Describe the role that anthropologists play in migration.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I want to note that anthropologists do not really play any role in migration. They study the migrations of people, and to the degree their expertise is called upon for a migration issue, they can offer their specialized knowledge and understanding of migration, but the role of the anthropologist is that of study, not interference. There is no doubt they make a significant contribution to our understanding of the migration of humans.

Since the beginning of humanity, people have migrated; otherwise we would all live in Africa, which is where we are fairly certain mankind first emerged.  Anthropologists traditionally traced migrations through cultural artifacts and to some degree language, with the assistance of archaeologists and linguists.  They study living societies as well, to examine migrations. And today, it is possible to trace migrations with our knowledge of DNA, being able to see genetically where people first began and where they have migrated to.  It's a fascinating story, with many implications for the world today. If we know why people migrate, that has some lessons for us, I think, since migration continues to be a human phenomenon. There are migrations internally, for example, the movement from rural environments to urban environments, or the American migration westward.  External migration, that is, from one country to another or from one continent to the other, is on the rise.  Within the past year, over one million people have migrated from the Middle East to Europe.  This is an incredible movement of people, and anthropologists are no doubt studying this as we speak. To what degree climate, war, social structure, religion, and other factors have an impact on migration, anthropologists are there to try to learn this, and with lessons learned, perhaps we can improve the migration experience.      


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