The work of anthropology reconsidered: Career diversity and the future of doctoral education

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1 Scopus citations


In recent years, discussion about the training and job placement of PhD students in the humanities and social sciences has increasingly been informed by broader conversations about the crisis in higher education and the persistent decline in the availability of tenure-track academic jobs. This article analyzes 28 semi-structured interview transcripts from the Society for Applied Anthropology’s Oral History Project to explore how one group of anthropologists experience and value their livelihood pursuits and how diverse career paths impact scholarly identities within broader political economic contexts. Specifically, it explores three central themes: First, rather than viewing nonacademic work as entirely separate from their scholarly pursuits, many of the interviewed anthropologists described a flexible career trajectory shaped through repeated pivots between academic and practicing spheres. Second, the anthropologists identified multiple ways in which their nonacademic work was shaped by their unique anthropological insights and how, in turn, their work as practicing anthropologists enhanced and even deepened their scholarly engagement. Third, the interviewed anthropologists acknowledged the multiple challenges they faced in pursuing work beyond the tenure track. The manuscript ends by considering how we might build on these insights into anthropological career diversity in order to profitably rethink the purpose and form of doctoral education within our discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-39
Number of pages14
JournalAnthropology of Work Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Applied anthropology
  • Career diversity
  • Doctoral education
  • Practicing anthropology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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