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1. Full citation.

2. Where did/does the author work, what else has s/he written about, and what are her/his
credentials?
Laura Nader has her BA in Latin American Studies from Wells College (1952) and her
Ph.D. in Anthropology from Radcliffe College (1961). Nader conducted fieldwork during her
education studying a Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nader bas been a Professor of
Anthropology at the University of California, Berkley since 1960 and was the first woman to
receive tenure in the department. In total she has written over 280 publications covering a variety
of topics: “comparative ethnography of law and dispute resolution, conflict, comparative family
organization, the anthropology of professional mindsets and ethnology of the Middle East,
Mexico, Latin America and the contemporary United States” (“Laura Nader,” 2012 Wikipedia)
Nader has also been awarded numerous reputable awards throughout her career. Laura Nader is
one of the most influential figures in the development of anthropology.

3. What are the topics of the text? 4. What is the main argument of the text? / 5. Describe at
least three ways that the argument is supported.

Laura Nader’s main argument in her essay Up the Anthropologist—Perspectives Gained


from Studying Up is to illustrate why anthropologists can gain valuable insight about their own
society by “studying up” and that they need to begin doing so. Nader outlines three main reasons
why she believes that anthropologists must begin studying up within their society: (1) that
studying up invokes a greater passion for anthropology in researchers which leads to more
insightful findings, (2) that anthropological research has been historically biased towards
studying down and that there is a need to equalize the ratio by conducting new research which
studies major organizations of governing agencies of societies, (3) and finally anthropologists
have a social and moral obligation to study up in order to inform the public about the workings
of large organizations, including private businesses, non-profit organizations and government
agencies. Nader concludes her essay by addressing several obstacles proposed by dissidents of
studying up and proposing what anthropologist must do to overcome those obstacles.

(1) Nader articulates how based on observing anthropology students, she has noticed that
when students conduct research on topics that they are personally connected to and invested in,
the quality and intellectual contribution of the research generally increases. She claims that (in
the time of her writing the essay) most students conducted research on topics which they were
emotionally detached from. She acknowledges that many anthropologists say that this sense of
complete objectivity is necessary for anthropological studies, but she contradicts their views and
states that when students research topics which they are attached to, they are more likely to
uncover insightful information.
Nader illustrates several cases in which anthropologists and aspiring students have
studied the workings of large organizations and produced valuable knowledge about their topic.
One study of the California insurance industry by an anthropology student revealed an extremely
complex network of relationships between policy holders within the general public and
corporation policy holders. It divulged the hidden costs which are factored into consumer
product prices due to the insurance rates that corporations pay to protect their goods. It also
illustrated the immense wealth that the insurance industry possess due to almost everything being
covered under insurance plans in some way. The student was motivated to study the insurance
industry due to its widespread and numerous effects on the lives on the public as well as the
networks which they live in.
Nader conveys how she has noticed that many students are concerned with the workings
of major organizations and their effects on the lives of the societies that they are entwined with.
She argues that when studying these institutions, hence “studying up”, students “raise important
questions as to responsibility, accountability, self-regulation, or on another level, questions
relating to social structure, network analysis, library research and participant observation.”(Laura
Nader, 1972) She argues that attempts at studying up are perhaps “attempts to get behind the
facelessness of a bureaucratic society, to get at the mechanisms whereby faraway corporations
and large-scale industries are directing the everyday aspects of our lives.”(Laura Nader, 1972)
Nader calls for the proliferation of research which studies up due to the motivation that students
and anthropologists have to study up in order to develop a better understanding of the
“facelessness” of large organizations.

