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August 17, 2010

so I’ve been in correspondence with a student of a friend of mine who’s been asking some interesting questions about anthropology. As a result, I was reminded of a couple examples of a violation of academic ethics. So here’s a couple articles about it:

and this code of ethics:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2010 5:40 am

    What interesting questions has the student friend posed?
    Would you consider the unauthorized use of the Havasupai tribe’ s blood samples an invasion of privacy? By not asking permission to use the blood samples beyond the initial agreed upon use, it makes me wonder how often this same thing may happen with other blood samples. Do we give up our rights when we get a blood test? Does that sample now belong to the lab or the medical center or the clinic?

    • August 20, 2010 12:57 am

      The student was specifically asking about the use of anthropology when it comes to negative campaigning, or putting out information with the intention of breaking down another person’s character. I would imagine, for a social scientist, this would take the form of targeting specific groups of people, using ethnographic data about those groups, and creating a taylor-made campaign that takes advantage of cultural associations and biases of the target group.

      This has been done less scientifically for many years, and even more generally in every political campaign when one opponent tries to make the other seem “out of touch”. When John Kerry was attacked as being an elitist, or wealthy person, and video was shown of him snowboarding and windsurfing, alongside Bush clearing brush. It doesn’t matter that Bush was easily just as monetarily privileged as Kerry was. The point was to remove him from mainstream America.

      About blood: Something to consider is that the principles don’t apply just to blood. When a linguistic anthropologist does research, his subjects will often be recorded. Those researchers have an ethical obligation to let the subjects hear what was recorded of them. The subjects will have the right to retract their permission to be recorded–in other words, a researcher is obligated to destroy recordings even if the subject initially stated (or even signed) agreement to disclosure.

      Of course, these guidelines are in many ways unique to anthropology. I would imagine in communities where the only recourse is to take legal action, signed contracts are the end of the argument. If a lab or hospital explicitly states what tests will be run, then they might ignore what is ethical.

      Kinda weird, right?

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