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We often think that an "applied anthropology" is a recent development in the evolution of anthropology as a discipline and science. The Society for Applied Anthropology, for example, was founded in the early 1940s in Washington and Boston. But the essence of what is applied anthropology precedes the SfAA. Conrad Reining in a paper, entitled, "A Lost Period of Applied Anthropology" published in American Anthropologist,( 64:593-600, 1962) finds that the origins an applied anthropological perspective that goes back, at least, to the early 19th century. But even before Reining's article appeared, the editor of Human Organization wrote an editorial in 1958 entitled, "Applied Anthropology in 601 A.D".

The significance of the article is the implicit assumption that anthropology is a policy discipline. That is, the principles discovered through the humanistic (historical) and scientific study of OTHER cultures could be used to develop policies that would bring about desired changes in the OTHER. Nothing has changed in the past 1500 years.

To be an applied anthropologist means to be a PARTICIPANT/observer in human affairs. As applied anthropologists we must recognize the significance of our PARTICIPANT role and how our actions are to be evaluated. We must be prepared to take responsibility for our actions as participants in the policy process. At the same time we must recognize that we do not control how our insights will be used to create private and public policy. 

Policy makers have been using "anthropological" insight far longer than anthropology emerged and transformed into a distinct branch of science. Thus, we must also be the "observers" of the consequences of our actions and the use of "anthropological" insight on human affairs. We must not limit ourselves to the present moment; but instead, we should reach across generations of applied anthropologists and learn from them about our successes and failures as policy scientists.

 

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