Introduction: What Is Unexpected Anthropology?
BySheena Nahm, Cortney Hughes Rinker
Pages 17

Although it feels like a lifetime ago, it was not so long ago that we were graduate students huddling together at coffee shops near campus to discuss the week’s reading assignments. Along with our peers, we discussed the role of anthropology and anthropologists in the public sphere. We wondered aloud what it meant to advance research within the academy while also engaging the public. We identified some concrete examples of scholars effectively engaging the public while living simultaneously inside and outside of the academy. But the examples seemed somewhat few and far between in the United States (US), with most being squarely situated in one and having brief excursions into the other. If anything, more examples of hybrid forms of scholarship seemed to have emerged from outside of the US. We recognized that this was due in part to the structural pressures and supports that made dual “citizenship” in applied/academic worlds a necessity. Not long after we completed our graduate work, we both managed to find

employment in roles that required one foot inside and one foot outside of academia. As colleagues graduating during an economic recession (Nahm in 2009; Hughes Rinker in 2010), any employment seemed like a notable feat, much less one that allowed us to think and do anthropology both inside and outside of the university setting. Still, we could not help but delve into a deeper round of our earlier conversations as students. What did it mean for us to live in both worlds? Would we eventually have to choose one or the other? And if so, which was the “better” choice? Why even conceive of professional development in such dichotomized terms? Ultimately, there was and is no one simple answer for any of these questions. But in asking these questions, we became keenly aware of the tensions in anthropological discourse around why anthropology has meaning and how it makes sense to an ever-changing discipline (and an ever-changing world around that discipline). We realized that the job market as we knew it needed to be understood in a

historical context that includes the trajectories of both education and employment.

If we turn back the dial just a few decades we see that in 1950, a total of twentytwo anthropology PhDs were awarded in the US. As the discipline developed and grew, more and more scholars emerged in the field. In 1974, 409 doctorates in the discipline were awarded. In the last two decades, the number of PhDs in anthropology has held at around 400 per year (Givens and Jablonski 2000). When we include masters’ degrees, the overall enrollment in anthropology remained constant from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. It has increased in more recent decades, with a 7% increase from 1993 to 1995, and of 27% since 1989. In the early 1970s, the vast majority (74%) of anthropologists in the US who com-

pleted their doctoral degrees took academic jobs. The remainder took jobs in research centers and departments other than anthropology within academia (13%) or in nonacademic jobs (13%). By 1990, the percentage of graduates taking academic jobs in anthropology dropped from 74% to 38% (with 21% of the remaining graduates in research or non-anthropology academic appointments and 41% in nonacademic jobs). This point begs repeating. In the course of two decades, the post-graduate career trajectory of anthropologists has taken on a dramatically different look and feel. The number fluctuated again by the mid-1990s when 42% took academic jobs in anthropology, 29% took jobs in research or other non-anthropology departments, and 28% took nonacademic jobs (Givens and Jablonski 2000). Looking at even more recent trends, we see that this shift continues to shape our

discipline. The drop in academic positions for anthropologists may seem troubling, but in broader terms there are also new opportunities developing elsewhere in applied social science fields. According to the US Department of Labor, there were 7,200 jobs for anthropologists and archeologists in 2012. By 2022, it is projected that the field for anthropologists will increase by 19%, which is faster than the average projection for all occupations. However, a major caveat is that “because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,400 new jobs over the ten-year period. Jobseekers will likely face very strong competition” (US Department of Labor 2012). These numbers are promising in one sense because they show how the job market is growing for anthropologists, with their employment rate after graduation rising from just under 20% in 2006 to about 50% in 2012. And yet, because of the way we think about anthropology and the places we expect to find it, any amount of job growth will always be measured through a narrow net of search terms and key words. It is with this in mind that we propose an examination and exploration of applied anthropology in unexpected spaces, topics, and methods. In comparison to the 1970s, the number of graduates and the percentage of

graduates that pursue nonacademic jobs has greatly increased. It is within this context that Louise Lamphere’s words remind us that there is much work to be done in creating collaborative bridges between academic and nonacademic settings. Lamphere, former President of the American Anthropological Association stated: