Reflections on Action Anthropology: Some Developmental Dynamics of an Anthropological Tradition

Research output: Other contribution


"Action Anthropology" was orginally conceived during work with the Mesquakie (Fox) Indians in the 1950s by Sol Tax and his students. Despute their enthusiasm and expectations, action anthropology as they conceived of it has not had a great influence on the discipline. Yet, the epistemological, practical, and methodological commitments of their approach offer important alternatives to those accepted by many of the collaborative, advocacy, and "action" research projects in which anthropologists are increasingly involved. This paper explores some of the reasons for action anthropology's lack of influence. Considered are aspects of the epistemological and sociological climated in which action anthropology developed, the reward structure for basic and applied scientific research, and the rolde of personal characteristics in the leadership and definition of disciplinary traditions. The conclusion of the analysis is that "action anthropology" still has much to offer attempts to better understand how anthropology can be made useful and relevant to policy-makers.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 1986

Publication series

NameHuman Organization


  • Sol Tax
  • action anthropology
  • applied anthropology
  • leadership


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