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October 9, 2013

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Brief Book Reviews

August 25, 2013

I bought these recently published anthropology books a while ago, intending to read them, use them as reference material and add them to my anthropology library. Because they are written by thought leaders in anthropology, I thought I'd review them briefly here.

 

 

Nolan's (2013) edited volume, A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology, contains chapters by some of the most well-known names in practicing anthropology. Much of Nolan's previous work has focused on preparing students for careers in anthropology, and this book is no different. Though it will be useful for any anthropologist at any point in their career to read about training, preparation, transitioning from academia to practice, job hunting, measures of success and various domains of practice, I think this book is particularly well-suited for students facing post-graduate non-academic work. Though I enjoy reading works from stars in the field, I do think there is a gap between the advice for novice job-seekers and the reflections from those who have been practicing for 20+ years. I would have liked to have seen more work from early- to mid-career anthropologists, because I think these people have left academia more recently and have had to find or keep jobs during or since the more recent recession, and I think those lessons would have been relevant in this volume. However, it's an excellent book with sage advice from seasoned professionals.

 

 

Jordan's (2013) edited volume Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments, like Nolan's book above, does an excellent job of collecting well-known practitioner discussions around important and current topics. This book focuses on the opportunities associated with ethnography in corporate environments. What's especially valuable about this collection is that two sides of a topic are discussed by two practitioners. For example, Patricia Sunderland and Rita Denny, authors of Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research, discuss both why it is important to bring theory into ethnographic projects (Sunderland) and why practicality drives research design and output (Denny). Instead of offering advice, this book provides a conversation around topics in ethnographic research that practitioners can use to inform their own work.​

 

 

Malefyt & Morais (2012) provide a deeper look into one domain of anthropological practice: the world of advertising. Though some of the essays that comprise the volume were previously published, the content was revised and organized to become a coherent, thorough yet manageable perspective on practicing anthropology in the advertising industry. The book is not only a study of cultural aspects of advertising, it's an insider's view (an observant practitioner's perspective) of what it means to work in advertising. I found the detail about the work of advertising incredibly informative: Morais was hired as an account manager and Malefyt as an account planner. These roles and others are defined and explained in the context of work, making it easy for an anthropologist to understand what it would take to be qualified for a job in that industry. And of course, all of the detailed stories about individual projects, successes and failures, and client interactions provide valuable information to a reader who would need to know what the work is like and how to position one's self for a career in advertising.

Ultimately, I recommend all of these books to any anthropologist interested in contemporary topics facing practitioners today and those who are looking for work in any of these fields.

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