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This chapter addresses some of the issues on advantages and disadvantages of this change.



Anthropology is the study of the past and the present of human. To comprehend the broad sweep and complexity among cultures across the entire spectrum of human history, anthropologists refer and build upon information from biological and social sciences as well as physical together with humanities sciences, (Anae 2010; p. 229). A significant main concern for all anthropologists regardless of whether they are insiders or outsiders is to find solutions to human problems through knowledge application. Historically, all anthropologists have received training in such areas as: physical/biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. However, due to the frequent integration of perspectives by anthropologists of the several of the mentioned areas in the process of research and professional lives, indigenous and insider anthropologists have their advantages and disadvantages. Comprehending the categories in regard to the actions of people is a significant anthropological research tenet, (Anae 2010; p. 240). This is a concept that need to apply to scientific studies, yet anthropological analysts often ignore the scientific content and hence end up ignoring a fundamental aspect of the conceptual framework in which anthropologists act. This paper analyses, in the context of anthropological change, the advantages and disadvantages of indigenous anthropologists and insider anthropologists.

Anthropologists do believe in the idea that there is unsettled contradiction in regard to being anthropologist and being indigenous. Being involved in anthropological community for a long period of time enhances confidence that this belief is an indication of the general mood that exists in the departments. Generally, anthropologists do believe that being indigenous might be associated with the danger of developing subjective mind, being biased and becoming less scientific. With reference to the indigenous anthropologists of the third world, it is seen as a danger and as a flow being indigenous and this must be avoided by all means.  Anthropologists do acknowledge the so called “paradigm-breaking and paradigm-building capacity of Third World perspective”. They therefore recognize the objectives of third world indigenous anthropologists. This renders anthropology less prejudiced against people of the third world by reducing its ethnocentricity as it uses language and paradigms. Hence the general anthropology mood is the one that the indigenous anthropologists of the third world consider a trouble maker and intruder who need discipline. This is supported by the fact that anthropology is seen as a western discipline for western scientists(Kanaaneh,  (n.d.).

Advantages of indigenous anthropologists and insider anthropologists

An increasing number of anthropologists are conducting an anthropology of home by conducting researches within their indigenous communities. The main theoretical and methodological contributions for indigenous researchers have emanated from the debates stemming from “native” anthropology, (Kanaaneh 2012; p. 5). Historically, anthropology has been involved with stretching outside the indigenous community of the researcher. However, with the widening circle of ethnographic practices, the native anthropology has now assumed two other labels, which are used interchangeably, namely insider anthropology and indigenous anthropology.  The term is insider anthropology is more popular due to the debates and confusion surrounding the “native” and “indigenous” labels. Insider anthropologists can be proposed to be “hybrid anthropologists” because they are anthropologists who remind us that we are all multi-cultural or bi-cultural because we belong to both professional and personal worlds whether at the field or in our households, (Kanaaneh 2012; p. 5). These researchers can track the critical diversities in comprehending and reporting the way the knowledge came to them, which is a process called cultural knowledge location. Native anthropology can be seen as having advanced into insider/indigenous anthropology since the latter can be seen as a reflective form of the former, implying that insider anthropology stretches beyond simply “practicing at home” , (Kanaaneh 2012; p. 5).

Insider/indigenous anthropologists address the concern that there is no need to conduct fieldwork in the first place, if the anthropologic reporting is a rendition that is completely subjective, in which any pattern or order of the results is only from the ingenuity of the interpretations by the researcher, (Geertz, 2006; p. 232). Unlike the ancient native anthropologist, this insider/indigenous anthropologist has a room to express how they feel about the reported findings, just provided that their feelings do not impact on the accuracy of what is reported. The focus is therefore on the empirical observation data, the analytical and descriptive generalizations that can be implied from the respective observations, and the procession by which the derivation of the latter is done from the former, (Geertz, 2006; p. 232). Therefore, insider/indigenous anthropologists are of the orientation that reflects on the method, and provide a projection of what anthropology might be like in the future; whereby they envision even more serious need for scientific methodology research. How revealing and personal insider/indigenous anthropologists become during reporting is much up to the individual anthropologist, because this is more “an anthropology of experience” rather than just “conducting anthropology”. This makes it possible for the insider/indigenous anthropologists to communicate to their audience what they have drawn on for inspiration and information, (Geertz, 2006; p. 232).

The other advantage of insider/indigenous anthropology is that it can incorporate both the emic and etic approaches – these refer to the two forms of field research conducted and the viewpoints attained; from the social group (the subject’s perspective) and from within outside (the observer’s perspective), (Bloch  2011; p. 123).  The insider/indigenous anthropologist under the emic approach can investigate how the indigenous people think; their categorization of the world, the behavioral rules, the things that have meaning according to them, and how their imaginations and explanations progress. As well under the etic approach, they can assume a scientist-oriented framework shifting the attention from local categories, observations, interpretations and explanations into the individual anthropologist, (Bloch 2011; p. 123). Still, insider/indigenous anthropologists can possibly eliminate the alleged inherent confusion between these two approaches, and instead of preferring one to the other, they can use them as complements to anthropological research, significantly, in the interest regions regarding the human nature characteristics as well as the function and form of human social structures. With the combination of the two approaches, insider/indigenous anthropologists provide the “richest understanding” of culture or society view. Without a fusion of these there would be a struggle to apply the overarching values of one culture, (Bloch 2011; p. 123).

