Applied anthropology: Using research tools to help transmit Native American and Latino culture to a new generation

Sunday, October 16th, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Miguel Vasquez, Ph.D.

In Arizona’s Hopi reservation, farmers plant their crops in the same terraced gardens that their ancestors have used for 800 years. When Miguel Vasquez approached the Hopi about studying their culture and customs, they asked him to help restore and conserve their traditional practices. That included documenting their traditional agricultural methods (the Hopi, Vasquez says, are some of the best dry farmers in the world) and helping them pass those techniques on to a younger generation. How, Vasquez wondered, do you pass along culture to a younger generation in which fewer than 10 percent of the kids speak fluent Hopi? That led to work with the school system, for which he developed a new K-12 curriculum—taking him a long way from conventional anthropological research. Vasquez calls this applied anthropology. “This is a scientific approach to resolving a fundamental issue for American society,” he told me. When Vasquez began his work, Hopi students learned more about 19th-century England than they did about their own culture. Vasquez will talk about the project and review the difficult history between anthropologists and the Hopi, in which anthropologists cared little about the disappearance of the culture, and were concerned only with documenting what was disappearing—what Vasquez calls “salvage anthropology.” For more information...