism, and ethnocentrism (Hymes 1999). A succession of articles in the international journal Current Anthropology (see Journals) called for more ethically responsible and socially relevant work (Berreman 1968). A French-Vietnamese anthropologist whose ethnography was stolen and applied for US military purposes in Vietnam gave a very disturbing account at the annual convention of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 1972 (Condominas 1973). In a separate case, files were stolen and published from a professor’s office revealing clandestine and secret counterinsurgency field research by American and other anthropologists in Thailand (Davenport 1985, Hinton 2002, and Wakin 1992). Some anthropologists were deeply involved in the American war effort, albeit perhaps with the best of intentions and occasionally offering serious criticisms of policies, strategies, and tactics (Hickey 2002).

        • Berreman, Gerald D., et al. 1968. Social Responsibilities Symposium. Current Anthropology 9.5: 391–435.

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          An early symposium of continuing relevance to this day on the social responsibility of anthropologists with classic essays by Gerald D. Berreman, Gutorm Gjessing, and Kathleen Gough reflecting to some degree the ethical awakening of the profession.

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        • Condominas, George. 1973. AAA Distinguished Lecture 1972: Ethics and comfort: An ethnographer’s view of his profession. AAA Annual Report 1972: 1–17.

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          The French-Vietnamese author reflects on the lethal use by the US military of information from his ethnographic book during the Vietnam War.

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        • Davenport, William. 1985. The Thailand controversy in retrospect. In Social contexts of American ethnology, 1840–1984: 1984 proceedings of the American Ethnological Society. Edited by June Helm, 65–72. Washington, DC: American Ethnological Society.

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          A very detailed history of the bitter Thailand controversy within the framework of the actions of the AAA. Concludes that some individuals were needlessly harmed because the institutional procedures of the AAA were insufficient to deal with such a serious matter.

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        • Hickey, Gerald C. 2002. Window on a war: An anthropologist in the Vietnam conflict. Lubbock: Texas Tech Univ. Press.

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          This autobiography reflects on an anthropologist’s field experience with the Montagnards of the Central Highlands of Vietnam from 1956 to 1973. Hickey, an alumnus of the University of Chicago, describes being ostracized by his alma mater because of his work during the Vietnam War with the defense contractor, the Rand Corporation.

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        • Hinton, Peter. 2002. The Thailand controversy revisited. Australian Journal of Anthropology 13.2: 155–177.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1835-9310.2002.tb00197.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          The “Thailand controversy” was extremely divisive in Australia as well as in the United States. The author, an Australian anthropologist, was among those accused of collaborating with the Tribal Research Center in Chiang Mai for US military and intelligence purposes at the expense of ethnic minorities in the region. Hinton presents his perspective on the political and ethical issues involved as well as on the impact of the controversy on Australian anthropology.

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        • Hymes, Dell, ed. 1999. Reinventing anthropology. 2d ed. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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          One of the most important books in the entire history of anthropology, this anthology is a radical critique of the anthropological establishment, exposing moral and ethical issues including aspects of anthropological involvement in colonialism, ethnocentrism, and racism.

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        • Wakin, Eric. 1992. Anthropology goes to war: Professional ethics and counterinsurgency in Thailand. Center for Southeast Asian Studies 7. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

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          Penetrating documentation and critical analysis of the exposure of anthropologists engaged in counterinsurgency and other clandestine and secret research in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

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        Cold War

        Several anthropologists who worked in Latin America during the Cold War have published critical analyses exposing some of the ethical and other issues involved. While the Cold War ended years ago, its legacy persists, as in the controversy over the ethics of research among the Yanomami in the Amazon that exploded in 2000.

        General

        Various studies are documenting ethical issues in the work of anthropologists in Latin America during the Cold War including apathy as well as involvement in serious political matters (Lewis 2005, Nader 1997, and Wax 2008). Although it was canceled after exposure, Project Camelot was an early major social science research initiative sponsored by the Army Research office of the US Department of Defense to assess the causes of social and political unrest and revolutions as well as effect ways for their prevention or circumvention (Beals 1969). In contrast, other anthropologists in Guatemala and elsewhere conducted applied and advocacy research on behalf of the survival, welfare, and rights of indigenous and peasant peoples, such as the violently oppressed Maya (Manz 1995). Many anthropologists who were political activists were persecuted by US government agencies during the 1950s and beyond (Price 2004). Still others were detached politically while conducting fieldwork in areas where locals were being oppressed, exploited, and in some cases, tortured and even killed (Bourgois 1990, Ehlers 1990, and Starn 1994).

        • Beals, Ralph L. 1969. Politics of social research: An inquiry into the ethics and responsibilities of social scientists. Chicago: Aldine.

