Anthropology, Department of


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Published in THE NEBRASKA ANTHROPOLOGIST, Volume 3 (1977). Published by the Anthropology Student Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588


A great deal of discussion in recent anthropological literature has been directed toward "relevance in anthropology". The issues which are confronted under the concept of relevance in anthropology would be perhaps more correctly labeled "responsibility in anthropology".

Relevance is defined as pertinence and, social applicability, in other words, the ability, to satisfy a need. The concept of responsibility encompasses this social applicability but also includes moral and rational accountability for one's conduct and obligations. Not only is it the ability to satisfy a need but the accountability for the actions taken to satisfy the need and the repercussions which follow.

Just as it is true that each anthropologist must reinvent anthropology for himself or herself, each anthropologist must be held accountable and responsible for his or her research. This is not merely a matter of professional ethics and the responsibility of producing accurate and valid research. It also includes the responsibility for uses that are made of the anthropologist's work and the entire range of repercussions which pertain to these uses. This is a tremendous responsibility and one which increases the amount of planning and preparation occurring in connection with research. But it is an ethical problem not peculiar to anthropology or even the social sciences. Almost every profession is beginning to feel demands for accountability and responsibility.

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