The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Poetry of Applied Anthropology as Life Quality Enhancement: Some Examples from American Biomedicine

Howard F. Stein

I argue that an applied anthropologist’s poetry (and other art forms) can be used as a tool of ethnographic imagination, insight, empathy, understanding, interpretation, explanation, and action/ intervention in day-to-day collaborative work.  Such poetry can be understood as an expression of the applied anthropologist’s use of the self (countertransference) in consulting, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teamwork, development projects, and the like. I further  argue that the humanities (poetry, fiction, film, music, visual art, sculpture, etc.) can help to humanize technologically-oriented and productivity-driven physicians and their relationships with patients (and, by extension, all professional relationships) by enhancing the quality of physicians’ experiences. I  use three of my  clinically-based poems to illustrate how this approach unfolds in bringing to life physicians’ clinical work in a safe, non-judgmental learning context.  I  conclude with some suggestions for generalizing this approach more widely in the practice of applied anthropology.

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 1-2, Vol. 30, 2010, pp 10 - 18

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