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          Reacting to the scandal over the Camelot Project, the author examines the appropriate conduct of anthropologists and other social scientists funded by and/or collaborating with their own and other governments. The rationale of collaborating because of patriotism alone is challenged. The dilemma of disagreement with government policies at home and in the field is also explored.

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        • Bourgois, Phillipe. 1990. Confronting anthropological ethics: Ethnographic lessons from Central America. Journal of Peace Research 27.1: 43–54.

          DOI: 10.1177/0022343390027001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Personal conscience and field experience leads the author to question the very limited and mostly methodological framing of professional ethics that discourages as partisan, unscholarly, and even unethical research on unequal power relationships and other sensitive topics such as political oppression, social suffering, human rights violations, and genocide.

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        • Ehlers, Tracy Bachrach. 1990. Central America in the 1980s: Political crisis and the social responsibility of anthropologists. Latin American Research Review 25.3: 141–155.

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          Through content analysis of seven major periodicals in cultural anthropology, the author investigates the character and causes of the gross neglect by most field researchers in Central America during the 1980s of the political violence faced by millions of people.

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        • Lewis, Herbert S. 2005. Anthropology, the Cold War, and intellectual history. In Histories of anthropology annual. Vol. 1. Edited by Regna Darnell and Frederic W. Gleach, 99–113. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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          A critical review of the history of anthropological research during the Cold War.

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        • Manz, Beatrice. 1995. Reflections on an Antropologia Comprometida: Conversations with Ricardo Falla. In Fieldwork under fire: Contemporary studies of violence and survival. Edited by Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius C. G. M. Robben, 260–274. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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          The truly heroic advocacy work of a Jesuit priest and liberation anthropologist on behalf of Mayan communities in Guatemala during a horrific period of civil war.

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        • Nader, Laura. 1997. The phantom factor: The impact of the Cold War on anthropology. In The Cold War and the university: Toward an intellectual history of the postwar years. Edited by Noam Chomsky, et al., 107–146. New York: W. W. Norton.

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          A superb wide-ranging critical review of the impact of the Cold War on anthropology from the personal perspective of a prominent anthropologist.

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        • Price, David H. 2004. Threatening anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s surveillance of activist anthropologists. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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          A complicated history of the harassment of anthropologists who were political activists during the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era and the moral and ethical issues involved.

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        • Starn, Orin. 1994. Rethinking the politics of anthropology: The case of the Andes. Current Anthropology 35.1: 13–38.

          DOI: 10.1086/204233Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Starn argues that anthropologists working in the Andes have tended to neglect the ambiguities and contradictions of the colonial past and postcolonial present. He seeks to develop a vision of more liberating politics that can facilitate the local struggles for social justice.

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        • Wax, Dustin M., ed. 2008. Anthropology at the dawn of the Cold War. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto.

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          Exposing a new subject in the history of anthropology and its politics and professional ethics, this edited book documents cases of the involvement of anthropology in the Cold War and its impact on the discipline operating at the interface of science and power.

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        Darkness in El Dorado Controversy

        An ethical controversy exploded worldwide around a multitude of diverse allegations regarding research with Yanomami in the Venezuela Amazon in Tierney 2001, such as irresponsibility during a lethal epidemic, lack of informed consent, misrepresentation of subjects, and many more issues (see also Wong 2001). Several documentary films help contextualize this controversy (Asch, et al. 1980, Padilha 2010). A number of investigations were launched, even in other countries. While the controversy subsided after about five years, it is far from dead or completely resolved (Padilha 2010). Moreover, many of the ethical issues transcend the particulars involved with enduring implications for all anthropologists (Borofsky 2005, Sponsel 2006). During the controversy, additional instances of unethical conduct developed as well (Gregor and Gross 2004). For example, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) censored its preliminary and final reports of its Task Force on Darkness in El Dorado by removing them from its official website, for some raising serious ethical questions about its responsibility to its own task force and membership as well as to the Yanomami. However, these reports can be found elsewhere, including in Hume 2011, an accumulating compilation of a large mass of articles and other sources fairly reflecting all sides in debates and other matters. Other reports by the AAA have been continued such as a series of briefing papers on ethics, some dealing with previously neglected aspects (American Anthropological Association Committtee on Ethics 2006).

        • American Anthropological Association Committtee on Ethics. 2006. Briefing Papers on Common Dilemmas Faced by Anthropologists Conducting Research in Field Situations. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

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          Extremely useful background information and guidelines regarding the researchers’ responsibilities to informants and the host community during a health crisis, for compensation, through impact from material assistance, with potential negative impacts of publications, for adequate informed consent, and in sexual relationships.

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        • Asch, Timothy, Napoleon Chagnon, and James Neel, prods. 1971. Yanomama, a multidisciplinary study. VHS. 1980. Watertown, MA: Documentary Educational Resources.

