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Applying Anthropological Principles

Posted on January 11, 2008

Anthropology can enhance the research process, states Margaret R. Weeks (bio).

 

For me the training in anthropology is really the most essential thing for being able to enter a completely new cultural context and social context and try to figure out how to make your way around and do research that’s sensitive but also is relevant and really makes sense in this new context.

My feeling is that any kind of community-based research really needs to involve application of anthropological principles and preferably I would advocate for hiring an anthropologist. But we’ve always worked in an interdisciplinary way. Each field has its particular set of strengths and the theoretical approaches that have been part of that field of study, really critical and the hallmark of that field. And in terms of doing this work, for me, anthropological training has been really, incredibly valuable because of how you’re trained to approach a new cultural group and a new cultural context from a scientifically rigorous standpoint but also finding ways to understand what’s meaningful and what makes sense in a completely different kind of context.

It’s not always completely different either. A lot of the work that we’ve done is based in Hartford, which is our own community, and the principles of understanding social dynamics, social interaction, networks, relationships, cultural meaning is just as relevant in our own cultural context as it is anywhere else in the world. And approaching research with that kind of a background really enhances our ability to do it in such a way that it makes sense and it’s relevant and really helps to build, especially if you’re talking about building health-related programs that work and have meaning for the people that you’re trying to prevent a deadly disease with, and it makes a lot of sense.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.

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