Sunday, February 22, 2009

Human Rights & Anthropology

A unique challenge in doing research on prostitution was gaining entry and acceptance. Places of prostitution aren’t listed in a directory obviously so the researcher had to ask around. When she did find various places it took awhile to get anyone to talk to her. She took it slow and luckily managed to get noticed by someone. She was then put through a “Streetwalker 101 test.” Other times she had to prove that she wasn’t an undercover cop. Another unique challenge was being careful of who she associated with. Some people were nice enough to talk to her but that affiliation, like those with a negative reputation, limited her access to others. Also, being in the environment of prostitution was dangerous because she did not know anyone and so she may place trust in the wrong people. Other obviously unique challenges were researching something that was illegal as well as the ethical issues that arose- like women being physically abused. The researcher was put into difficult situations that she did not really know how to handle.

The author of MFH mentions that the code of ethics “promotes discussion and education, rather than to investigate allegations of misconduct.” In situations where anthropologists witness behavior that is not acceptable to them they should always remember that their main obligation is to the people that they are studying. It is important for the anthropologist to observe and analyze so that they get their point of view and gain an understanding of why they do what they do so they can then educate others about their culture and views. I don’t believe it’s the anthropologist’s job to reach out to the public or get involved with activism because we can’t tell them what’s right or wrong. They are researchers so their job should be to research and not try to change or judge their ways. Various cultures are going to have different ideas of what’s acceptable and what’s not and that’s what makes us all unique from each other.

Universally humans do deserve certain rights, like the basic right to life for example, but I’m not sure as to how those standards should be set because it’s very difficult to determine that especially with all the factors involved. Even if universal standards were set, it is most likely that not everyone will agree. Whatever the universal standards may be, they should not affect or interfere with a cultures' already established practice. Some cultures have existed for so long and they shouldn’t be forced to change their ways, but rather change on their own. These universal standards also should not try to make all cultures the same because diversity should be kept. People would become very upset if they had no freedom of choice and had to conform to other ways. I think cultures should be able to what they please just as long as it doesn't negatively affect the safety and well-being of other people in other cultures. Basically they should be able to practice the way they like to within their culture. These are just ideas but overall I think universal standards should be simple to where everyone can agree, considering all cultures.

1 comment:

  1. Great discussion of this complex topic. How do you feel anthropologists who are employed in applied settings should handle these issues- that is, when their purpose is to solve problems rather than do academic research? Does that change our role? Also, what should we do with internal cultural conflict- when some people are oppressed by others in a single culture?