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          Documentary film made by field researchers in the midst of a deadly measles epidemic among the Yanomami, an episode that became a major focus of the ethical controversy generated by Tierney 2001.

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        • Borofsky, Robert, ed. 2005. Yanomami: The fierce controversy and what we can learn from it. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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          By far the best single source on the entire controversy. Includes a series of three roundtable discussions by three critics and three defenders of Napoleon Chagnon and his associates. These are skillfully contextualized and summarized by the editor in meticulous introductory and concluding chapters.

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        • Gregor, Thomas A., and Daniel R. Gross. 2004. Guilt by association: The culture of accusation and the American Anthropological Association’s investigation of Darkness in El Dorado. American Anthropologist 106.4: 687–698.

          DOI: 10.1525/aa.2004.106.4.687Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          The authors charge the leaders of the AAA and others with promoting a culture of accusations through making accusations of their own.

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        • Hume, Douglas. 2011. Anthropological Niche: Darkness in El Dorado.

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          Since the controversy erupted in 2000, Hume has been accumulating a wealth of material to fairly document all aspects and sides, including crucial documents censored in effect by the AAA leadership when they removed them from its website and thus denied access to its own membership.

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        • Padilha, José, dir. 2010. Secrets of the tribe. Watertown, MA: Documentary Educational Resources.

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          A historical film documenting the controversy through a series of juxtaposed interview segments with the principals involved and others. Beyond the particulars, it has ethical implications for anthropologists in general. Allows viewers to draw their own conclusions.

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        • Sponsel, Leslie E. 2006. Darkness in El Dorado controversy. In The encyclopedia of anthropology. Vol. 1. Edited by H. James Birx, 667–673. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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          A thorough but concise critical review of the controversy.

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        • Tierney, Patrick. 2001. Darkness in El Dorado: How scientists and journalists devastated the Amazon. New York: W. W. Norton.

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          The product of a decade of research by the journalist Tierney. Documents a multitude of diverse allegations of ethical misconduct and even violations of human rights. Summarizes criticisms of Napoleon Chagnon that have been made for decades by many different anthropologists including other Yanomami experts. Independent inquiries by individuals and organizations have refuted some allegations and confirmed others, yet many remain unexamined.

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        • Wong, Kate. 2001. Fighting the darkness in El Dorado. Scientific American 284.3: 26–28.

          DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican0301-26Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Journalist provides a venue for Napoleon Chagnon to respond to some of the multitude of diverse allegations made about him in Patrick Tierney’s book, a rare instance in which he has gone public about the controversy. Includes some statements by Chagnon’s defenders.

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        Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

        The most recent major controversy concerns the ethics of anthropologists among other social scientists who are embedded with the US military in the prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under the rubric of the Human Terrain System (HTS), even though relatively few individuals are employed (US Army). Some refer to such work as military anthropology or even mercenary anthropology. An inquiry of a special commission of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) issued a final report identifying likely violations of the Code of Ethics by anthropologists working in such situations (American Anthropological Association 2007). The Network of Concerned Anthropologists (Network of Concerned Anthropologists 2009, Network of Concerned Anthropologists) has organized sessions at several of the annual conventions of the AAA and authored articles and books exploring and critiquing various aspects and diverse ramifications of the HTS and related work such as the weaponization of “culture” (Gonzalez 2009). George R. Lucas, a philosopher who teaches in a military academy, analyzes the moral and ethical dimensions of anthropologists involved in the HTS and related matters in Lucas 2009. Complex and difficult political as well as ethical issues are inherent in anthropologists working with the US government and military in counterinsurgency and the so-called war on terror (Kelly, et al. 2010). It has been argued that researchers receiving government funding need special ethical guidelines (Goolsby 2005). The pros and cons, including morality and ethics, of such collaboration have been debated extensively in the pages of the AAA’s Anthropology News and in Anthropology Today (both cited under Journals), among other professional publications. This controversy reflects the recurrent ethical concerns with clandestine, secret, spy, government, military, intelligence, and private security agency work by anthropologists since the fiasco with Franz Boas during World War I.

        • American Anthropological Association. 2007. Final report on the army’s human terrain system proof of concept program. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

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          A thorough assessment by the AAA Commission on Engagement of Anthropology with US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC) of the potential ethical violations of anthropologists embedded with the US military on the frontlines of warfare. Work of the commission continued through 2010.

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        • González, Roberto J. 2009. American counterinsurgency: Human science and the human terrain. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm.

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          A penetrating critical analysis of the use of anthropologists and other social scientists by the US military in the war on terror including counterinsurgency as well as by private security and military contracting firms. Considers the potential harm to innocent civilians and the ethics of the weaponization of “culture” for military purposes in warfare.

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        • Goolsby, Rebecca. 2005. Ethics and defense agency funding: Some consideration. Social Networks 27.2: 95–106.

