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Anthropology Memes: The Funny Side of Cultural Anthropology

The word "meme" with a yellow background

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some memes and cartoons related to Cultural Anthropology. In previous posts, I shared some memes and cartoons related to Archaeology, Physical Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology, so check those posts out if you haven’t seen them yet! For each of the memes and cartoons, I’ll be explaining things for anyone who doesn’t have an Anthropology background. Also, I’ll share a link with some more information in case you are interested.

#1: Anthropologists!

Native people grabbing electronics to hide them, as anthropologists approach.
“Anthropologists! Anthropologists!”

Why is this funny?

In this cartoon, the native people are hurrying to hide their electronic devices as anthropologists approach. Anthropologists used to mostly study traditional people who didn’t have things like TV or electricity. So the joke here is that the traditional people are using these things and want to hide that fact from the anthropologists. 

Learn more

Now, Anthropologists study all types of cultures, from traditional foragers to people living in industrial cities. In fact, there is a whole subfield of Anthropology that studies cities, which is called Urban Anthropology! There is even an anthropologist who studied Wall Street, and her name is Karen Ho. She wrote the book, “Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street.” To learn more about her research, check out this article called, “Brain Food: An Anthropologist Visits Wall Street.” 

#2: Ethnographic Research

I'm not creeping. It's ethnographic research.
I’m not creeping. It’s ethnographic research.

Why is this funny?

Anthropologists get information on other culture through ethnographic research. This involves something called participant observation. The anthropologist lives with the community being studied and observes people and also participates in daily life. The anthropologist also conducts interviews with people. This meme is making fun of ethnographic research, because the anthropologists is an outsider who is observing everyone.

Learn more

To learn more about ethnographic research, check out the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology’s entry for “Ethnography.”

#3: In the Field

Two people standing in the middle of a field. Text says, Anthropologists in the field.
Anthropologists in the field.

Why is this funny?

When anthropologists do ethnographic research, it is called “fieldwork.” And anthropologists speak about going “into the field” when they go to their research site. So, this cartoon is a play on words, since these anthropologists are in a wide open field.

Learn more

To learn more about fieldwork, check out this article from the Royal Anthropological Institute.

#4: Call Me Maybe

Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my consent form, so be in my ethnography?!
Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my consent form, so be in my ethnography?!

Why is this funny?

This meme is also making fun of ethnographic research. In addition, the wording is playing off the popular song, “Call Me Maybe.” When anthropologists do their fieldwork, they need to get the informed consent of each person they study. Usually there is a form to read over and sign, which explains the research project and asks the person if they want to take part. 

Learn more

To learn more about informed consent in Anthropology, check out this page on research ethics from the American Anthropological Association.

#5: Peeping Anthropologist

A man in his house on the telephone calling the police and an anthropologist looking in the window.
Man in house: “Hello, police? I’d like to report a peeping anthropologist.” Anthropologist: “The big male senses danger and adapts a ritualized threatening posture.”

Why is this funny?

This cartoon is again making fun of ethnographic research methods. The person is calling the police to report a peeping Anthropologist. Meanwhile, the anthropologist is looking in the window, and speaking into a microphone as if she was in a wild animal documentary.

Learn more

Actually, anthropologists don’t peep through windows. And, it is unethical in Anthropology to covertly observe someone. The researchers have to get the permission of everyone they study. Sometimes, other people do become suspicious of the anthropologist, especially if they have not been approached yet by the researcher. So, in some cases, the police may really be called. 

Something similar actually happened to me when I was an Anthropology student doing a research project in a hospital emergency room. Even though I had the permission of the hospital administrators and an ethics committee, apparently the doctors and nurses were not told about my research. So, after being in the ER for a few hours, someone called security and it resulted in a big scene. I even had to stop my research and leave.

To learn more about the ethical rules every anthropologist must follow, check out this webpage from the American Anthropological Association.

#6: Already in a Relationship

Native person telling an anthropologist that he is already seeing an anthropologist.
“I’m already seeing an anthropologist.”

Why is this funny?

In this cartoon, a native person is telling an anthropologist that he is already seeing an anthropologist. This cartoon seems to be comparing an anthropologist approaching a native to someone asking another person for a romantic relationship. 

Learn more

Anthropologists are traditionally expected to do their research on their own, although collaborations have become more popular lately. Each anthropologist wants to make a name for themselves, and so often they try to find a culture or topic that is not being studied in the exact same way. To learn more about anthropological research, check out the chapter, “Doing Fieldwork: Methods in Cultural Anthropology,” in the free Anthropology textbook, “Perspectives: An Open Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Second Edition).” 

#7: Study of Poor Societies

Conducts in depth study of poor societies. Doesn't share findings with them and uses grammar only someone with a higher education can understand.
Conducts in depth study of poor societies. Doesn’t share findings with them and uses grammar only someone with a higher education can understand.

Why is this funny?

This meme is poking fun at people who study poor societies and then don’t share the findings with them, and/or people who write up the report in a way only other specialists can understand. People who do this are often seen as someone in a powerful position who “took” information from poor people, and didn’t give anything back.

Learn more

In Anthropology, it is starting to be more common to share your findings with the community you studied, and to give them a copy of the report or perhaps even give a short presentation about your findings. In fact, some anthropologists even share their preliminary findings with people in the community, to make sure the analysis and results are correct. This is called “member checking.” Also, anthropologists who study poor societies try to give back to the community in other ways. They might provide rides to the hospital or other places for people, give participants small gifts, or be helpful in other ways. 

To learn about the complexities of giving back to a community, check out this academic article, “The Social Relations of Fieldwork: Giving Back in a Research Setting.”

Did You Enjoy These Cultural Anthropology Memes & Cartoons?

I hope you enjoyed these Cultural Anthropology memes and cartoons! To learn more about Cultural Anthropology, just click on the category in the menu on the right-hand side. To view more Anthropology-related memes and cartoons, just click on “memes” in the Tags menu.

Thanks for reading!