The Harm Dilemma Essay

767 Words 4 Pages
Anthropologists face ethical decisions every day, in which they must balance the often competing interests of their obligations against the demands that are placed upon them. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ethical behaviour as “conforming to accepted standards of conduct”. For Anthropologists, the ethical risks faced in fieldwork are defined by their ethical obligations. This paper will discuss, in a limited scope, both the ethical risks of fieldwork and the obligations of an anthropologist.
In order to understand the ethical risks that exist in anthropological fieldwork, the ethical obligations must first be understood. A variety of organizations dictates the anthropological standards of professional conduct. According to Miller
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I will not discuss the other six Principles in this paper, as they are discussed in detail within the AAA’s Statement on Ethics, and because I believe that they are derivatives of the primary obligation to ‘do no harm’ and as such, have no significance if one causes harm by adhering to them.
The AAA makes clear that anthropologists must “carefully and deliberately weigh the consequences and ethical dimensions of the choices they make –by action or inaction” (p.3) and that the individual anthropologist is the only one responsible for the ethical decisions that they make.
So what then is the harm dilemma? Harm, refers to all of its aspects, including but not limited to “communities, non-human primates or other animals, at archeological and paleoanthropological sites” (Statement on Ethics, p.4), but most especially “harm to dignity and to bodily and material wellbeing” (Statement on Ethics, p.4). The dilemma, then, is which alternative causes the least harm, if any, to all of those involved. When the direct and indirect consequences of research projects are evaluated carefully, the harm dilemma can prevent research from being disseminated or in some cases from even taking place.
The Harm dilemma directly contributes to the ethical risks of anthropological fieldwork; the risk: that harm will be done. The ethical risk can often be

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