          DOI: 10.1016/j.socnet.2005.01.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          An anthropologist employed in a funding agency for military defense science and technology recommends specific guidelines for assessing ethical problems in such work.

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        • Kelly, John D., Beatrice Jauregui, Sean T. Mitchell, and Jeremy Walton, eds. 2010. Anthropology and global counterinsurgency. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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          Among other things, explores how anthropologists respond to the political and ethical dilemmas raised by military interests in applying their research to counterinsurgency efforts in the prolonged violent power struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in conflicts in other times and places.

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        • Lucas, George R., Jr. 2009. Anthropologists in arms: The ethics of military anthropology. Thousand Oaks, CA: AltaMira.

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          A philosopher scrutinizes the moral and ethical issues in the collaboration of anthropologists and other social scientists with military, security, and intelligence agencies in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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        • Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

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          A substantial group of scientists and scholars advocating ethical conduct in basic and applied anthropological research who are convinced that anthropologists should not contribute to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of the war on terror. They are concerned about the slippery slope of military anthropology based on precedents in the history of the discipline. Their website contains abundant information and resources.

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        • Network of Concerned Anthropologists. 2009. The counter-counterinsurgency manual: Or, notes on demilitarizing American society. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm.

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          This book critiques the military strategy of using social scientists to “win hearts and minds” in a war zone and to gather intelligence on actual and potential enemy combatants by revealing the intellectual and ethical issues inevitably involved. Also provides a blueprint for resistance to the deformation and exploitation of anthropology through its militarization in an age of empire.

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        • US Army. Human Terrain System.

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          The official website on the use of social scientists in counterinsurgency and related matters. Contains a wealth of information including files on the mission statement, operational need, history and future development, frequently asked questions, and a very extensive list of recommended readings.

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        • Wax, Murray L. 2003. Wartime dilemmas of an ethical anthropology. Anthropology Today 19.3: 23–24.

          DOI: 10.1111/1467-8322.00194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Discusses in historical perspective the ethical concerns of anthropologists working with defense and intelligence agencies in world wars, the McCarthy and Cold War eras, and also the risks of cultural relativism.

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        Cultural and Moral Relativism

        Since Franz Boas (b. 1858–d. 1942) and his disciples, cultural relativism, as distinct from moral relativism, has been central and pivotal in the professional worldview, values, attitudes, methods, and practice of anthropology as a humanistic and humanitarian science (Carrithers 2005, Johnson 2007, and Perry 2003). Boasian Melville Herskovits (b. 1895–d. 1963) was the foremost analyst and advocate of cultural relativism (Fernandez 1990, Herskovits 1972). At the same time, cultural relativism has been subject to criticisms (D’Andrade 1995) as well as defenses (Geertz 1984, Hatch 1997, and Shweder 1990).

        • Carrithers, Michael. 2005. Anthropology as a moral science of possibilities. Current Anthropology 46.3: 433–456.

          DOI: 10.1086/428801Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          The author analyzes American political rhetoric justifying the invasion of Iraq to demonstrate that anthropology can advance moral and social criticism of imperialism in spite of its own relativism.

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        • D’Andrade, Roy. 1995. Moral models in anthropology. Current Anthropology 36.3: 399–408.

          DOI: 10.1086/204377Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          The author argues that if anthropology is to have any moral authority before the public, then it must keep separate its objectivity as a science on the one hand from its moral models and judgments on the other.

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        • Fernandez, James W. 1990. Tolerance in a repugnant world and other dilemmas in the cultural relativism of Melville J. Herskovits. Ethos 18.2: 140–164.

          DOI: 10.1525/eth.1990.18.2.02a00020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          In a special issue of this journal devoted to moral relativism, based on the publications and personal discussions in the classroom and beyond by Herskovits, Fernandez analyzes in historical perspective the dilemmas in cultural relativism, as distinct from ethical relativity, of the foremost academic and public champion of this pivotal concept in anthropology as a force for a more humane world.

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        • Geertz, Clifford. 1984. Anti anti-relativism. American Anthropologist 86.2: 263–278.

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          A classic essay that seeks not to defend cultural relativism, but to refute the myth of the negative consequences that are commonly claimed to result.

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        • Hatch, Elvin. 1997. The good side of relativism. Journal of Anthropological Research 53.3: 371–381.

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          In a special issue devoted to the topic of “Universal Human Rights versus Cultural Relativism” Hatch asserts that the tolerance prescribed by relativism should guide an anthropologist’s moral posture in the absence of persuasive arguments to the contrary.

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        • Herskovits, Melville J. 1972. Cultural relativism: Perspectives in cultural pluralism. New York: Random House.

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          Reprints seminal essays published over a period of fifteen years by the foremost proponent of cultural relativism. Argues against simply replacing racism with a culturalism that declares the superiority of some cultures over others. More relevant than ever in the contemporary context of increasing contact among diverse cultures and ethnic groups as well as for issues of multiculturalism.

