[On screen Image] NAPA Logo
[On screen text] sNAPAshots: Conversations with Professional, Practicing, and Applied Anthropologists. The National Association for the Practice of Anthropology
Welcome to snapshots conversations with professional practicing and applied anthropologists produced by the National Association for the practice of anthropology.
Meet Cathleen Crain. Cathleen has a light complexion life hair and risk glasses. Learn how carefully and practices anthropology as an applied anthropologist and partner at LTG associates.
How did you get into anthropology and what is your subfield of practice?
Cathleen Crain 0:30
I fell into anthropology. I was pre-med, dropped out of school, went to a different school to be premed. And they said, Well, you have all the requisites but you don’t have enough to graduate. What would you like to do? And I discovered that there was something called physical anthropology. And I said, Well, that looks good. And it sounds like it would be interesting. So I enrolled. And I was seduced by the idea that systems could be changed, instead of just being in relationship with some more clinical study. And by the time I was done, I was still ready to apply to medical school, but then I got into a graduate program. So it was kind of a gradual step over away from medicine, and into medical anthropology. So I am trained as a medical anthropologist, and much of the time I practice, sociocultural.
How has the anthropological perspective or training enhanced your contribution to your workplace?
Cathleen Crain 1:58
My partner and I began our consulting firm for many years ago. And we are the oldest anthropologically based consulting firm in North America. So every day in every way, I use my anthropology, except when I’m doing, you know, evil administrative tasks and then I’m not really an anthropologist. But it’s infused through everything we do. But we have been a firmly anthropology based organization. So I haven’t had to adapt within the company I adapt what I say to our clients.
What types of industry challenges or problems do you get to help solve with this and the political lens?
Cathleen Crain 2:57
What gets me up in the morning are really complex problems, wicked problems they are called, the ones that make your brain hurt. That gets me up in the morning. And I think that uses the synthetic vision of anthropologists best, no wicked problem is simple, that’s why they’re wicked problems, and Anthropologists and anthropology make us understand the complexity, the context, the environment, the situation, and mediate gatherings of cognitive whole. So I’m up for that sort of thing, if it’s too if it’s too easy, it’s not it’s not fun.
What in the political skills do you use in your field?
Cathleen Crain 4:00
The discipline that each some of the subdisciplines has taught. We walk into somebody else’s space, not knowing the language, not knowing the culture and not knowing where we’re going necessarily. And the discipline that I learned, and that I embrace, and it’s more than discipline, It’s it’s logic. But it’s also the freedom to work from that logic into places that we don’t know. We don’t understand. And to know that I always have a tether back to my disciplinary tools and roots.
Do you recall a moment that changed the way you practice anthropology?
Cathleen Crain 4:56
I was a clinical, the first clinical anthropologis, as far as I can tell, in southern Ontario, because I went to school. And I was actually called an anthropologist. But that’s not that wasn’t the pivot point for me. It was brilliant. It was wonderful. The pivot point for me was a few years later, I had met, I was running a refugee health program in San Francisco. And I met this very interesting person who was running a research project. And my project became a subject of that. And we became colleagues and friends. And we began to talk about a vision of how things should work. And the fact that we didn’t see them working as well as they should be, particularly for communities at need, vulnerable, at risk. It turned out that he was an anthropologist as well. And when we were both ready to move on from the jobs that we had, we were talking one day, and he said, “We should do something together, we should do something that allows us to our vision of how things should work.” And I do believe that the day we started, our firm was the day I became a real anthropologist, because I had a place from which to be that anthropologist, and not every day and not with every client, but at home in the firm, we are clearly anthropologists. And that was so freeing for me to evolve as an anthropologist, and to move into my skills, and my vision of what things could be. That was the pivotal point.
What is the one thing about the practice of anthropology that nobody told you as a student?
Cathleen Crain 7:20
The thing, I think, nobody tells students who are going to go out into the world and be professional and practicing anthropologist is that they will meet other anthropologists, they will need people who speak their language, who understand their perspective, who get the complexity of the places they go, and the things they try to accomplish. And without that, it’s not only lonely, it’s hard to be grounded in the knowledge that you’re doing, you’re doing good work, or to have someone who can say, if you think about this way, it will probably help you to walk. Without those those peers. It’s very, very difficult, I think, to be a professional, practicing, professional, practicing anthropologist. So I think that’s something that hasn’t been taught in the past. I think it is in some of the programs that I see now. The programs that are specifically focused to practicing anthropology, I see them much more team-based and much more network-oriented. But you’ve got to have you got to have friends.
What message would you like to pass on to future practicing applied anthropologists,
Cathleen Crain 9:02
The potent skills that anthropologists have, there are…the limitations of where you are and what you can do a few. With that comes responsibility for and I keep coming back to the word discipline, but it’s it’s self-discipline, to be a fun, ethical anthropologist and to be transparent about the purpose and the outcomes with everyone with whom you work. Somebody said, “what can anthropologists do?” and I said “The only limitations to what we can do are imagined.” I believe that still, if you can imagine it you’re likely to be able to find a place to do it and to be useful. And at the end of the day, most of us really, really want to be useful, to make a difference.
Thank you Cathleen Crain for sharing your experience as a practicing and professional applied anthropologist for more snapshots find us here: practicinganthropology.org, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Meta.\
[On screen text] Many Thanks to NAPA’s General Council for their Support! NAPA is a section of the American Anthropological Association. Practicing Anthropology.org Directors: Reshama Damle and Suanna Crowley Producers: Cathleen Crain, Niel Tashima, Joshua Liggett
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Music by Scott Holmes