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3.5: Anthropology and Development

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    Anthropologists specializing in development studies may call themselves applied anthropologists, economic anthropologists, environmental anthropologists, ecological anthropologists, or development anthropologists. Anthropological approaches to development are important because,

    …[anthropology provides] the analytical means to understand the heterogeneity of loca/ actors and their interests, to see the multiple links in their social lives and appreciate their everyday strategies, to tap into local understandings and comprehend resistance to perceived outside interference (Sillitoe 2007: 154 quoted in O’Driscoll 2009: 17).

    While anthropology might not have a monopoly on insight into multidisciplinary approaches or insight into the benefits of including indigenous knowledge, it is at the forefront of anthropological approaches. Involvement in development projects may create an ethical dilemma for anthropologists, as the tenet that is drilled into every anthropology student’s head is not to change the cultures we study and to do no harm. As outlined above there are development projects that do not help people in the way that the planners envision. Frankly, it is not uncommon for the interests of development planners and local peoples to conflict. Some argue that it is imperative for anthropologist to be involved in development discourse to work with local people to help them assess their needs and ideas for change or to even advocate for localized, community-specific initiatives. Some anthropologists suggest that we should not be involved with international development agencies, but only with indigenous rights movements. Still others suggest that anthropologists study both small and large development institutions in order to better understand the development system. Anthropological data can help development projects maximize social and economic benefits by ensuring projects are a cultural fit, respond to local needs, involve the appropriate local social actors and organizations in the project, and are flexible (Gezen and Kottak 2014)

    This page titled 3.5: Anthropology and Development is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tori Saneda & Michelle Field via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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