To celebrate the American Anthropological Association’s World Anthropology Day (February 20, 2020)  we asked some of our Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows with training in Anthropology to reflect on their professional trajectory, current work, and what it means to be a “humanistic social scientist.”

Now in its tenth year, the Public Fellows Program places recent PhDs in full-time, two-year positions with nonprofit organizations and government agencies where they can leverage their knowledge and skills through substantive work in policy, community development, conservation, arts and culture, and media. This initiative is made possible through the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“My PhD training involved over a year of fieldwork in Marseille, France and it definitely helped to prepare for me for the work I am currently doing. I think much of the success of fieldwork comes down to networking with people and sharpening your ability to learn from and about new environments. These skills translate well to any career path and have greatly aided me in my new role creating programming for a transatlantic policy think tank. Conducting fieldwork gave me greater confidence in approaching and establishing relationships with new people and that is a central part of my work as a program officer at the German Marshall Fund.” 

– Elandre Dedrick, Public Fellow ‘19

“At Rare’s Center for Behavior & the Environment we foreground inter-disciplinary collaborative thinking and human centered solutions to, often polarizing, environmental problems. As an anthropologist, my north star is always context and the power relations that make those contexts unyielding to change, yes, but also reveal upon scrutiny, people’s constraints and commitments that are most amenable to social transformation. In a time when we find ourselves stewing in our Twitter echo chambers – disagreeing vehemently, refusing to acknowledge an inch to our opponents – anthropology reminds me to bring empathy back into the room.” 

– Madhuri Karak, Public Fellow ‘19

“As the saying goes, ‘Anthropology is both the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences.’ My training in anthropology at CUNY is more materialist than symbolic, so my approach may not be as humanistic as other cultural anthropologists who use a more interpretive, literary form of analysis. However, humanistic methodologies of ethnography and history have been paramount to my engaged work. I have found that environmental advocacy, particularly the politics of representation with local and Indigenous movements, requires a keen sense of self-reflection on my own positionality in order to ensure that my ultimate goal is not just sustainability, but also equity.”

James J. A. Blair, Public Fellow ‘17

“As a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and a term appointee at the U.S. Department of State, and as a consultant to the World Bank, I have had the opportunity to directly apply the knowledge of the country in which I conducted fieldwork to my work.  At the same time, the specific skills I acquired through my PhD training prepared me to navigate not just the academic world but the policy and the development worlds too.

– Jennifer Wistrand, Public Fellow ‘13

“Currently, I work at the Aspen Institute helping to manage a fellowship. This fellowship involves engaging high potential leaders in the finance industry over humanistic approaches to leading in their everyday work lives…An anthropological/humanist orientation to the world, and the honing that my training has afforded, allows me to help frame in more succinct and accessible terms ambiguous life situations — where there may be a tradeoff, or that each route has equal advantages and disadvantages — that require leaders to make tough decisions.”

– Jennifer Vogt, Public Fellow ‘15

Learn more about past and current Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows here.