(2) Nader’s next point is that there is an abundance of literature which studies down,
focusing on the culture of the less privileged and specific isolated ethnic groups, and a lack of
research which studies up, focusing on large organizations, industries and agencies. Nader argues
that researchers must reinvent anthropology by studying “the colonizers rather than the
colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless, the culture of affluence
rather than the culture of poverty.” (Laura Nader, 1972) Nader articulates that studying up
involves innovative and largely unanswered questions about affluent and governing cultures. She
also claims that studying major corporations and institutions, which greatly affect the lives of
many, uncovers their hidden workings and benefits society more than focusing on cultures which
have significantly less of an effect and control over society as a whole.
Nader’s argues that modern day anthropologists must both study down and up in order to
gain the most accurate understanding of a society or culture. To illustrate her point Nader
conveys how ghettos are a good example where studying up and down can lead to a better
understanding of the culture. She illustrates how studying up within a ghetto society can lead the
researcher to question what forces have caused the ghetto to form. She proposes that perhaps
when landlords commit a white-collar crime and do not maintain building codes, and the
building code regulations are not enforced by governing agencies, that this could be a factor
leading to the initial establishment of ghettos along with numerous other theories that she
mentions. Nader emphasizes that having a knowledge base developed from studying down and
up is vital for developing sophisticated theories, but that research that studies down is so
bountiful that it needs to be complemented with new research which studies up. “The
consequences of not studying up as well as down are serious in terms of developing adequate
theory and description.” (Laura Nader, 1972)
Nader continues to describe other examples where studying up, down and “sideways” can
develop extremely thorough theories and descriptions. She emphasizes that an important aspect
of studying up is that it allows anthropologists to evaluate the effects of organizations that may
not be directly present in the given society but that still influence the society in some way. Nader
states that it is the role of an anthropologist to be pioneers and conduct research which aims to
uncover the culture from the point of view of the general citizens as well as the major
corporations and governing bodies. She argues that this calls for various methods to be used in
order to develop this larger scope of research and understanding. Nader reinforces that
anthropology has vast data on the inner workings of cultures worldwide, but that it needs to be
improved with data developed from studying up within societies to gain a broader and more in
depth view of cultures.

(3) The final reason Nader articulates supporting the proliferation of studying up is that she
claims anthropologists have a duty to society to provide accurate and fully-encompassing
descriptions about societies. As mentioned earlier, vast knowledge exists about low level societal
workings but there is a lack of information concerning how major institutions and governments
affect the lives of the public. “Most members of complex societies and certainly most Americans
do not know enough about, nor do they know how to cope with, the people, institutions, and
organizations which most affect their lives.” (Laura Nader, 1972) Nader argues that it is the duty
of modern day anthropologists to venture out into their own societies and conduct studies aimed
at producing knowledge which will contribute to the general public’s understanding of how
corporations and governing agencies work and affect their lives.
Nader articulates how the first step toward producing information concerning the
workings of major organizations is to study the culture of bureaucracies. She describes a study
conducted by Love and Eaton of the Bay Are Air Pollution Control Agency and some of its
insightful findings. The study unveiled that although the Agency’s perceived goal was to benefit
the public, that in fact the inner workings and stigma of the organization were much more
tailored toward serving the needs of corporations. Another example she describes is a study
conducted focusing on the California Department of Insurance which produced similar results.
The study focused on the processing of complaints by the Policy Service Bureau and unveiled
that this system also favored insurance company representatives rather than public complainants.
These were shocking findings and lead one to question how other regulatory agencies function.
Nader also discusses how the legal system in our country merits being evaluated using
methods which study up. She illustrates that criminal law is much more concerned with crimes
committed by individuals rather than groups and that white-collar crimes and crimes committed
by the rich are often handled differently than crimes committed by the poor. She states that
anthropologist must conduct research which aims to uncover why our legal system is oriented
this way by studying the upper echelon workings and stigma of the system. “Ethnographic works
on the subject of law would be filling a scientific and descriptive need, as well as informing the
native[s] about a system which at times heavily weights the direction [a citizen’s] life takes.”
(Laura Nader, 1972) Nader argues that research of this type is crucial because if conveyed to the
public it can educate them on matters of how the large organizations affect their live and how to
best navigate systems such as our legal one.. She uses the term “democratic relevance” to
describe this concept.

Nader contradicts the attitude that argues that anthropologist should study western
cultures and asserts that they can gain insightful information from studying up within their own
societies. She concludes her essay by describing numerous obstacles and objectives presented by
critics of studying up within societies. She states that there are four main terms which classify
the various objections: access, attitudes, ethics and methodology.
Nader deems the most usual obstacle discussed is one related to access. Many
anthropologists and scholars argue that “the powerful are out of reach on a number of different
planes: they don’t want to be studied; it is dangerous to study the powerful; they are busy people;
they are not all in one place and so on.” (Laura Nader, 1972) Nader does not dispute these
claims, but instead acknowledges corporations’ desire for secrecy and states that overcoming the
obstacles that corporations establish in an attempt to guard their inner operations is part of being
a diligent and distinguished anthropologist. She argues that perhaps governmental agencies
should mandate that corporations be accessible to social scientist for study due to the right of the
public to gain an understanding of their operations; however, this seems highly doubtful. Nader
does not offer much insight as to how an anthropologist can go about infiltrating major
organizations in order to conduct research. She instead tasks anthropologists with discovering
ways of doing so.
Ethics is the next term which comes into questions when discussing the obstacles of
studying up within societies. Nader illustrates how similar to the ethical concerns an
anthropologist faces when conducting research on non-Western cultures; one also faces ethical
concerns when studying major organizations. She claims that the ethical dilemmas faced when
studying up are much more complex than when studying down due to the idea that
“consequences of describing what may be systematic inadequacies may be greater for
government agencies than peasant economic systems.” (Laura Nader, 1972) She conveys that
perhaps there should be one set of ethics for studying up and one for studying down in order to
handle the differences. Nader does not provide detailed solutions to solving these problems but
instead states that it is up the anthropologist to consider the multiple dimensions related to their
topic of study when pondering ethics.
Nader then discusses the issue as to which methods are appropriate for studying up in
societies. She conveys how currently the most widespread and successful method used for
anthropologic research in general is participant observation, but that it is deficient when it comes
to studying up. Nader claims that due to major organizations’ desire to be hidden from public
scrutiny, that they are rarely willing open up their internal operations to study without laws
mandating they do so. Because of this, participant observation is near impossible to conduct
when studying up since most anthropologists cannot fully assimilate themselves into major
organizations’ secretive cultures. Nader proposes that other traditional methods may be more
useful instead of participant observation when studying up, such as the use of personal
documents or memoirs. Once again Nader does not articulate what methods are best but assigns
solving the obstacle of what methods to use when studying up to modern anthropologists.

