Ethical challenges in cross-cultural research

September 22, 2020

A group of social scientists who conduct cross-cultural research are casting a critical lens on their own practices.

While this is by no means the first time that such self-reflection has been undertaken, the analysis, published in the Sept. 23 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is particularly timely given the growing appetite for including diverse populations in work on demography, health, economic development, cooperation, cognition, infant and child development, and belief systems. The push to expand research beyond western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies has meant that scientists are striving to capture evermore cultural diversity -- but how does this actually work when embarking on a research endeavor and selecting a community to study?

The international group of authors, led by Tanya Broesch (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia), Alyssa Crittenden (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA), and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder (UC Davis, USA; Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany), draw upon years of cross-cultural work in anthropology and psychology to provide actionable suggestions to address the logistical and ethical quandaries of study site selection, engagement with communities in research, and the significance of culturally-appropriate research methods and reporting practices - both in publications and in media representations.

The authors argue that if researchers, like themselves, fail to seriously consider "the historical, political, sociological and cultural forces" acting on both the communities where they work, and the individuals within those societies, inaccurate and possibly harmful inferences might be drawn. This is particularly the case where investigators have limited time and budget, something that might be glossed as "helicopter anthropology", Borgerhoff Mulder commented.

They suggest that it is the general approach of the researchers -- from project development through to publication and data management -- that matters, where establishing and maintaining communication with participants is always prioritized.

"There is no one-size-fits-all approach, yet a productive baseline may be for researchers to consider community inclusion as part of their project design from the start," the authors write. "Ideally, the community is not only central to the planned research, but is leading it."

The research team, which spans all stages of academic careers from doctoral students to senior scholars, argues that despite the long history of exploitation and colonialism inherent in much ethnographic discourse, comparative research in the 21st century can be successfully and ethically conducted in a wide range of communities (including small-scale societies) across a variety of academic disciplines - as long as a community-centered approach is taken.

Access the full article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1245.
-end-


University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Related Anthropology Articles from Brightsurf:

Study finds field of forensic anthropology lacks diversity
The field of forensic anthropology is a relatively homogenous discipline in terms of diversity (people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, etc.) and this is highly problematic for the field of study and for most forensic anthropologists.

Neandertal gene variant increases risk of severe COVID-19
A study published in Nature shows that a segment of DNA that causes their carriers to have an up to three times higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals.

How do Americans view the virus? Anthropology professor examines attitudes of COVID
In her latest study, Northern Arizona University professor Lisa Hardy looks at how Americans' attitudes and responses have changed during the time of the pandemic and how to many people, the virus is not a biological agent but instead a malicious actor.

Neandertals may have had a lower threshold for pain
Pain is mediated through specialized nerve cells that are activated when potentially harmful things affect various parts of our bodies.

Running in Tarahumara culture
Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture. The Tarahumara (Rarámuri) are a Native American people from Chihuahua, Mexico, who have long been famous for running, but there is widespread incredulity about how and why they run such long distances.

The growing pains of orphan chimpanzees
Using long-term behavioral and hormonal data from wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have revealed that mothers may be shaping pre-adult growth and offspring muscle mass even without direct provisioning.

Caribbean settlement began in Greater Antilles, say University of Oregon researchers
A fresh, comprehensive look at archaeological data suggests that seafaring South Americans settled first on the large northernmost islands of the Greater Antilles rather than gradually moving northward from the much closer, smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Human songs share universal patterns across world's cultures
From love songs to lullabies, songs from cultures spanning the globe -- despite their diversity -- exhibit universal patterns, according to a new study.

Skull features among Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly
Forensic anthropologists have now discovered that several skull features in Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly with regard to shape, such that they can be distinguished using statistical analyses.

Skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians differ despite close physical proximity
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have conducted a craniometric study (measuring the main part of the skull) on understudied and marginalized groups and found that skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians, who occupy a relatively small island of Hispaniola, are different from each other.

Read More: Anthropology News and Anthropology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.