Public anthropology, according to Robert Borofsky, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University, "demonstrates the ability of anthropology and anthropologists to effectively address problems beyond the discipline - illuminating larger social issues of our times as well as encouraging broad, public conversations about them with the explicit goal of fostering social change" (Borofsky 2004).
Merrill Singer has criticized the concept of public anthropology on the grounds that it ignores applied anthropology. He writes: "given that many applied anthropologists already do the kinds of things that are now being described as PA, it is hard to understand why a new label is needed, except as a device for distancing public anthropologists from applied anthropologists" (Singer 2000: 6). Similarly, Barbara Rylko-Bauer writes: "one has to ask what is the purpose of these emerging labels that consciously distinguish themselves from applied/practicing anthropology? While they may serve the personal interests of those who develop them, it is hard to see how they serve the broader interests of the discipline" (Rylko-Bauer 2000: 6). Eric Haanstad responds to Singer's claim by arguing that public anthropology does not necessarily entail the exclusion of applied anthropology (Haanstad 2001a). Alan Jeffery Fields defends the concept of public anthropology by claiming it is "a useful trope for one important reason: it calls attention to the fact that there is a division between public and academic perceptions" (Fields 2001a).
- Borofsky, Robert. 2004 Conceptualizing Public Anthropology. Electronic document, https://web.archive.org/web/20070414153742/http://www.publicanthropology.org/Defining/definingpa.htm, accessed April 11, 2007.
- Fields, Alan Jeffrey. 2001a Responsible Public Anthropology. Public Anthropology: The Graduate Journal. Electronic document, https://web.archive.org/web/20070927101934/http://www.publicanthropology.org/Journals/Grad-j/Wisconsin/fields.htm, accessed April 12, 2007.
- Haanstad, Eric. 2001a Anthropology Revitalized: Public Anthropology and Student Activism. Public Anthropology: The Graduate Journal. Electronic document, https://web.archive.org/web/20070716025855/http://www.publicanthropology.org/Journals/Grad-j/Wisconsin/haanstad.htm, accessed April 12, 2007.
- Rylko-Bauer, Barbara. 2000 Toward a More Inclusive Relevant Anthropology. Society for Applied Anthropology Newsletter 11(2): 6-7.
- Singer, Merrill. 2000 Why I Am Not a Public Anthropologist. Anthropology News 41(6): 6-7.
- Thibodeaux, Jarrett. 2016. Production as Social Change: Policy Sociology as a Public Good. Sociological Spectrum. 36 (3): 183-190.
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