AAA Ethics Support and Resources

As anthropologists, we are aware of the importance of maintaining ethical standards in our research and professional relationships. However, it may not always be clear where to find resources for teaching ethics or where to seek feedback on the dilemmas that sometimes arise. The Members Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC) ethics seats are available to help you work through ethical concerns—you can reach us through the Ethics Forum website.

When anthropologists direct queries our way for confidential feedback, we forward them to two bodies: MPAAC’s Ethics Subcommittee and the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Ethics Advisory Group, which is comprised of individual volunteers who have held ethics leadership roles in AAA. These two bodies, representing many years of experiences in multiple settings and subfields of anthropology, are able to offer guidance on issues from the tenure process, to fieldwork dilemmas, to the publishing process, to workplace conflicts. No question is too big, too small, or too weird. The AAA ethics team does not adjudicate claims of unethical behavior. But we are able to offer suggestions, reframe questions, and serve as a supportive interlocutor in trying times. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at aaa.ethics.feedback@gmail.com if you have an ethics concern you would like to discuss.

The AAA Ethics Forum site (ethics.americananthro.org) hosts the annotated 2012 Ethics Statement. It also offers a collection of current and archived case studies describing situations with which members of the profession have grappled in recent years. These volunteered essays, many de-identified and posted on the author’s behalf, are based on a range of actual experiences that have arisen for anthropologists in academia, in the course of research, and when practicing anthropology in other settings. They explore real-world questions that anthropologists have encountered in their roles as fieldworkers, advocates, authors, editors, employees, consultants, students, and teachers. A couple of recent posts focus on ethics in the curriculum (Catherine Laporte’s “Interdisciplinary Ethical Role Playing” and Leslie Sponsel’s “Teaching Professional Ethics in Anthropology”). There is a post on working in the military (Kerry Fosher’s “Ethical Questions about Who Counts as an ‘Anthropologist’ in Military Organizations?”) and a couple on challenges that have arisen for anthropologists working as postdocs (“Joining Someone Else’s Research Project? Check Their Ethics Protocol!” and “When a PI Plagiarizes”). Our most recent post, “Inside the Ethics Query Process: A Case Study from the Corporate Sector,” illustrates the process that the AAA ethics team follows when responding to inquiries, and includes the querier’s reflections on the use they made of the feedback they received.

This continually growing online case book is a resource that may provide you with material for teaching, offer new thoughts on questions you are currently facing, or inspire you to write about your experiences. We invite you to share your perspectives on topics in anthropological ethics. We welcome your inquiries and suggestions for posts.

Lise Dobrin and Jayne Howell hold the ethics seats on the AAA’s Members’ Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee.

Cite as: Dobrin, Lise and Jayne Howell. 2021. “AAA Ethics Support and Resources.” Anthropology News website, May 27, 2021.

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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.