[Air-L] Reputation and professional degrees

Julian Hopkins j at julianhopkins.net
Wed Jan 6 00:16:57 PST 2010

Also speaking as some who hopes to be an 'anthropologist' one day (though
I've often wondered when I can call myself that), I would concur with

Also, for some reason, 'anthropologist' always seems to carry a certain
cachet with it beyond the academic field. When I was working and looking for
work in a commercial setting (sales, marketing, customer service), I found
that saying that my first degree was in "Sociology and Anthropology" (which
were both part of my degree) always got a more positive response than just
saying "Sociology", which usually got a worried look, and occasionally a
question about my political leanings :)

I would usually follow up by saying that most marketing practice is based on
sociological theory (e.g. how people can be influenced in certain ways),
which sometimes helped.



Blog: www.julianhopkins.net
Twitter: @julianhopkins
Skype: julhop
IM: jfprhopkins at hotmail.com


Message: 2
Date: Tue, 5 Jan 2010 16:57:26 -0500
From: Matthew Bernius <mbernius at gmail.com>
To: air-l at aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-L] Reputation and professional degrees
	<9693f9cc1001051357o39cefc0fm74a1fc05665d5cc3 at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

Liz <nwjerseyliz at yahoo.com> wrote:

> But when I first started following people on Twitter, I did a bio search
> for those who describe themselves as an anthropologist or sociologist and
> was surprised how much these titles had been appropriated by people who,
> part of their job in marketing or media, try to make sense of why people
> as they do. "Technology anthropologist" is one title I've seen several
> by people working in social media.

Ingbert Floyd <ifloyd2 at gmail.com> wrote:

> It seems to me that the values of the academic anthropologists, whether or
> not they have a degree, and the values of the people who are employed by
> corporations, are at times radically different, and that is the source of
> the tension, especially because the people on the corporate side who use
> label often make little effort to understand the academic use of the

Speaking as an anthropologist (or at least one in the midst of
professionalization), what Ingbert writes is completely correct. It should
be noted that this goes far beyond simply what is meant by "ethnography."
What tends to tick anthropologists off is the reduction of anthropology to

In fact, what makes these self-glossed anthropologists often a bit
problematic is their habit of reproducing (and dare I say fetishizing) the
very ideas and tropes that anthropologists have spent the last few decades
trying to move beyond.

The danger of any self appointed "professional" is that while they have the
"tools" (for example "ethnography", a form of study to which Anthropology
cannot and should not claim exclusivity), these individuals often miss the
context -- not just of the tools, but of the field itself. For the
non-professional anthropologist that usually means using terms like "native"
and (implied, if not specific) references to Malinowski and Mead.

Apologies for the rant. Anthropology tends to be one of the more abused
professions when it comes to people self glossing in the technical sphere.

Ingbert, I'm really glad you singled out Dourish as a good example of how
people can appropriate tools like ethnography in a nuanced and very open
way. I'm a really big fan of his work.

- Matt

Matthew Bernius
PhD Student, Cultural Anthropology, Cornell University (
Researcher At Large, Open Publishing Lab @ the Rochester Institute of
Technology (http://opl.cias.rit.edu)
mBernius at gMail.com

More information about the Air-L mailing list