Anthropologists and Ethics
Anthropologists should as much as possible avoid taking part in the facilitation of peace during armed conflicts, especially where troops—peace keeping or combating ones—are involved.If fact, these researchers should consider postponing work regarding ethnic conflicts because the environment could not be conducive for research and their own safety (Eltringham, 2002).
The bitterness between the warring groups can easily make it hard for these researchers to carry-out their work without bias, which could lead to wrong reports that may escalate conflicts further.Besides that, it has to be understood that most of the anthropologists that undertake such projects are not locals; they are foreigners from western countries.
Their presence could raise eyebrows in some quarters because some locals could have feelings that some western forces are somehow involved with the conflict.
The time frame for researchers’ presence could also lead to rushed studies that are not well prepared. Take the Kenyan conflict for instance. The country’s chaos started after presidential elections were supposedly ridged on December 27, 2007 and has already shown signs of subsiding (BBC, 2008). The first three weeks of January 2008 were the most chaotic in the country’s history. Around 300, 000 people were rendered homeless and close to 2, 000 killed (Baldauf, 2008).
Luckily, the warring groups have come together to form a coalition government, an act that has resulted to return to normalcy in most parts of the East Africa’s biggest economy. Now imagine that anthropologists went there in January to work along the Kenyan police force that was involved with quelling uprisings all over the nation. The anthropologists would have started to talk with the youths regarding the cultural history or practices that could have caused the skirmishes.
Owing to the fact that the country has 42 ethnic groups (Chanoff, 2008), the venerable anthropologists’ would have received 42 different answers. But what if such studies were done in a longer timeframe rather than the two months of chaos? There is only one answer: anthropologists would have, of course, gotten different answers, but would have a chance to cross reference and know the true answers from the wrong ones.
The results that could degenerate from researchers’ work could lead to more chaos, because there was no time to get the correct information for their study. Working at the right time frame is therefore necessary for anthropologists to get conclusive studies, because they would have learnt different aspects that would help remove some bias.
In Kenya’s case, no single anthropologist could claim to have understood the cultural roots or historical perspectives of the Kenyan 42 tribes in only two months.
The short period of time and the working conditions for anthropological analysis that could help understand possible causes and solutions in these conflicts brings out some ethical concerns that will be detailed in the sections that follows. These ethics are borrowed from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Code of Ethics (AAA, 2006).