Anthropology of Contemporary Issues

How are contemporary issues discussed in the media?  Why are they discussed in these ways and how can anthropology reveal what the news excludes? Over the course of the semester, our anthropology class researched the four major contemporary issues featured in the menu tabs above. Our website offers an analysis of the news coverage of each issue, highlights the career of an anthropologist who is an expert on each issue, and provides an anthropological analysis of what gaps exist between news and anthropological perspectives and why they exist. Our review demonstrates the benefits of the anthropological perspective, which gives a voice to people who are often overlooked in the media, and reveals the structural forces that influence each case study.

The sixteen students enrolled in the course “Anthropology of Contemporary Issues” during Spring 2012 at Colby College are interested in demonstrating the use of anthropology for understanding and analyzing contemporary issues. As a class, we examined environmental racism in the American south, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and global health inequities before breaking into groups and focusing on the case studies featured on this website. Through a cycle of research, presentation, and feedback, each group carefully explained and crafted an analysis of each topic by comparing the perspectives of news sources and the analyses offered by expert anthropologists. We learned about and practiced critiquing news sources by looking for missing pieces and analyzing intended audiences. By highlighting career trajectories of individual anthropologists, we learned how anthropologists fashion their careers. And finally, by applying our own anthropological perspective, we learned about the value of anthropological research for understanding current events.