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        • Johnson, Thomas H. 2007. Cultural relativism: Interpretations of a concept. Anthropological Quarterly 80.3: 791–802.

          DOI: 10.1353/anq.2007.0043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This article in a special issue of the journal devoted to cultural relativism critiques various interpretations of the concept including by philosophers, and then argues that ultimately the anthropologist’s interpretation depends on professional training and field experience in another culture. The author asserts that applying cultural relativism to understand another culture ultimately leads to a new or enhanced sense of morality instead of moral relativism.

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        • Perry, Richard J. 2003. The idea of relativism. In Five key concepts in anthropological theory. Edited by Richard J. Perry, 159–188. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Prentice Hall.

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          A very thorough but concise historical overview of cultural and moral relativism in anthropology.

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        • Shweder, Richard A. 1990. Ethical relativism: Is there a defensible version? Ethos 18.2: 165–179.

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          A nuanced and insightful defense of ethical relativism in a special issue of this journal on moral relativism. Identifies universal and culturally prescribed moral behavior; for instance, all cultures have concepts of fairness and justice such as protecting vulnerable individuals.

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        Intellectual Property Rights

        Whose intellectual property is an ethnography? Under what circumstances are the intellectual property rights of the people anthropologists work with either violated or advanced by the researcher (Brush and Stabinsky 1996)? Such complex and difficult ethical questions have been scrutinized only during the last two decades. They are increasingly important for indigenous and other peoples that anthropologists study, as well as for ethical conduct by researchers (Greaves 1994). Anthropologist Darrell A. Posey (b. 1947–d. 2001) was a pioneer in this domain and a leader in a major ethical statement about it, the Belém Declaration (Plenderleith 2004, International Society of Ethnobiology 1990).

        • Brush, Stephen B., and Doreen Stabinsky, eds. 1996. Valuing local knowledge: Indigenous people and intellectual property rights. Washington, DC: Island Press.

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          An international group of specialists present case studies about projects that honor and monetarily reward indigenous knowledge as a matter of intellectual property rights thereby facilitating their environmental stewardship and conservation practices.

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        • Greaves, Tom, ed. 1994. Intellectual property rights for indigenous people: A sourcebook. Oklahoma City: Society for Applied Anthropology.

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          Fifteen essays explore diverse aspects of indigenous intellectual property rights in relation to the crop varieties, pharmaceutical industry, biodiversity conservation, nongovernmental organizations, law, international agreements, tribal sovereignty, and cultural heritage.

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        • International Society of Ethnobiology. 1990. Declaration of Belém. Ethnobiology: Implications and application; Proceedings of the First International Congress of Ethnobiology, Belém, 1988. Edited by Darrell A. Posey, et al., 19–22. Belém, Brazil: Emilio Goeldi Museum.

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          A historic statement on ethical responsibility generated by an international assemblage of ethnobiologists.

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        • Plenderleith, Kristina, ed. 2004. Indigenous knowledge and ethics: A Darrell Posey reader. London, UK: Routledge.

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          A collection of seventeen articles reprinted from a seminal leader on indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights.

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        Mead and Freeman on Samoa

        Drawing on the author’s own field and archival research, Freeman 1999 generated a heated controversy when Freeman challenged the veracity of Mead 1928. He argued that as a scientist she was biased by the dominant Boasian ideology of cultural determinism and relativism as well as misled by informants. The challenge to Mead, one of the most famous anthropologists and public intellectuals of her time and since (Heimans 1988), triggered widespread debate in the periodical literature the citations of which can be found in the following books (Holmes 1987, Orans 1996, and Shankman 2009). Ethical issues arise with regard to the nature of the debates as well as that of the original fieldwork. In addition, there are interesting parallels to the case of Darkness in El Dorado, such as attempts to frame the debate as solely an ideological and/or political dispute to deflect attention away from the ethical issues, a tactic that some view as itself ethically problematic. Likewise, there is the unresolved dilemma of how anthropologists with differing viewpoints can engage in civil and constructive ethical dialogue to progress toward some resolution of issues for the sake of the discipline and science in general.

        • Freeman, Derek. 1999. The fateful hoaxing of Margaret Mead. New York: Basic Books.

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          Second book by Freeman challenging the veracity of Mead’s famous interpretation of Samoa culture. Argues that she was ideologically driven and biased by her Boasian faith in cultural determinism and relativism.

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        • Heimans, Frank, dir. 1988. Margaret Mead and Samoa. VHS. New York: Brighton Video.

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          Documents the heated controversy surrounding Derek Freeman’s attempt to refute Margaret Mead’s famous characterization of Samoan adolescent girls.

