When someone asks what I do, I usually tell them I am an anthropologist that helps companies find new opportunities for growth and strategic direction. This is most often followed by them asking: “That sounds really interesting. How does digging up dinosaur bones help a company find new opportunities?” It comes from a common misunderstanding: There are four different kinds of anthropologists: I am a cultural anthropologist (I talk to live people), rather than an archeologist (dig up people and objects). The misunderstanding is reasonable, because when you seen an anthropologist on TV, they are usually digging up dinosaur bones or an ancient Greek village, and in the case of Indiana Jones, grave robbing.
Here is the old graduate school joke that we used:
Anthropologists from all four subfields walk into a room and discover a dead body:
The Archaeologist would empty pockets of the corpse, count the change, remove the cloths, label everything and take notes on everything for study back in the lab.
The Physical anthropologist would measure all various parts of the body, take notes about the context it was found in and compare notes with the archaeologist.
The Paleontologist would yawn: Something has to be several thousand years old before it’s of interest.
The Cultural Anthropologist would ask the corpse questions like “What do you call the current state you are in?”, “What does death mean in your culture?”, If someone from outside your village died here, would they have change in their pockets too?”
Granted these questions may seem irrelevant to the stiff being interviewed, but we cultural folks are both pesky and persistent and will get the answers somehow. Besides, the other fields in anthropology often involve long hours of digging in the dirt under a very hot sun in places without cable television. Cultural Anthropologists try to avoid this at all costs because the sun makes our beer warm and foamy. No one except the Archaeologists like warm foamy beer.
Blog Disclaimer. I will often go back to entries to make edits or clarify points. If I am changing my point of view, that will be a new entry.