Is Being A Scholar Right For You? What Business Are You In?

I have often said that I am not in the business of anthropology. By this I mean that while I am trained in the methods and theories of anthropology, I use that training in a different business. I am in the business of insight generation, risk reduction, sometimes cross cultural understanding. But I am not very concerned with the “giving back” to the discipline of anthropology. I enjoy mentoring when someone asks (people should not impose it unrequested), and helping people make that leap from academic to applied work. But I rarely engage in scholarly work of the larger community of anthro folks.

For me, people engaged in the business of anthropology are those that teach the art and science of the discipline, publish scholarly articles and books, are active in scholarly organizations and are usually found in colleges and universities (but thats hardly criteria). Cindy and Donna are certainly in the business of Anthropology and Tony is very much in the business of Sociology.

You as a student of anthropology don’t have to choose one over the other. There are plenty of people that do both. Full-time teachers and published scholars that consult in various applied capacities. There are full-time applied folks that are very involved with applied scholarship. I pose the question because you as an anthropology student can chose to be in thn business of lots of things and still be an anthropologist. I don’t make claims to being a scholar or engage in the traditional scholarly activities for a simple reason: I don’t enjoy it. I have a chapter published in a book. I hated every moment of writing it, and towards the end it just felt it just like so much “yadda-yadda-yadda”. I have done presentations at conferences and classes, but those have been about my career history (perhaps I get invited to serve as a warning to others?). I am a tinker, an inventor, a person that gets the big payoff when I see something change in a very tangible way. For you it might be seeing your name in print, having the opportunity to share the exciting things you have learned with the widest possible audience. It might be teaching.

Or all of the above. But always remember what business you are in at the moment. Knowing what business you are in helps you keep a sharp focus on the outcome you are responsible for and to who.

5 thoughts on “Is Being A Scholar Right For You? What Business Are You In?

  1. What is “business”? The “business of anthropology” as defined above is much more the “business of tertiary education.” At least, the vast majority of academic anthropologists share much, much more with, for example, political scientists, biologists, or engineers who are teaching in colleges than they do with a lot of people who “do” anthropology outside of tertiary institutions.

    Or are we defining “anthropology” as an academic practice? In that case, the above posting’s argument is too circular to be of much use.

  2. Most of the graduates from our academic programs do not go into academia, and the “business” of scholarship. My hope is that the vast majority who do not ever get Ph.D.s find value in the liberal arts programs we offer, whether they are flavored from a sociological, anthropolgical, literature, or other value. Many graduates tell me this is the case, and the fact that many employers make a liberal arts degree a prerequisite for employment tells me that our degrees are even worth something in the marketplace.

    As for who gets to be called an “anthropologist” or “sociologist”, fortunately the answer is no one. In fact you can do it with or without a BA degree, as long as you are not fraudulent in your presentation. Unlike other fields, we do not have licensing and certification requirements and as a result still tolerate a bit of what I think of as creative chaos!

    It should perhaps be noted that anyone can submit articles for blind review to academic journals, too. In doing this, I have rarely if ever been asked for my degree bona fides. Certainly a Ph.D. trains you in the rigor of academic writing, but at the end of the day, academic publication is often a “blind” process open to all.

  3. Mark,

    Thank you soooo much for this posting. I’m an anthropologist, now working on business anthropology and it took me years to come to the conclusions you talk about in your text (that I am applied business anthropologist rather than a scholar). This text really made it for me. Thanks so much for this. Pedro

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