Of course from an academic standpoint, the purpose of anthropology is as any other discipline: to push beyond the human inquiry in hopes of discovering new knowledge. Although important, the relevance of it all, it seems, is highly unconvincing for those who seek practical applicability of the things they learn. Much like philosophy and literature, the field of anthropology has unfortunately come to epitomize a pessimistic (negative?) underlying connotation of “uselessness in the real world”. This is mainly due to its preconceived notions and prejudices of being strictly academic, and those who study it choose strictly to stay in academia.
Yet interestingly enough, anthropology enthusiasts and anthropology professors, cannot seem to stress enough that the purpose of anthropology (often simultaneously reflecting the reasons for their love and passion for anthropology) exists within its practicability. The purpose, exactly, is to deconstruct any previous notions of common sense, universal truths, and thus our “normalized” world around us, to question reflexively our personal perception of ourselves, others, and our sociocultural world. This purpose, as a result, provides a means for the empowerment of different communities through the eradication of associated stereotypes, as well as allows for the improvement of inter-cultural and intra-cultural development through the lubrication of social relations. In the famous words of Ruth Benedict, “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.”
The practicality of anthropology, however, does not stop there. In fact Business Insider just published an article on why major companies are hiring masses of anthropologists. According to Baer, major renowned companies such as Google, Intel, and Microsoft (reportedly one of the largest employers of anthropologists) are more and more eager to hire ethnological and cultural specialists. Why? Simply put, it is because quantitative data analysis, creativity, entrepreneurial enthusiasm, etc. that were previously thought of as the foundations of a successful business is proving otherwise in the rapidly globalized era with a growing number of conscious consumers. To have a successful business today, one must have an in-depth understanding of not just the customer’s desires, but also the reasons behind such desires as well as the sociocultural influences that shape the consumer’s desires. What better way to read the consumer than with hiring anthropologists?
Nonetheless, although Anthropology is highly academic, it’s “real-life” uses are becoming more and more important today. From helping businesses understand consumer demands through recognizing sociocultural trends, to helping non-governmental and humanitarian organization better implement their so-called ‘development’ projects, the application of anthropology continues to expand and it’s scopes exponentially broadened. The purpose of anthropology therefore, I might conclude, is illuminated only in the epiphanic realization of its diversified multiplicity.