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What is Applied Anthropology?

Applied anthropology is simply "anthropology put to use" (to quote John Van Willigen). It is any kind of anthropological research that is done to solve practical problems. This means that there are stakeholders and clients who stand to gain or lose from the project.

Anthropology can be used to solve problems in an enormous variety of fields. Here are some common examples:

  • Health and medicine
  • Business
  • Human rights
  • Education
  • Environmental issues
  • Community development
  • Museums
  • Disaster research & management
  • International development

Applied anthropologists can take on very different roles in their work. They may be one or more of the following:

  • Researchers
  • Policy analysts
  • Program evaluators
  • Needs assessors
  • Impact assessors
  • Community advocates
  • Trainers
  • Culture brokers
  • Managers
  • Change agents
  • Consultants

To see the range of the work applied anthropologists do, you can look at the applied projects and interests of the faculty in UNT's anthropology program:

As you can see, applied anthropology is not just one kind of job. It can be many different things. What unites applied anthropologists is their perspective on the world. They are trained to look at societies holistically, to respect cultural differences, and to learn about social phenomena through a careful process of observation and interviewing. The flexibility of their possible career directions means that applied anthropologists often have a creative, entrepreneurial bent.

There are two professional organizations for applied anthropology: