Introducing Anthropology: Development and Culture Change – Associate Professor Greg Downey

james ferguson, who is an anthropologist of development, argues that development exists
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my name is greg downey im an associate professor of anthropology here and its my job to try to introduce you to the breath of development studies and culture change and anthropology Ill talk more about anthropology but I will touch on the Development Studies program which I think is a really interesting option if youd like to do anthropology in conjunction with some of our partners on campus who provide really good stuff as well so that includes Human Geography it includes even offerings and economics and sociology in that Development Studies program so much of what Ill say today will apply both the development studies and anthropology but Ill focus on what our department does because those other departments are getting their time so somebody might be asking what is anthropology in fact when I came to Australia its one of the first things people ask me they often thought I had something do with ants thats not in fact the case anthropology has nothing to do with ants anthropology comes from the Greek thats very unhelpful I know anthropos anthropos means humanity or a human or man in the old way of talking about it ant ology of course is this comes from the root of two study so to study humanity now that seems fairly obvious except youre probably wondering well wait a min hows it different from sociology or psychology or or any other ones of the one uh any other of the academic disciplines that study humanity and thats what Im here to tell you the first is that anthropologists study human diversity this means that we dont believe that the people in this room for example are an accurate representation of all that humans are capable of or all that that we actually represent a kind of unusual sub population a small fraction and to really understand humanity we have to study humans all over the place whether thats from the the siberian nomads who hunt elk whether thats people living in a Brazilian rainforest or whether its people dwelling in a slum outside Lagos or in an incredibly impoverished village in rural India wherever it is we think that I understand humans you have to go to where they are so at Macquarie we tend to specialize you probably run into some discussions of anthropology where they they type of archaeology or primatology but at Macquarie we specialize in study of extant that is living cultures both socially and culturally or the world so theres this focus first of all on living cultural diversity and Ill talk about what we offer in terms of classes but also that we focus on training students to do what we call ethnography ethnography is a anthropologist stock-in-trade its a research method which basically involves going to where people are doing whatever you want to study and following the round watching them do it and talking to them about it its kind of like stalking with an academic license all right we dont believe that you can get an accurate representation of people by dragging them into a lab or by giving them a telephone survey we think that thats a very distorted view of how that if you really want to understand for example how humans use computer software youd actually go sit alongside them at their desks for a couple hours and actually watch them use it and in fact there are anthropologists who do this kind of work Microsoft is one of the leading employers of anthropologist in the United States for example because they study user research how do users actually use technology how do they understand it and see it and in some cases we use quantitative tools like surveys and psychological tests and tools like that time time activity surveys but in some cases we use quite what we call qualitative approaches we ask people what do you think youre doing why do you why do you do that what does that mean what does this ritual mean why do you care so much about Australia Day what does a symbol mean to you how does your religion affect your decisions what about this decision you just made so that thats the kind of approach so ethnography is what anthropologists do and this is made it some people argue that its actually become quite a fad right now in business to get anthropologists on board as management consultants as marketing consultants and as Human Resources people because we have this sort of deep method that we use where which involves us really getting into peoples lives and trying to get into their heads that way so to give you an example just to sort of talk about historically up until say in the 1950s and 1960s a lot of anthropologists focused on technologically simple cultures on the margin of European empires so usually countries specialized in the cultures of the people that they dominated so you could tell who the English anthropologist were gonna study because they would study those people in the English colonies you could tell who the who the Brazilian anthropologist was study cuz they would studied Brazilian Indians you can tell who Australian anthropologist will study because they would go study Aboriginal communities would study on communities in Melanesia Papua New Guinea things like that you studied technologically less sophisticated people close to home but around the 1940s 50s and 60s this really started to shift and today its all bets are off for this in fact around the 50s 60s and 70s anthropologist became to focus more on a much wider diversity of human variation so now they study large-scale societies and the difference within them so by going to China how is one region different to another how has one group different to another I just had a student finished a PhD who is dirt we were doing work at the Chinese diplomatic university to study how Chinese diplomats were actually developing their worldview at that critical period before they were then tested to see if they could go on in to join the Foreign Service so she was examining how the Chinese view of the world gets shaped at a university in Beijing which I think is fascinating so the respect for an interest in human variation is still a hallmark but the location of the peoples we study have really changed in fact you can now find anthropologist in virtually any setting whether its a trading room floor in Wall Street a colleague of mine worked with women who are trying to break into Wall Street and how they were dealing with the old boys networks whether thats places like medical schools we have some great research on how medical students come to understand their patients and and how they have come to understand the body in fact we find that they cut corners a lot they dont actually use scientific knowledge they use all kinds of really interesting cheats and the way they understand how for example how they they dont understand how drugs work necessarily in a molecular way they they cheat and learn what they do and and the other one is things like design workshops I worked as a design consultant when I was in graduate school I worked with a company that helped companies that were suffering redesign their products I think its long enough ago I can mention that place like companies like Samsung who were suffering because their products were seen as kind of dagi and out-of-date how did that what were the symbols what were the things about the products that made people think that way and that was not one of my jobs as a design consultant so anthropologist now work in a wide range of settings in fact I would say the majority of anthropologists do not study technologically simple societies so take you some examples from our own department the unifying factor though is this ethnography that we believe you should study people

where they live you should study the local reality you shouldnt assume that you know what other people are thinking you shouldnt assume that just because there Christiaan that means the same thing to you as to them or just because theyre Muslim that necessarily means the same thing all over the Islamic world you should study them in context that by taking them out of their homes out of their workplaces you actually distort what theyll do taking them away from their familiar surroundings in their familiar surroundings they might behave very differently and finally that humans are inherently varied Ill tell you what I dont believe theres such a thing as human nature I believe there are many human natures I believe it that humans are teachable and one of the one of the groups that I study Ill come back to the second I study elite athletes because in some ways Im really fascinated by the way that they push the boundaries of what is possible for a human body so I study free divers and endurance athletes and one group Ill mention in a minute well a lot of good colleagues Lisa Wynn well one of my colleagues who teaches our one of our most popular courses drugs cross cultures which is open first semester Lisa was just in the news because her research was one of the projects singled out by the incoming government as frivolous its really interesting actually because she studies how new reproductive technologies things like viagra even things like hymen a plastic when women have their hymens surgically restored or used in the Islamic world and whats interesting about is when you ask for these questions its its youre really asking how they interpret religious authority in their life do they listen to their religious teachers or do they do what the damn well please and what Lisa finds is a really interesting relationship between Islamic teachings and Islamic practice in Egypt so its really interesting this was singled out as a project that Australia had no interest in because to my mind thats one of the most fundamental questions right now is whats the relationship between what religious leaders say and what people actually are willing to do and a place like Egypt would seem to be an ideal place to study this so Lisa Im an incredibly popular teacher and one of the ones Ill come back to it of course is the Optima this is yacht playing the ukulele he studies ethno-religious maneuv Minh in the Pacific why for example places like the Solomon Islands are so volatile how come they keep throwing up these religious leaders what what these religious leaders tell how they interpret Christianity incredibly important for understanding rivalries because from the outside we tend to think of these rivalries as ethnic but theyre actually not that much more complicated theyre often religio ethnic they combine village I entity with whether somebody is a seventh-day adventists or one of the new Christian movements thats spreading throughout these islands so hes one of our key instructors if youre just in our masters program he teaches our core masters of course and he also is a very important in our Development Studies Program he frequently works with the World Bank and other organizations because they are trying to one of his projects is to help rebuild justice systems in places like Indonesia how do you use local law and try to get local law to dovetail with national law so that you dont have to reinvent courts in every single Island which would be primitively expensive and be possible so how do you take in local traditional forms of justice and harness them to a state system of justice another Aaron Denham whos going to be down in the booth when we finish up is a medical anthropologist he studied the incidence of infanticide in a place in West Africa and it was incredibly interesting because the lot of groups on the ground there were saying that the local people were killing their own infants and they this whole theory of spirits and when when Aaron went there he found out that children were being called spirit children only after they died that is they werent being diagnosed to spare children then and killed they were failing to thrive because of malnutrition and disease and then after they passed away sometimes after they had bankrupted the family trying for the family trying to save the child that the family would then say oh we couldnt have done anything anyway because it was a spirit child and the local authorities would then say right you killed it and they would go to Western governments or Western religious groups and ask for money to go change these primitive people when in fact they were never committing infanticide in the first place they were they were talking about why the children had died and what was really the problem was infanticide and lack of prenatal care lack of postnatal care and so the groups that were saying there was a dominant group that was using this tradition to disparage the local people and to misidentify what was really the medical problem Aaron teaches our introduction to anthropology course hes a fascinating guy joined our staff a couple years ago really interesting on all kinds of levels my old work is in neuro anthropology the relationship between brain and culture especially around physical training and skill acquisition I teach our human evolution and diversity Ive worked on capoeira which is an afro-brazilian martial art written the book on Ive worked on cage fighters verges in pain tolerance and how different societies tolerate pain but more recently Ive been working on rugby and on echolocation human blind some blind humans are able to hear space and theres activists now coming out of the United States and increasingly in Australia who are teaching blind kids to click and hear objects you may have seen this on theres some discover documentaries on one of the guys I work with and Im really interested how theyve discovered a new human sense and how theyre teaching blind children they ride mountain bikes Ive taken one of Mountain Sydney an it was mind-blowing he was walking around sensing telephone posts for example by clicking and I could really barely even hear him doing it so our students this is just a selection of some of our other staff were very lucky to have India specialists associate professor at Cal Panda Ram works on development family pamela canaan child where shes also the director of the india study center Im so interested in India associate professor Chris Littleton whos down there right now but might be gone whos got a lot of projects on HIV transmission and in Southeast Asia has been consulted by governments in Southeast Asia on how to prevent HIV transmission how does what are the particular vectors that people you how they get HIV in different places hes even going into Burma now and looking at how HIV might be spreading into Burma Chris Houston whos our head of department works on Turkey looks at one of the things he looks at it sounds kind of esoteric he looks at urban geography and violence which sounds like its esoteric but one of the things that happened in Turkey was that the nationalist government redesigned cities to make it very hard for people to join together in demonstrations and we just saw in Turkey an example this with the city parks and the getting rid of public spaces and one of the reasons was because that was a way to control people control their space control the urban environment control how people can come together and so its a really interesting I think geography project that talks about the relationship between geography and social movements Deborah Venn here Crenn looks at conversions to Christianity in Papua New Guinea and Gabrielle Moran she one of our other new

staff members is one of the leading scholars at the anthropology of Islam globally is that a whole I cant even hes actually at four or five books out I cant even tell you all about a little stuff he does cuz I dont know half of it but one of the really interesting projects he got involved with he got involved with prison conversions in Scott he was invited to come into prisons in Scotland because this prison officials were really upset that people converting to Islam and he was sort of interviewed the prisoners and really tried to understand how religion was working in their lives and what he found what he actually ended up advising the the Scottish prison officials was let them convert this is this is their way of actually trying to rebuild their lives and if you discourage them and if you give them food that is inappropriate theyre actually trying to teach themselves self-discipline because they want to reconstruct their lives and so he ended up advising the Scottish officials to encourage some of these conversions because it was a lot of self it was a lot of dignity and self-respect that was being built through religion so a really interesting case our students also do fun research fascinating projects Im gonna whiz through these because its already quarter after one of our former students who just got a job working on epidemiology project looking at tuberculosis transmission in Indonesia which should matter to Australians very much since theres a possibility of drug-resistant TB on our doorstep if were not careful studied it music perception in Indonesia weve got other students just finished visiting student from Canada looked at Indian dance as a global social movement and how Indian gurus were using global movements to build their own stature at home and and so basically the globalization of art she became a disciple and she talks about hard it was to live in the gurus house and be expected to be learning 24/7 the one time she could even write notes was when he went to the bathroom or took a nap so shes you know she talks about how hard the fieldwork was Monte whos down at the booth right now looked at indigenous health in India and actually Im discovered that in certain indigenous groups the rate of suicide was being severely undercounted discovered he basically discovered a suicide wave that was occurring among indigenous tribal peoples in the hills of India it was not being recorded by the government because he went through each individual case and re recoded that the cause of death and figured out that there was this one basic there was no mental health happening one of our students Paul Kyle whos whos come back to us to do a PhD and is now often in India studying elephant human relations did his undergraduate project on sheepdog trials trying to understand how dogs and humans communicate and how animal handlers work with their dogs I especially love this because I have a border collie I work a picture of him in but Louise my pride and joy if you take my classes of brycey lui Kenzi Bryson I worked on feminism crafted the revival of knitting which I dont youve seen some places downtown youll see knitted objects she basically found out who was doing it and why they were doing it was connected to sexuality anti-capitalism the resistance to commodification so those are just some of the student projects were especially strong and supporting student projects in medical anthropology and in development studies these photos are from Southeast Asia and from Latin America we work with the pace program and others to make sure our students get experiences of actually going to some of the places that they hear about and since eighty percent of the world survives on $10 a day or less people who think that Development Studies is over really mistaken in fact how those countries develop will determine very much what the world looks like in the future because thats where a lot of the gains need be made in things like carbon abatement and and injustice so I mean to me this is incredibly important morally politically and in terms of the economic future of our country how China develops so what do we study Im gonna run Destin the course is really quick and Im gonna answer the question some of you really want to know what this sounds like a great major but what the hell kind of careers are there in it so first what can you study the first year we have four different offerings is that right pile for ya in the first semester theres drugs across cultures and a new course weve introduced a couple years ago thats increasingly popular called Saints shamans cults demons the anthropology of contemporary religious religions and semester two of introduction to anthropology I mentioned Aarons work on infanticide thats in semester two he teaches a course on intro and I teach the human evolution and diversity course which looks at not only how humans developed what that means for our actual biological diversity emerged in the relationship between culture and biology and how the to influence each other so why we have different skin colors what does it mean what is it different places how they understand that beyond that we have courses like illness and healing which looks at different healing traditions around the world Development Studies culture myth and symbolism of course in psychological anthropology that I teach anthropology of music and sound Im not sure the person who taught that is leaving us Im not sure whats going to happen with that weve got three new anthropologist coming onto staff hopefully next year a lot of exciting new opportunities of course LOM food across cultures and to politics I am topology of politics and culture culture health and sexuality developing world justice and development that looks at legal systems and how development and legal systems are linked and culture Human Rights where we deal with a range of things from asylum seekers trying to understand whats happening to human rights elsewhere in the world for example what a womans rights look like across different cultures and and how do we work actively to for womens rights but in addition to this you can sort of combine this with a major development studies and Development Studies is fortunate because it brings together some of our leading teachers and researchers from some of our strong really strong departments and things like environmental sciences and health as well as the anthropological topics Ive been talking about Human Geography so if youre thinking about anthropology but you youre afraid to make a commitment consider development studies thats one possibility theres some really great people working in this I know the fellow who just won the universitys researcher researcher of the Year award Ritchie is one of the leading teachers in this from human geography he does amazing stuff hes been in Japan for a while but hes done incredible stuff with indigenous development and geography and use of geographical knowledge to help with indigenous projects here in Australia all right we also work hard to provide internships things like the Aurora project a lot of our students have gone to work in Native Title bodies on land title cases or in Aboriginal policy bodies to learn what anthropologists do day to day how they use their research how they use their interviewing skills how they use their negotiation skills in the practice weve had some of our students who went on to get job offers so one of our former masters students never finished her masters because after her first or second semester she did one of these internships and they offered her the number two job at one of the UM I think at the NTS Corp in Redfern so were very fortunate for that kind of project all right

this sounds exciting but what kind of careers do you have an anthropology like what do you do what do you do if youre not in academic well in fact most people do anthropology degrees do not go on to academic careers and in a few weeks were having an an academic careers night with former anthropology students have gone and do everything from political advisors to marketing consultants I mean I could list off countless jobs in development projects and social services their corporate consultants who are anthropologists contract archeology Native Title Services to migrants human rights human rights activists design consulting like I did management consulting intercultural training social impact assessment which are the people who go out and assess what the impact of a project is likely to be so one of our former students worked for the RMS back then it was the RTA I think shes still with them looking at how highway projects will affect communities and trying to design the best possible highway so she was involved in the consultation process that led up to bypassing certain towns for example community organizing but also things like public health professional researchers some of our students have gone on to work as work on documentary film projects museum and curating mentioned ethnographic film international business market research I wont go through all about a woman what cool hunting is remember few