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Building a Community of Anthropological Practice: The Case of Anthropologists Working within the United States' Largest Health Care System

Fix G, Seaman A, Nichols L, Ono S, Rattray NA, Solimeo S, Schacht Reisinger H, Abraham T. Building a Community of Anthropological Practice: The Case of Anthropologists Working within the United States' Largest Health Care System. Human Organization. 2023 Apr 21; 82(2):169-181.

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The disciplinary contribution of anthropologists employed outside traditional anthropology departments has been a topic of discussion and debate in the field for nearly a century. Alongside industry, nongovernmental, and nonprofit career paths, an increasing number of anthropologists have developed productive research careers outside of academic anthropology departments. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provides health care services to more than 9 million United States military veterans annually, is one federal employer that has become a professional home to many anthropologists. Anthropologists working in VA represent all four fields, have established roots in health services research, and have grown a national network of ethnographically-informed colleagues. These anthropologists constitute a Community of Practice that collaborates and contributes to scholarly discourse, health care operations, and policy. In this article, eight anthropologists with over 120 years of collective experience share insights into how our community of anthropological practice came into being, the organizational culture that sustains it, and the potential opportunities in health research for emerging scholars. Working at the intersection of multiple disciplines, this geographically dispersed community offers a viable model for anthropologists embedded within health care systems, in clinical academic settings, and learners seeking to broaden their understanding of anthropological praxis beyond anthropology departments.

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