AAA Resources on Ethics and Professional Responsibility

The MPAAC Ethics Representatives work closely with the AAA Ethics Advisory Group to field member queries about ethically difficult situations.

We devote this month’s MPAAC column to a responsibility shared by all American Anthropological Association members: awareness of the Association’s Principles of Professional Responsibility. If you haven’t looked at the statement since its 2012 passage, it’s always worth another look. The statement calls each of us to:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Be open and honest regarding your work
  3. Obtain informed consent and necessary permissions
  4. Weigh competing ethical obligations due collaborators and affected parties
  5. Make your results accessible
  6. Protect and preserve your records
  7. Maintain respectful and ethical professional relationships

While the reasoning behind each of these points is detailed on the Association’s ethics site, we recognize that anthropologists are quite likely to face ethical conundrums in the course of their work. AAA provides two helpful resources to assist in these moments. First of all, the Association’s Ethics Forum is a repository of case studies, discussion, links, and more that you can use to inform your research, practice, and teaching. Check it out! It is full of thought-provoking true stories. We would love for you to help us add to the resources available on the Forum by proposing contributions via [email protected].

If the AAA Principles of Professional Responsibility and the Ethics Forum don’t fully assist with your ethical conundrum, you have one more resource to turn to. This group, formerly known as the “Friends of the AAA Committee on Ethics,” consists of former Committee on Ethics chairs. The group does not adjudicate ethical matters, but it can provide a wider perspective based on its collective experience. All queries are treated in a confidential manner. To contact he group, send an email describing the situation as fully as possible to [email protected].

Conversations about professional ethics are ongoing across the discipline right now. The Society for American Archaeology is currently examining its ethics statement, the Principles of Archaeological Ethics, and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology (NAPA) recently ratified a new set of Guidelines for Ethical Practice that address contemporary challenges facing practicing, professional and applied anthropologists. Significant updates in the NAPA Guidelines include careful incorporation of the many domains of practice in which contemporary anthropologists work and encourages practitioners to “do some good” alongside the assertion “do no harm.”

Ongoing discourse about ethics is good for the Association and good for the discipline as it serves as an important reminder of our commitment to ethical engagement with the people and animals with whom we work, scholarship and science, and the broader public. Though cultural and technological changes continue to introduce new ethical considerations for all anthropologists, a fundamental commitment to engage with the ethics of our work has guided every AAA ethics statement since 1971. We are here to help members navigate their ethical responsibilities and welcome your contributions and queries.

Chad Morris is associate professor of anthropology and director of the Honors Program at Roanoke College. He holds the elected ethics seat on MPAAC.

Lise Dobrin is associate professor and director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics at the University of Virginia. She is past-chair of the (former) AAA Committee on Ethics and currently holds the appointed ethics seat on MPAAC.

Cite as: Morris, Chad and Lise Dobrin. 2018. “AAA Resources on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.” Anthropology News website, October 19, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1007

Post a Comment

Want to comment? Please be aware that only comments from current AAA members will be approved. AN is supported by member dues, so discussions on anthropology-news.org are moderated to ensure that current members are commenting. As with all AN content, comments reflect the views of the person who submitted the comment only. The approval of a comment to go live does not signify endorsement by AN or the AAA.

Commenting Disclaimer

Want to comment? Please be aware that only comments from current AAA members will be approve. AN is supported by member dues, so discussions on anthropology-news.org are moderated to ensure that current members are commenting. As with all AN content, comments reflect the views of the person who submitted the comment only. The approval of a comment to go live does not signify endorsement by AN or the AAA.