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        • Holmes, Lowell D. 1987. Quest for the real Samoa: The Mead/Freeman controversy and beyond. New York: Bergin Garvey.

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          Holmes’s restudy of Mead’s community in Samoa confirms the credibility of her research. He attempts to explain Freeman’s very different conclusions and also summarizes the numerous critiques of Freeman’s work in the periodical literature.

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        • Mead, Margaret. 1928. Coming of age in Samoa: A psychological study of primitive youth for Western civilization. New York: W. Morrow.

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          Classic ethnography arguing that culture is by far the most important influence on human behavior including the psychosexual development of adolescents.

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        • Orans, Martin. 1996. Not even wrong: Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman and the Samoans. Novato, CA: Chandler and Sharp.

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          A careful attempt to be objective in examining the evidence and arguments of Freeman.

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        • Shankman, Paul. 2009. The trashing of Margaret Mead: Anatomy of an anthropological controversy. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

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          Investigates the numerous aspects of the controversy as it played in public and private arenas, questions about Samoan sexuality, the alleged hoaxing of Mead, and the ultimate meaning and significance of the controversy.

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        Applied and Advocacy Anthropology

        Moral values have been a sincere concern of some practitioners of anthropology from its beginnings (Center for a Public Anthropology). Since the 1960s, many anthropologists have demonstrated their humanitarian, moral, and ethical commitments through applied and advocacy work promoting the survival, welfare, and rights of indigenous societies and ethnic minorities struggling under the pressures of colonialism and neocolonialism, and the often-associated genocide, ethnocide, and ecocide (Sanford and Angel-Ajani 2006). Various advocacy nongovernmental organizations developed and directed by anthropologists have pursued these and related matters; most notably, Cultural Survival in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Work Group for Indigenous Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark; and Survival International in London, England. All have websites detailing their history, mission, and activities. To this day, many anthropologists attempt to pursue science as if it were entirely amoral and apolitical, thus eschewing advocacy or activism. It has been debated whether ethical conduct necessitates advocacy in some particular situations or is in general a matter of personal choice (Fluehr-Lobban 2006, Johnston 2010, Scheper-Hughes 1995). Applied anthropology periodicals, including Human Organization, NAPA Bulletin, and Practicing Anthropology (all cited in Journals) often include articles on professional ethics. Applied anthropology in particular requires a somewhat different set of ethical guidelines, given that researchers often have special obligations to their employer (Fluehr-Lobban 1991, Gwynne 2003, National Association for the Practice of Anthropology 1988, Society for Applied Anthropology 1983).

        • Center for a Public Anthropology.

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          Information and initiatives concerned with the ethical application of anthropology on behalf of public concerns.

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        • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 1991. Ethics and professionalism in anthropology: Tensions between its academic and applied branches. Business and Professional Ethics 10.4: 57–68.

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          The foremost authority on professional ethics in anthropology provides an informative and insightful historical discussion of the development of the differences and tensions between academic and applied anthropology with an emphasis on professional ethics.

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        • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 2006. Advocacy is a moral choice of “doing some good”: But not a professional ethical responsibility. AAA Anthropology News 47.7: 5–6.

          DOI: 10.1525/an.2006.47.7.5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Ethics is mainly about avoiding harm, while doing good is optional.

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        • Gwynne, Margaret A. 2003. The ethics of applied anthropology. In Applied anthropology: A career-oriented approach. By Margaret A. Gwynne, 79–104. Boston: Allywn Bacon.

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          Summary of the kinds of complex and sometimes intractable ethical concerns that all applied anthropologists must grapple with, and it describes the available guidelines to try to discover acceptable answers. Other chapters deal with particular ethical issues in domains like business, environment, health, and law.

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        • Johnston, Barbara Rose. 2010. Social responsibility and the anthropological citizen. In Engaged anthropology: Diversity and dilemmas. Edited by Setha Low and Sally Engle Merry, S235–S247. Current Anthropology Supplement 51. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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          In one of a series of articles on socially relevant anthropology in a special issue of Current Anthropology, asking penetrating questions Johnston assesses the meaning, practice, ethics, and significance of being a public intellectual and advocate. She argues that collaborative and participatory engagement facilitates informed consent, stimulates equity between the researcher and subjects, and lends credibility to the results of the research.

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        • National Association for the Practice of Anthropology. 1988. NAPA Ethical Guidelines for Practitioners.

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          The professional ethics code of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology is distinguished from that of the American Anthropological Association by virtue of its focus on applied anthropology including employment by government, industry, business, military, and other nonacademic institutions.

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        • Sanford, Victoria, and Asale Angel-Ajani, eds. 2006. Engaged observer: Anthropology, advocacy, and activism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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          A captivating set of case studies by an international group of authors exploring methodological, political, ethical, and personal aspects of the conduct of engaged research in dangerous and conflict zones on issues of social justice, human rights, and the like. Emphasizes the challenges and contradictions encountered in fieldwork among the survivors of warfare, occupation, massacres, and displacement in Cambodia, Chiapas, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Italy, Palestine, and the United States.

