Why the world needs anthropologists? -book review
Updated: Apr 11
Why the world needs anthropologists is a great question with a multitude of answers, and the book "Why the World Needs Anthropologists" provides the answers through its 11 informational but cleverly succinct chapters.
Anthropology is a science unknown to many, except through a few pop culture references here and there. The most famous anthropologist in the popular media is none other than the adventurous Indiana Jones. Now, a few anthropologists can say that their reality is comprised of hunting down lost relics that have supernatural powers. And while some would say that their own practice can be measured up to that of famous Indiana Jones, most anthropologists opt for a 'less exciting' career trajectory.
Despite anthropology developing immensely over the course of its existence, anthropologists are still misinterpreted in what they actually do. In the words of Veronica Strang (as cited in Podjed et al. 2020, 2) "Most people still imagine anthropologists as ‘pith-helmet-wearing colonial adventurers living with ‘hidden tribes’ in the jungle". In the 21st century, our purpose has far exceeded that of mere observers in faraway ‘exotic’ locations, even though some of our colleagues continue down that path. The truth is that anthropologists can do, and do anything.
Anything might be too broad of a term, but it’s the simplest yet most appropriate reply to those friends and family who keep asking that pesky question ‘What can you do with your degree?’ I believe that many of us doing anthropology can remember one or a few hundred times we’ve been asked that same question. After reading this book I have come up with even more appropriate replies that are less vague. I especially like Anna Kirah’s explanation that "Anthropology can enhance anything and everything" (136).
The book provides examples given by academic anthropologists, practicing anthropologists, and applied anthropologists who have found a way to enhance different fields through anthropology.
Why the World Needs Anthropologists
book cover, 2021. Image by Routledge
These fields range from corporate settings, technology businesses, environmental initiatives, to social work. Each chapter gives a story of its author and how they came about to doing anthropology in a world that is still unaware of the rich and useful skill set we possess. Moreover, each author gives a set of guidelines at the end of each chapter to the reader on how to maneuver the obstacles that might come in their way when they first start their anthropology career.
The guidelines and experiences provided in the book are extremely useful as finding work as an anthropologist can be a bit of a challenge at the beginning of one’s career. There is still a gap between academic anthropology and practicing anthropology which this book aims to bridge. From a personal standpoint, I can say that the book successfully provided me with a newfound direction and confidence that I can apply to my future practice. Another bold mission of the book is to "contribute to reshaping the discipline of anthropology as it has largely been known since its beginnings" (2020, 1). While this is a daring undertaking, I believe that the book pushed boundaries of what our discipline is in the right direction. Anthropology as science can effectively study contemporary issues and topics such as global environmental issues, development of new technologies, cultural diversities, and medical crises to name a few.
In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any future anthropologists, recent graduates, or already practicing anthropologists who need some fresh direction in their careers. If you have been wondering why the world needs anthropologists, then look no further because this book will provide that answer for you.
1. Podjed, D., Gorup, M., Borecký, P., & Montero, C. G. (2021). Why the world needs anthropologists. London; New York: Routledge.