sNAPAshots: Niel Tashima

This entry is part 2 of 24 in the sNAPAshots section
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[On screen image] NAPA Logo

[On screen text] Want to know more about Anthropology careers? Learn from professional anthropologists with sNAPAshots!

Interviewer 0:11
Let’s meet Neil! Nathaniel Tashima, Neil, is a Japanese American male with wire rimmed glasses and salt and pepper hair, leaning more towards the salt end of the continuum. Neil is one of the founding and managing partners of LTG associates, the oldest anthropological based consulting firm in North America. Let’s find out how Neil practices anthropology as a consultant for LTG associates.

How did you get into anthropology and what is your subfield of practice?

Nathaniel Tashima 0:42
Well, as a person of color in the US, issues of culture and ethnicity have always been in the forefront of my thinking, they’re hard not to, and followed, you open the door to explore that experience from inside from an EMIC perspective, as well as an outside ETIC perspective, which when I started, I didn’t know anything about, it was a great door to walk through. I also had great mentors in my undergraduate program. Joyce B Justice helped me create a lens through which anthropology would create opportunities to bring further value in a world with a professional outsider. At the time, I didn’t know I was a professional outsider until I started actually doing work and realize that there was a profession called anthropology.

Interviewer 1:30
How has the anthropological perspective or training enhanced your contribution to your workplace?

Nathaniel Tashima 1:37
As one of the founding and managing partners of LTG Associates, anthropology in all its complexity has been the foundation for my professional approach to projects and problem solving. As a contractor, oftentimes, you’ll have a contract, which does not give you that kind of leeway, that luxury of thinking and you have to follow the bouncing ball, but some projects allow for that kind of space to exist. It’s brought me back to the basic question of what people and communities value and how they interpret their world. Our job as anthropologists is to highlight their voices, their analysis of problems and solutions. Work with them to bring that perspective to policymakers and funders, in the best of all worlds.

Interviewer 2:23
What types of industry challenges or problems do you get to help solve with this anthropological lens?

Nathaniel Tashima 2:32
Um, lots of examples, we have lots of history during this. Things have ranged from working with refugee communities to help identify how they can have agency about services programs, and moving into an American context, to working in intimate partner violence prevention, working with frontline organizations to help them evaluate their programs, and move towards an evidence base for the services that they deliver.

Interviewer 3:04
Do you recall a moment that changed the way you practice anthropology?

Nathaniel Tashima 3:09
There’s actually two parts to that answer for me. The first goes back to mentors that I’ve had Joyce B Justice at UC San Diego, who got me really thinking about what anthropology could be, and putting me in position to apply it. And Barbara Pillbury at San Diego State University, pushed me to be very concrete in my thinking about Asian American Pacific Islander mental health access issues. Up until then, I’ve been working as a community organizer. And third, how to do this from a social work perspective, but not necessarily from an anthropological perspective. It forced me to think in anthropological terms about what I was seeing. Second, part of the answer is, when I met my partner, Cathleen Crain, it was in our vision of change, and how to respectfully engage with communities, shared values, those values, are the anthropological foundation of our company, LTG associates. We also discovered that we had fun thinking and talking about the projects about the work. And in our world, we talk about having fun with projects that we work on much of the time has really life and death consequences. The fun part is in thinking about how we bring our anthropology to those questions, and how we better articulate the voices of community of people and families at risk where particular issue

Interviewer 4:39
What is the one thing about the practice of anthropology that nobody told you as a student?

Nathaniel Tashima 4:45
How exciting and engaging it can be, putting your entire focus to a problem and the opportunity to learn how people see the world? Had any of our mentors or teachers had said that at the very beginning, it might have set me up very differently about thinking about where I was going. But in our work at LTG associates are constantly have to shift from a funder or policymakers perspective, which is already set, various understanding of people, families and communities, or the world works out in the real world. Topics of concern frequently shift among policy, funding and community. But in the best cases, the anthropological ability to voice to community, families, individual questions and opportunities, sharp focus for everyone to help articulate problems in ways outsiders might not have thought about.

Interviewer 5:43
What message would you like to pass on to future practicing applied anthropologists?

Nathaniel Tashima 5:49
Probably the most important thing is network, find professional peers. Remember who your cohort is from graduate school, but also to get engaged with local practitioner organizations, Alumni Associations of graduate students, all places that you have a professional home of professionals like myself and other people have been trying to figure out where do I go now? How do I make that professional network and groups that will help you have a home a professional home to come to you

[Onscreen text] Thank you Niel Tashima for sharing your experience as a practicing and professional applied Anthropologists! For more sNAPAshots, find us here! [Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter Logos]

[On screen text] Many Thanks to NAPA’s General Council for their Support! NAPA is a section of the American Anthropological Association. Practicing Directors: Reshama Damle and Suanna Crowley Producers: Cathleen Crain, Niel Tashima, Joshua Liggett

Transcribed by

 Music by Scott Holmes

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