This is Anthropology

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Janelle Christensen
Charlotte Noble

USF Students Respond to Governor Scott

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott recently (and repeatedly) characterized anthropology as a useless major, once again catapulting the discipline into the main stream media. His recent comments include:

- Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state….It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here” (Tampa Bay News, October 10, “Scott: Florida doesn’t need more anthropology majors”). 

- “How many more jobs you think there is for anthropology in this state?” followed by “You want to use your tax dollars to educate more people that can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.” (Bender, Tampa Bay News, October 13, “Gov. Rick Scott rolls out his job agenda”)

This is Anthropology. Image courtesy Janelle Christensen and Charlotte Noble

At the University of South Florida, students and faculty promptly responded to the challenge.  The department Chair, Dr. Brent Weisman responded quickly and strongly to Governor Scott’s statements through interviews and letters to the editor in various local newspapers, highlighting the contributions anthropology has made to the state. Dr. Daniel Lende, in his widely-read blog, “Neuroanthropology” summarized Scott’s remarks and offered comments on the issue.

As students, we decided to use the negative press as an opportunity to educate both the Governor and the public about what anthropologists are actually doing in and for the State of Florida and beyond. Inspired by the public health campaign, “This is Public Health”, Janelle Christensen started the project with simple instructions sent out over the department list serve:

1) State your name and where you were trained

2) The topic of your research

3) Why your research is anthropological

4) What it contributes to Florida

5) Write the description for a general audience.

Students were asked to submit the paragraphs quickly so that we could create a document to send to the Governor and as editorials in Florida newspapers while the topic was hot.  Within hours, we had an impressive list of 30 anthropologists who succinctly described their collaborations with county, state, Federal government, NGOs, and non-profit organizations. Christensen and other students in the department worked with local news reporters to release the information.

Charlotte Noble then used Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software, to create “This is Anthropology” which brought the document to life. Stories were matched with images in an interactive presentation, giving graphic representation to the important and wide-ranging works being carried out by anthropology students at USF. We would also encourage other anthropologists to use similar methods to demonstrate their impact in their own communities. We are considering including the presentation as part of a panel for the SfAA meetings, in light of the fact that this attack on anthropology and liberal arts education is not restricted to Florida. 

The “This is Anthropology” project (document and presentation) is a work in progress, and we invite you to see our stories.  

For further information, or to learn more about anthropology in Florida and beyond, please visit:





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