Paul HartleyComment

Reasserting the Purpose of Anthropology

Paul HartleyComment
Reasserting the Purpose of Anthropology

I have been spending a great deal of time reflecting on just why it is important to make distinctions between different kinds of human-focused research. The question of why we have sociology, anthropology, psychology, and even market research is one that I used to think I have an answer to. Recently, however, I have realized that I do not. When we look at the work we do for businesses, the distinctions seem not to matter. In fact, no one working in market research or in business strategy even seems to care. For them, the distinctions are immaterial. So why do I spend so much time worrying about this?

The only answer I've managed to develop recently is that these distinctions make it clear that humans, their beliefs, and their behaviours cannot be studied in a single way. This may seem utterly obvious, but I think very often we forget it when we are working within one of these fields. Humans are complicated and messy. We need different approaches and different perspectives to "triangulate" what may actually be going on. 

What has troubled me throughout this period of uncertainty is actually that market research seeks to not care about any of this. Its deliberate ignorance and willful distain of these kinds of fine distinctions could be seen as evidence of its inability to actually study the human enigma.