Antrhopology's Importance To Poverty Alleviation Essay

964 words - 4 pages

Anthropology is the study of what makes us distinctively human, including culture. Culture is the system of human behaviors that is shared, patterned, learned, symbolic, and adaptive. Culture is a unique human capacity, which every society has but varies considerably across them. Culture comprises the myriad possible ways that human societies allow individuals address (and allow them to fulfill) their biological needs. As such, culture demonstrates how nothing human is ever 100% biological and hence is affected by context. The job of an anthropologist is to understand how different elements of a culture complement each other and create a cohesive worldview. Because of anthropologists’ capacity to examine the cultural lens of a society, their presence can ensure that the development project has the highest likelihood of success within the unique cultural context of its implementation.
Anthropologists look at modes of organization and frames of meaning to carefully construct a cohesive cosmology for the culture they are studying. Modes of organization refer to the ways in which human societies are constructed and the composition of its social role relationships. This could include studies of political, family, and economic structure – and how these interactions influence each other. This is particularly important for poverty alleviation efforts because, as Paul Farmer points out in Anthropology of Structural Violence, economic, social, and political systems of oppression and inequality reinforce each other. As a result, mitigating only one aspect of inequality or suffering is insufficient for improving long-term quality of life overall for the poor. Frames of meaning refer to the ways in which individuals perceive and make sense of their surrounding and society. For example, as Farmer points out, Haitians have perceived their economic and political conditions in the context of extreme poverty and inequality, of hierarchical and oppressive systems. Their frame of meaning is related to a pervasive acceptance of inequality and suffering as inevitable facts of life, which leads to many of their idiomatic expressions that seem to justify and validate poverty even, including “Hunger is misery; a full stomach is trouble” and the belief that suicide will lead to rebirth as an eternal slave. These elements form the overall cosmology of their lives, which is necessary to understand in order to make sustainable changes to their society.
Since anthropologists focus on culture, they focus on the target population’s perspective in the implementation of development projects. In studying the beneficiaries’ culture, anthropologists gain insight into how the project is perceived by the people it is supposed to help and can therefore identify how to make it popular among them. In other words, anthropologists can see how the project will (or won’t, as the case may be) into the society’s cultural context and anticipate how it will be viewed in terms...

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