Anthropology translates literally to the “science of humanity." We tend to think of it as a field that seeks to answer the big questions about what makes us human. A number of consultant anthopologists are seeking to answer queries that appear somewhat less profound. For example, consulting firms like ReD Associates use field research and ethnography to figure out (among other things) how people are drinking Absolut vodka at house parties. Their services offer corporate clients a deeper understanding of consumer behavior through these anthropological methods, which presents a challenge to a traditionally academic arena with its own code of ethics and standards.
Graeme Wood is a contributing editor for the Atlantic, and author of the article “Anthropology Inc.” and he joins us more to talk about the growing business of social science.