The Moral And Ethical Dilemmas Of Anthropology

1146 words - 5 pages

Anthropological researchers have considerable moral and ethical standards by which their work must be conducted in order to preserve the accuracy and the posterity of the information gathered during the study and also to the persons or cultures of which they study. These two important parts of anthropology – the research and those being researched – can be conflicting. The Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association presents itself as a body of guidelines for discussing these ethical and moral conflicts. This allows for researchers in the field of anthropology to have a foundation for understanding what decisions must be made regarding these ethical and moral conflicts and to whom the disclosures of those decisions should be made.

The world of anthropology is tightly woven into research of humans and their cultures. One of the most important principles of the Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is found in Part III, Section A, Number 1: “Anthropological researchers have primary ethical obligations to the people, species, and materials they study and to the people with whom they work.” (American Anthropological Association, 2009) This main principle helps to guide social scientists through a maze of ethical dilemmas such as if and how the research itself may harm or otherwise impact those with whom they are studying. While the purpose of the research may be to gain knowledge of the plight of a certain individual or group of individuals, by the extension of the sharing of this knowledge the person or persons being studied may draw unwanted attention. By utilizing the Code of Ethics, the framework has been established so that the researcher is guided “to consult actively with the affected individuals or group(s), with the goal of establishing a working relationship that can be beneficial to all parties involved.” (American Anthropological Association, 2009) This may include gaining participatory agreements or agreements of anonymity. The researcher must also be forward and honest with the participants that despite the due diligence put forth by the researcher, the information gained and shared through the study may lead to the unintentional disclosure of some of the participants’ personal information. Ensuring that this is shared with the participant allows a partnership to form between the researcher and those who are part of the research. The case of anthropologist Becky Ross as documented by Elizabeth Colson of the University of California, details the ethical dilemma reached when the projected status of the researcher crosses from field research into a daily contributor to the study group. Colson suggests that by creating these relationships, researchers are “creating obligations and they ought to learn what these may entail.” (Colson, 2006)

Partnerships, or relationships, are another aspect of social research that must be negotiated with an ethical and moral perspective....

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