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        • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1995. The primacy of the ethical: Propositions for a militant anthropology. Current Anthropology 36.3: 409–440.

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          The author argues that in the contemporary world, cultural and moral relativism is no longer tenable and may even be unethical. She suggests possibilities for the development of a politically and morally engaged anthropology.

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        • Society for Applied Anthropology. 1983. Statement of ethical and professional responsibilities.

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          The Society for Applied Anthropology developed the first formal statement on professional ethics in anthropology as early as 1948. The current statement offers guidelines for fulfilling the applied anthropologist’s responsibility to the study group, people affected by the research, colleagues, students, employers, and society in general.

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        Training

        Relatively few departments of anthropology at universities and colleges even have a regular course on professional ethics, let alone as a requirement even for graduate students. When ethics is considered, it is usually as a minor topic in a course, simply because the instructor believes it would be negligent to ignore an issue of particular relevance to the subject. Indeed, as the principal authority on professional ethics in anthropology, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban observed: “The development of an ethically conscious culture that promotes discussion of ethically responsible decision-making still eludes us as a profession” (Fluehr-Lobban 2002, p. 20). Accordingly, the subject of ethics is still not addressed in many recent textbooks, anthologies, and reference works in anthropology, or if so, usually only in a token manner. Since the 1970s, still only a handful of articles address the subject of teaching professional ethics in anthropology (Appell 1976; Jacob 1987; Klingsolver, et al. 2003; Rynkiewich 1976). There is also the grossly neglected yet all too common matter of ethical irresponsibility and misconduct among colleagues in the workplace (Williams 1993).

        • Appell, George N. 1976. Teaching anthropological ethics: Developing skills in ethical decision-making and the nature of moral education. Anthropological Quarterly 49.2: 81–88.

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          A pioneering exposition on training students to develop skills in making decisions that are ethical through the examination of particular cases as well as instilling greater familiarity with ethical codes and more concern with morality authored by an anthropologist who also edited one of the earliest anthologies of case studies in anthropological ethics.

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        • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 2002. A century of ethics and professional anthropology. AAA Anthropology News 43.3: 20.

          DOI: 10.1111/an.2002.43.3.20Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This is a concise overview and chronology of major issues in the history of the development of professional ethics in American anthropology beginning with the controversy surrounding its founder Franz Boas.

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        • Jacob, Sue-Ellen. 1987. Some experiences in teaching ethics in fieldwork classes. In Handbook on ethical issues. Edited by Joan Cassell and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, 76–92. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

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          Describes the use of the Principles of Professional Responsibility and other materials to survey issues of ethical responsibility in courses on kinship and on fieldwork methods.

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        • Klingsolver, Ann, et al. 2003. Teaching anthropological ethics at the University of South Carolina: An example of critical ethical dialogues across communities. In Ethics and the profession of anthropology: Dialogue for ethically conscious practice. 2d ed. Edited by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, 197–224. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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          Interesting and useful description of the lessons learned from ten years of teaching a four-subfield course on anthropological ethics including topics, methods, exercises, and results. Coauthored by instructors and students.

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        • Rynkiewich, Michael A. 1976. The underdevelopment of anthropological ethics. In Ethics and anthropology: Dilemmas in fieldwork. Edited by Michael A. Rynkiewich and Kames P. Spradley, 47–60. New York: Wiley.

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          Plea for more serious attention to professional ethics in the discipline.

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        • Williams, Melvin D. 1993. An academic village: The ethnography of an anthropology department, 1959–1979. Ann Arbor, MI: M. D. Williams.

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          A fascinating ethnography about an anthropology department by a participant observer who reveals ethical issues as well as politics among colleagues.

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        Centrality

        The centrality of ethics has been asserted astutely by Pat Caplan: “Yet the ethics of anthropology is clearly not just about obeying a set of guidelines; it actually goes to the heart of the discipline; the premises on which its practitioners operate, its epistemology, theory and praxis. In other words, what is anthropology for? Who is it for?” (Caplan 2003, p. 3). Others appreciate this as well, and increasingly so in the last decade (Anthropology Index Online, Evens 2009, Fluehr-Lobban 2008). A 2011 search using the key word ethics in the Anthropological Index Online revealed the following number of citations per decade, although not all of the citations are relevant: 1950s–0, 1960s–10, 1970s–25, 1980s–35, 1990s–422, and 2000s–1,542. Likewise, there has been a marked increase in the consideration of ethics at the annual conventions of the American Anthropological Association. For instance, ethics is identified as a key word associated with only a few sessions at the annual conventions in the 1990s, but in the 2000s the number increases markedly, some years to a dozen or even more.