Disadvantages of insider/indigenous anthropologists

The fact that anthropology has historically comprised of extending beyond the community of the anthropologists brings concern that the new insider/indigenous framework is shifting research sites in the anthropologist’s indigenous community, (Engelke 2012; p. 4). This has raised debates regarding the application of traditional native anthropological methods to the individual’s indigenous community. There are various significant methodological issues in insider/indigenous anthropology comprising of concerns like cultural competence, distance, translation, and the definition of “native”, (Engelke 2012; p. 5).  The quite ancient native anthropologists offer critiques to the more evolved anthropological practices of insider/indigenous anthropologists by conflicting the customary position of insiders as objects as well as opposing euro-centrist dominance in academia. Additionally, critiques have been active in voicing the variability of human identity, which implies that every researcher is both an outsider and insider. These are insights that are very crucial to the insider/indigenous anthropologist, and it remains debated that they a fully incorporated into insider/indigenous anthropology, (Engelke 2012; p. 8).

On the religious standpoint, another shortcoming of the insider/indigenous is that if an anthropologist shares the same beliefs with the “natives, any belief at all, there is an implicit anthropology discipline concern, (Bloch 2011; p. 123). The concern is that since the insider/indigenous anthropologist has a room to express how they felt about the reported findings, he/she might be conceding a lot anthropological authority. This is still a major concern despite the argument that human beliefs remain “a cruel possibility” that originates from the denial to acknowledge that an anthropologists research subjects might have knowledge regarding the human condition which is individually valid/applicable to the anthropologist. The challenge to the insider/indigenous anthropologist here is the problem of maintaining a proper distance/ exclusion from the inner lives of the indigenous people, (Bloch 2011; p. 126).

At the heart of anthropologists or ethnographers insider/indigenous approach to research is the paradox of acting as an observer and participant at the same time. The methodological issues presented in regard to insider/indigenous anthropologists regard to the balance of tacit knowledge access versus the ability to maintain objectivity in the final analysis which is notable in the insider/indigenous problem, (Geertz, 2006; p. 232). It is widely argued that while trying to gain greater insider access, the anthropologists forfeit their ability to objectively maintain empirical observance. There is a problem of accessibility and acceptance, and the ability to comprehend the subject which descends from this. In insider/indigenous anthropology, class or gender may for instance interfere or even intersect with other factors of the insider/indigenous status. This demerit can be presented in the broader terms of an epistemological concern of how the insider/indigenous anthropologist can know and, importantly, how he can deal with another’s knowledge. These are among the several significant anthropological concerns on the knowledge possibilities as well as the limits relating to assessment of tacit knowledge, (Geertz, 2006; p. 232).

In summary,  anthropologist’s belief that there is unresolved contradiction or “tension” between what it implies being indigenous and being anthropological. Following critiques who have a long-running engagement to the anthropological community, it is noteworthy that this concerning belief, which might be stated explicitly, informs on the overall mood surrounding the discipline, and its associations and departments, (Anae 2010; p. 239). The general native anthropologists feel that the insider/indigenous anthropological approach is subject to subjective, individual biases, or, basically the fact that it is not entirely scientific. In a particular regard to insider/indigenous anthropologists from third world countries, the practice of being insider/indigenous is regarded as both a danger that has to be avoided, and a fault that has to be fixed or even a setback that requires conquering, (Kanaaneh 2012; p. 11). Consequently, the readers of the evaluation done by the anthropologist in regard to ‘anthropologicality’ and ‘sciencitivity’, in the case where it is from a third world insider/indigenous anthropologist, is inevitably an evaluation on the basis: “did this insider/indigenous anthropologist manage to successively avoid the danger by fixing the flaw and conquering the setback of being an insider or indigenous?” it is largely argued in anthropology that the paradigm-building and paradigm-braking capacity of modern day insider/indigenous is hard to acknowledge, because they are of the view that the aim of modern day insider/indigenous anthropologists is to subject anthropology to less subjectivity against the insider/indigenous peoples hence reducing its ethnocentricity in its use of paradigms and language, (Kanaaneh 2012; p. 7).

In the general analysis, there are issues raised by the advantages and disadvantages of the change from a more ancient-based anthropology approach to the more evolved present day insider/indigenous anthropology, (Anae 2010; p. 229). There are various questions that can be raised concerning this change like: what is the outcome when the distinction between the “anthropologist” and the “native” is not clear, and what happens when the “home” turns to “field”? The advantages and disadvantages outlined are concerned with what indigenous/insider politics and perspectives present to the practice of anthropology, and what the practice of anthropology can offer the indigenous community. The point of concern is how the study of culture can be conducted in an environment where insider/indigenous anthropology has familiarized “exotic” and made it possible for “familiar” to exotically exist. Another major issue, regarding the advantages of insider/indigenous anthropologists analyzed, is the manner in which the anthropologists and indigenous community peoples will maintain an indigenous sense in the face of insider/indigenous anthropology.


Anae, M 2010. ‘Teu Le VA Toward a native anthropology’ in Special Issue –Genealogies: Articulating indigenous anthropology in/of Oceania. Pacific Studies, 33 (2/3): 222-241.

Bloch, Maurice, 2011. How We Think They Think: Anthropological Approaches to Cognition, Memory, and Literacy Westview Press

Engelke, Matthew, 2012, “The problem of belief: Evans-Pritchard and Victor Turner on “the inner life.”. Anthropology today, 18 (6). pp. 3-8.

Geertz, Clifford, 2006, ‘From  the Native’s Point of View’: On the Nature of Anthropological  Understanding.  In K.H.  Basso & H.A. Selby (eds)  Meaning  in anthropology,  pp.231-237. Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico  Press

Kanaaneh, M 2012. Indigenous Anthropology: theory and praxis. Dialectical Anthropology 22(1): 1-21

Kanaaneh, M. (n.d.). THE “ANTHROPOLOGICALITY” OF INDIGENOUS ANTHROPOLOGY. JSTOR. Retrieved October 9, 2014, from

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