|Picture by Chris Ferguson; @ Dan Prestebak's Farm with Rascal|
When I got accepted into this program and looked further into what I would be doing for the summer, I wasn't quite sure this was the kind of Anthropology I wanted to practice.
I had taken a public and applied anthropology class during my sophomore year and while I enjoyed it, it was not one of my most favorite classes. I thought there was only one way to do anthropology and it was the way I had been thought. Applied anthropology was not "real" anthropology for me. Where was the theory (turns out there's a lot of theory, by the way)? Are we suppose to be taking the side of the big corporations instead of the side of the people who need it? These were just some of the silly questions I used to qualify the validity of applied anthropology.
However, the more I continue to work as an "applied anthropologist", the more I continue to learn how important this discipline is and the importance of "studying up"; one of the greatest lessons I learned this past semester in one of my anthro classes was that it is important to "study up" (study people that are at the top of the hierarchies) as much as it is to study the little people. I'm having the pleasure of working with other anthropologists, economists, sociologists, biologists, and geo-chemists on real world issues. This is momentous for me because I am always frustrated with the way cultural anthropology leaves me questioning: what can be done? how do I help these people? Essentially, the feeling of hopelessness. However, when I think of how my work is contributing positively to the community of Menomonie and Dunn county, a very new feeling in anthropology washes over me. It is a feeling of immense responsibility. Granted the anthropology I knew before this has brought me this feeling but this time it's different.
This new feeling of responsibility is one I can actually take on and contribute to directly.
So it turns out you can teach an old dog a new trick if you show them there are new tricks to be learned. In other words, there's always something to be learned from things that you think you already know.
As the summer goes on, I hope I continue to learn what it takes to be an applied anthropologist and I hope to do so by putting my all into this project:)