years back when it was it was very fashionable to have like runners with fixed soles on them those were actually spotted by an anthropologist working as a cool hunter in New York City she found that Latino girls in Spanish Harlem were cutting the soles of their shoes and putting thick foam in to make their shoes taller and she spotted those and took them to a Design House and they made a matzo on selling these shoes and she was what they call Cool Hunter and it is an anthropologist or a field worker who goes that looks for the next fashion the next trend and tries to help companies to make products from it look Im ambivalent about this process all right for a lot of reasons but its really science journalism and one of our former graduates for example is involved very much in western Sydney government once we get a lot of that in fact a stray only country where anthropologist ever been declared to have a had a shortage of anthropologists Philip Ruddick the former attorneys general for for John Howard actually said that one of the reasons that Native Title cases were going so slowly is that there werent enough anthropologist because I couldnt figure out who is related to who they couldnt figure out who had a legitimate claim and who didnt and that requires anthropologists and its not just here in Australia we last year we had a teen a guy coming to represent part of a team that was doing the same exact thing in Papua Guinea with the massive LNG product project not only do they have to figure out who was owed royalties but they had to try to design ways to get money into the communities that would just turn into you know people getting cut huge cheques and having these incredible alcohol and prostitute binges how do you funnel money into a community so the community thats getting rich very quickly will actually develop in a healthy sustainable fashion so there are anthropologists involved in negotiating every step of that in fact there were the guy he talks about the the head office sort of flew in from Texas from Houston all these Texans and they basically said like we just want to send you money you just gotta tell us what what were sending it to like we run the company we dont want to deal with the people we just want to deal with the element with the liquid natural gas we need you guys on the ground to actually design how this is gonna happen where the roads gonna go whos gonna get the jobs things like that so anthropologist were involved in that lucy Suchman whos now at lancaster university of the states was actually the person who whenever you look at copier theres a green button alright its called the boss button and lucy Suchman discovered when she used video basically she put video cameras over copiers that when the secretary was away and the boss came in to use the photocopier the photo copiers had gotten so complex that xerox was making and they couldnt figure how to use them so she showed this video to the Executive Board of Xerox and she said your machines are too complicated so like now every copier has a green button that basically says copy and thats for somebody just walk up and press that button to make a copy of a letter and that was because an anthropologist who studied how the machines were being used when kevin rudd was going to China at one point when hes criticizing the Chinese used the concept Zhang Yao the true friend the friend whos so close that can actually say hard truths to you that concept was actually people always assumed that was Kevin Rudd who knew about this Kevin Wright had no idea about this concept he had cultural consultants he had diplomatic consultants who could tell him what was what was locally acceptable and they advised him on how to handle this very delicate situation and Im getting close to the end marketing an user research this shows the uptake of ICT technology but controlled for income so it compares you compares countries to countries of comparable income and what you see is that some countries with relatively low incomes have very high take of technology so it turns out South Korea and Estonia are two of the most avid uptake places for new technology even though their incomes are you know adjusting for their income anthropology has been heavily involved in understanding these kinds of phenomena and how new technology can be used I just was reading a guys sort of packet and theyre using ICT to provide medical care in places in Africa where theres no theres no fixed landlines but a lot of people have mobile so how do you use Mobiles to help provide health services including things like prenatal care to mothers finally how can we find local resources to address severe problems this particular photo comes from a project that was done by anthropologists to try to find local foodstuffs cheap foodstuffs from local markets that could help edge HIV victims keep weight on in places in West Africa because it turns out that one of the worst things if you have HIV in Africa is not just the virus is gonna get you its at you is it you have start having a difficult time keeping Calot keeping your body weight on and keeping your health strong so how do we find local cheap foodstuffs so they dont spend a lot of money or pay a drug company to help keep them healthy so I think Im approaching the end o last one economic development actually the World Bank hires a lot of anthropologists its currently the head of the World Bank is an anthropologist this Korean Jim Yong Kim whos a really fascinating physician and anthropologist was was appointed by President Obama to head the World Bank and the reason for is simple the World Bank has lots of money but what they need to know is how the moneys actually whats happening with the money on the ground and thats where they said in the anthropologists and Ive heard it said that when because I work in Brazil so let me let me just wrap up there I know its a bit manic and I do apologize I want to thank you and I hope you enjoy if you want any more information go to dot and mq edu au

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Macquarie, University, Uni, Sydney, Australia
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