This Is Anthropology

Editor’s Note: I’m proud to feature this post announcing the new This Is Anthropology initiative, started initially at the University of South Florida and now an American Anthropological Association project. Jason, Charlotte, and Janelle deserve so much credit for bringing this digital platform to life.

This Is Anthropology

By Jason Miller, Charlotte Noble, and Janelle Christensen

In October 2011, Florida governor Rick Scott fired a shot across the bow of higher education by stating that college majors that did not lead to “jobs” were not needed in Florida. He went on to single out anthropology specifically as the exemplar of a major that produced job-less graduates.

As doctoral students at one of the nation’s largest university, which also happened to be in Florida, we were both amazed and concerned to hear such inflammatory comments about our future ‘uselessness’. Perhaps Governor Scott simply didn’t know what anthropology was? So, a small group of us decided to share with Scott and with others the important work anthropologists were doing in Florida and beyond—and the This is Anthropology project was born.

At first, we focused on creating a Florida-based tool specifically responding to Governor Scott’s comments. In a few short days we drew together an impressive Prezi-web presentation highlighting the work of anthropologists and students from USF and a Facebook page to help connect those who were interested. However, we quickly realized that that sort of public education was too narrow in scope.

Anthropology had (and continues to have in our opinion) a much larger PR problem. In less than a month we drafted a proposal for the American Anthropological Association to partner with us to create a globally available This is Anthropology website able to reach a much wider audience and allow for anthropologists everywhere to share the exciting and important work they do.

Our Beta Launch to Reach a Broad Public

One short year later we are overjoyed to announce the beta launch of www.

This Is Anthropology was created to help inform the general public (especially high school and undergraduate students) about what anthropology is and what anthropologists do in lay, accessible language free from jargon.

Visitors to the website will learn about the kinds of jobs anthropologists have, the skill sets we employ, advice on how to become an anthropologist, and an interactive map displaying anthropology projects in different parts of the world.

One of the most exciting features is listed under the “Find an Anthropologist” tab, which allows people to view an interactive Google map showing where anthropologists are working around the world. People who are studying anthropology, and/or are using anthropology in their careers, can plot their educational institution, other work affiliations, and study sites on the map. Each of those pins on the map is an opportunity to share why anthropological work is important.

We hope this visual display of the work of many and varied anthropologists will convey to visitors the critical thinking, productive approaches to diversity, effective written and oral communication, and technical skills that are central to the work of anthropologists.

Joining “This is Anthropology”

We hope that if you are reading this, you are as passionate about anthropology as we are and that you’ll join in our efforts. There are several ways you can participate.

First, to make the site rich and representative of our diverse discipline, we need your biography. It’s quick and easy to add your information. You can add photos and links, flag your research site on the map, and share information about your research.

Information can be added by clicking on the “Anthropologists Join the Map button”, located below the map itself. This map is searchable, and as it grows, we hope it will serve as a resource for students, faculty and others to find anthropologists in particular subfields, as well as geographic and topical areas. Once you submit a profile you will receive an email with a link that allows you to edit your profile any time in the future—so your profile can grow with you!

Second, we created a Twitter hashtag, #thisisanthro, that can be used to share anthro-related news. The website has a twitter hashtag feed so that visitors can be linked to current stories and interesting sites each time they visit. Please help us spread the use of the tag.

Third, the site as it currently exists was created with very limited budget and resources. We still have plans for additional features (such as teaching resources and embedding short video vignettes) — so please tell us what more you’d like to see! The site is a work in progress, so your observations, feedback, and contributions are greatly appreciated.

Please take a minute to visit This is Anthropology, and contact the site’s coordinator Jason Miller ( or AAA Staff Member Courtney Dowdall ( with your comments.

Finally, we’d like to thank everyone who has contributed content to the new site. It would not have been possible without the gracious anthropologists who contributed text or photographs or who helped us edit content for clarity, accessibility and representativeness of our discipline. Thanks go out especially to our fellow USF graduate student colleagues Shana Hughes, Gene Cowherd, and Jason Simms for participating in the planning of the website and contributing text. We’d also like to thank AAA staff members Elaine Lynch, Lisa Myers and Travis Raup who tirelessly worked with us over the past year to build the site itself.

We hope you find the site to be a valuable resource and that you’ll share with friends, colleagues and perhaps even your elected officials. If anthropology is going to solve its PR problem, the solution is going to come from all of us working together to share the amazing work we are already doing with a much wider audience.

Link to This Is Anthropology website

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