The Ultimate Public, Applied Anthropologist

When it comes to application and publicity, anthropologists are in a bit of a bind. On the one hand they want to be ‘applied’ (typically: implement their left-populist agenda) and ‘public’ (be found fascinating by a wide readership). At the same time, they fear collaboration with sources of power (curtailing implementation options) and don’t want their work to be considered exotic, titillating, or otherwise interesting to the public. Walking the line between accessibility and exoticism, engagement and cooptation, can be tricky.

And then there is “Bella Ellwood-Clayton, sexual anthropologist”: Ellwood-Clayton got written up “some time ago at”: because her work is open access. But I think the site, and her career, might take the prize as the most public, applied anthropologist that I’ve seen in quite some time.

She “treks through mud and sleeps with pigs to discover traditional tattooing practices in the jungle”: She “writes poetry”: She is “multiply-orgasmic”: (link to PDF of a relationship column — sfw). And of course she also “publishes about cell phones”:

I am not quite sure what I think of Ellwood-Clayton’s website, or the way that she is spinning her career. But I have to admit that in an era when anthropologists spend more time arguing about what they can do to become relevant than becoming relevant, it is sort of refreshing to see someone hanging out their shingle in a highly… shall we say… unambivalent way. Carrie Bradshaw, move over.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

One thought on “The Ultimate Public, Applied Anthropologist

  1. Yikes! I’m pretty sure she is not a good choice of poster child for applied and public anthropologies. The bio on her website raises some serious BS flags, and reads like an Onion article, only not as well written. I am curious to see whether her diss was similarly frenetic.

    You sure this deserves your links and traffic?

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