IRBs, once more with feeling!

Just got my most recent issue of American Ethnologist which contains a great array of papers and commentary (an “AE Forum”) on the problem of IRBs in ethnographic research. From what I can tell, the articles all take a pretty hard line on the intrusion of the “biomedical model” and its inappropriateness for ethnographic research. Articles by Rena Lederman, Daniel Bradburd, Richard Schweder, and a great article by ethnographic sociologist Jack Katz, whose work I often use in my Fieldwork Methods class. I’d love to have a wide-ranging discussion of these issues on Savage Minds, as I also have strong opinions and experience with IRBs… but the issue is available only to AAA members through Anthrosource. Cf. the previous post.


Christopher M. Kelty is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.

3 thoughts on “IRBs, once more with feeling!

  1. I agree, it looks like a very interesting discussion, from the little bit I’ve had time to skim. Perhaps after the conference we could have a more substantive discussion of these articles here?

  2. Thank you for pointing to this issue. I feel it particularly as an ‘applied’ anthropologist living in my ‘field site’. I study organic farmers and their organization in Chiapas where I live and work, both as a researcher in a publically funded institute and as an organic farmer. The “line between my work and my life” in really non.existent (and that’s the way I like it!) Most of my research papers are on subjects that arise opportunistically, that is were never laid out as specific research topics in any proposal, but arose in the process of work/research in general. There are of course many ethcical issues in this kind of work, but these are mostly not covered in the legistlation discussed in this issue of AE.

    By the way, it appears that only the Lederman papers are available to antrhosource. At least I couldn’t get access to any of the others.

  3. I might also mention that the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section is doing a seminar on these IRB issues in October 2007.

Comments are closed.