The Geographical Review. January 1970, Vol. 60 No.1, p146-7.
APPLIED ANTHROPOLOGY. By GEORGE M. FOSTER. xiv and 23 8 pp.; bibliogr., index.
Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1969. $5.75. 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches.
In "Applied Anthropology" George M. Foster discusses the nature of theoretical and applied anthropology, explicit and implicit cultural assumptions, and bureaucracies as social and cultural systems. Among the highlights of the book are a discussion of the implications of cultural integration and the assumptions underlying custom and behavior in Chapter 4; a brilliant analysis of the low status of applied anthropology in Chapter 7; and an exposition of the historical development of applied anthropology in the last chapter.
The author, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and president of the American Anthropological Association, has had a wealth of experience in applied anthropology. He has worked in Latin America, India, Pakistan, Zambia, and elsewhere. He points out that often the agent of change may try to set in motion processes of culture change that test his hypotheses and gratify his ego rather than processes that meet the actual needs of die recipient group. Sometimes the intense ego-gratification needs of social scientists, whatever their discipline, and their struggle to achieve approval by their peers, cause them to commit excesses of planning. "Without boards of supervisors, citizens' com- and the other customary -checks of American life, a planner in an overseas setting sometimes sees his opportunity not as one in which he can meet the needs of the local people, but rather as one in which he can achieve the design of a lifetime, in which he can execute die really 'perfect' plan. Needless to say, plans like these usually are ill-adapted to local needs."
The homogenized, industrialized societies of the West are relatively receptive to new ideas and change. "A complex society which did not make practical use of the findings of pure science could not long exist, nor could it continue to support pure scientific research." For emerging societies, Foster suggests that if anthropologists are to make maximum impact the expert, his method, and the agency he works for must adapt to the local needs and customs of recipient peoples. Geographers please note.
Foster's long experience as both a theoretical and an applied anthropologist inclines him to feel that the academic anthropologist, if his assignment is for at least two years, is more effective than the short-term consultant or the career anthropologist. "Two-year periods allow time to become acquainted with the innovating organization (particularly if the an- has had prior experience in similar settings), and time to do good research and to communicate significant data by memoranda and in staff meetings to program administrators and technical experts. in two years, a knowledgeable anthropologist can contribute to an action program a great many of the things program personnel want. By retreating to his university department, and by using summer vacations and sabbatical leaves, the anthropologist can then prepare the longer, more thoughtful reports that will be of interest to his colleagues. Most bureaucracies simply cannot give the anthropologist the time he needs for this kind of writing, and perhaps they should not attempt to do so. A further advantage of the 'outside-insider' is that he provides a means of passing applied research results to students, of acquainting them with a wider spectrum of anthropological activities than would otherwise be possible. if applied anthropology were to become the exclusive domain of non-teaching applied anthropologists, much of value might be lost to students and to the field at large."
This book should be required reading for all scientists - behavioral and exact - interested in taking part in action programs anywhere, either crash or long-range.
- RAYMOND E. CRIST
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