        • Anthropology Index Online.

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          This invaluable online archive can be searched with the key word ethics to locate additional articles in many of the main periodicals in anthropology for specific years, decades, and/or other criteria such as country or region. Maintained by the Royal Anthropological Institute and Centre for Anthropology of the British Museum.

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          • Caplan, Pat. 2003. The ethics of anthropology: Debates and dilemmas. New York: Routledge.

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            In response to the rise in concern about professional ethics during the Darkness in El Dorado Controversy, this anthology of essays by prominent anthropologists integrates theoretical and case studies.

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          • Evens, T. M. S. 2009. Anthropology as ethics: Nondualism and the conduct of sacrifice. New York: Berghahn.

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            A radical inquiry rethinking and challenging of the “reality” of the dualistic self-other dichotomy. Exposes ethics as inherent in social interaction that includes anthropological research.

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          • Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. 2008. Collaborative anthropology as twenty-first century ethical anthropology. Collaborative Anthropology 1:175–182.

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            Argues that ethically conscious research actively engages participants from the study community as meaningful partners at every phase of the project from its planning through publication, thereby recognizing their vested interests, in contrast to the traditional approach of using informants and observing subjects to collect data for the researcher’s purposes alone.

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          Anthropology of Ethics

          The ethics of anthropology is the focus of this bibliography. The anthropology of ethics is a very different subject that only started to grow very recently. However, because of its previous neglect and future potential it merits mention here. It has not received the relatively sustained attention by anthropologists that the subject of the ethics of anthropology has since World War II. Indeed, the anthropology of ethics is rarely covered as an article in reference works and periodicals, unlike the ethics of anthropology. Studies of the anthropology of religion may subsume ethics. Also, morality and ethics are often treated as synonymous. Ethnological (comparative and generalizing) studies include the pioneering analysis of Edel and Edel 1968, as well as more recent ones such as Heinz 2009, Laidlaw 2002, Lambek 2010, and Zigon 2008. Among the several sporadic book-length ethnographic studies on ethics in particular cultures are Barker 2007, Kuehling 2005, and Rose 2004.

          • Barker, John, ed. 2007. The anthropology of morality in Melanesia and beyond. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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            Anthropologists who have worked extensively in Melanesia describe how local villagers grapple with the moral issues that they experience including contradictory ones as they face “modernity.”

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          • Edel, Mary W., and Abraham Edel. 1968. Anthropology and ethics: The quest for moral understanding. Cleveland, OH: Press of Case Western Reserve Univ.

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            A pioneering collaboration between an anthropologist and a philosopher exploring moral diversity cross-culturally that generates implications for the ethical theories of philosophers. Authors call for more attention by anthropologists to the neglected domain of morality and for philosophers to consider the broader social and cultural context of morality.

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          • Heinz, Monica, ed. 2009. The anthropology of moralities. New York: Berghahn.

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            Only recently has the cultural diversity of morality begun to be the focus of field research as a result of increasing conflicts among different value systems arising from the processes of globalization. The authors explore this subject through ethnographic case studies and also confront methodological issues in such research.

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          • Kuehling, Susanne. 2005. Dobu: Ethics of exchange on a Massim Island. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press.

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            The ethics behind the regular exchange of gifts and money are analyzed in relation to the concept of person in the worldview of the Dobu of Papua New Guinea, including in relation to the impact of Christian missionaries.

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          • Laidlaw, James. 2002. For an anthropology of ethics and freedom. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 8.2 (June): 311–332.

            DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.00110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Laidlaw observes that, while there have been some excellent ethnographies focused on moral concepts and reasoning in other cultures, there is no sustained research and discussion concerning the anthropology of ethics. He argues that the development of such a field must be based on the theoretical and ethnographic interest in freedom. The Malinowski Memorial Lecture of 2001.

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          • Lambek, Michael, ed. 2010. Ordinary ethics: Anthropology, language, and action. New York: Fordham Univ. Press.

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            Case studies apply ethnographic reflections and philosophical principles in revealing the pervasive and central albeit mostly tacit role of ethics inherent in ordinary daily thought, speech, and behavior. In the introduction Lambek cites much of the previous literature on the anthropology of ethics.

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          • Rose, Deborah Bird. 2004. Reports from a wild country: Ethics of decolonization. Sydney: Univ. of New South Wales Press.

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            Focusing on reconciliation between Aborigines and “settlers,” this study reflects on major ethical problems arising from an era of rapid change in society and its environment on the continent of Australia.

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          • Zigon, Jarrett. 2008. Morality: An anthropological perspective. New York: Berg.

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            Integrating theory and case studies to address some of the major moral questions of today, Zigon explores how different cultures view and pursue morality in relation to religion, law, gender, and medicine, among other domains of culture.

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          LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

          DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0043

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