6. What three quotes capture the message of the text?


“We find relatively abundant literature on the poor, the ethnic groups, the disadvantaged; there is
comparatively little field research on the middle class and very little firsthand work on the upper
class.” (Laura Nader, 1972)

“The consequences of not studying up as well as down are serious in terms of developing
adequate theory and description.” (Laura Nader, 1972)

“Most members of complex societies and certainly most Americans do not know enough about,
nor do they know how to cope with, the people, institutions, and organizations which most affect
their lives.” (Laura Nader, 1972)

7. What three questions about research methods does this article leave you with?

Nader’s culminating argument is that anthropologists possess a moral and social


obligation to study up within their own (first) and other societies (second) in order to develop a
better understanding of societies. She leaves the task largely up to anthropologist to venture out
and do so offering only basic guidance. The article leaves me with these questions:

1) How can anthropologists infiltrate and gain access to major organizations in order to
study them?
2) What methods should be used when “studying up” within a society?
3) Are there situations in which “studying up” within certain organizations will result in
danger to the researcher? And are there limitations for a researcher when trying to “study
up”?
- I can think of numerous organizations which I perceive as hostile and that I
believe would go to extreme lengths to safeguard their inner operations form the
public and scientific eye.
- CIA, FBI, Halliburton, mercenary corporations (Blackwater), Exxon-Mobil and
companies of this sort.
8. What three points, details or references from the text did you follow up on to advance
your understanding of and skill with HASS research methods?
While Nader’s essay touches upon the questions I proposed I do not believe that she
adequately answers them to the level I am looking for. I am not sure if because at the time period
it was written the answers were not know or if they need to be experimentally discovered by
anthropologists. In order to further my understanding of “studying up” and attempt to answer my
questions I did some research online.

I found one organization CorpWatch whose mission was to investigate and exposes corporate
malfeasance for many of the reasons mentioned in Nader’s article. However, the material on the
website dated back to 2008.

Greenpeace has a program ExxonSecrets which aims to “expose the campaign that Exxon has
run for more than a decade to deny the urgency of the scientific consensus on global warming
and delay action to fix the problem.”(ExxonSecrets) The program mapped a web of
interconnectedness between Exxon employees, lobbyers, corporate sponsored scientists and
government officials and agencies. I was not able to find specific details about their methods or
how they have been collecting data but I’m sure they would not want Exxon finding out how and
plugging up any leaks of information. It was inspiring to see a program like this out there
sponsored by such a renowned environmental group.

I found numerous examples of researchers trying to uncover the operations of


corporations operating in the food industry. Many of them illustrated the dangers of genetically
modified crops, the health effects of processed food and other topics concerning our industrial
farming system in the US. One I found specifically interesting which was a website
Environmental and Food Justice dealing with various topics about sustainable farming practices,
by Devon G. Peña, an anthropologist with his PH.D from the University of Washington.
An article I found specifically interesting on his website criticized Chipotle, a fast food
chain restaurant which has recently been advertising as leading the way with providing fresh,
sustainably farmed food. Peña claims that these advertisements are false and misleading and calls
them “greenwashing”. The article discusses how an organization of farmers in Florida called the
Coalition for Immokalee Workers approached Chipotle in the Summer of 2012 attempting for
them to back up their claims of providing sustainably grown food by entering into an agreement
supporting truly sustainable growing practices, fair trade and better working conditions for
farmers. Chipotle has yet to respond.

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