John van Willigen

2003 Sol Tax Distinguished Service Award

sol_vanwilligen.jpgJohn van Willigen is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky at Lexington, where he is also appointed to the Department of Behavioral Science, College of Medicine and the Gerontology and Health PhD Program. He has served as Director of Graduate Studies and Departmental Chair at various times. His undergraduate anthropology degree is from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his PhD studies were done at the University of Arizona. While at Arizona he completed training in community development as well as anthropology. During his graduate studies he was employed by Papago Tribe of Arizona (now the Tohono O’Odham Nation) as Director of Community Development. This work served as the basis for his dissertation.

Van Willigen has published extensively on applied anthropology practice. These publications include the widely used textbook, Applied Anthropology: An Introduction (now in its third edition), the edited volumes, Making Our Research Useful: Case Studies in the Utilization of Anthropological Knowledge (with Barbara Rylko-Bauer and Ann McElroy) and Soundings: Rapid and Reliable Research Methods for Practicing Anthropologists (with Timothy J. Finan).

He has done field research in India, rural Kentucky, and Indonesia. This work has focused on the social aging process, farming systems research, and ethnography of farming and food ways. The products of this work include three research monographs. These are Gettin’ Some Age on Me: Social Organization of Older People in a Rural American Community; Tobacco Culture: Farming Kentucky’s Burley Belt (with Susan C. Eastwood) and Social Aging in a Delhi Neighborhood (with N. K. Chadha).

Van Willigen has made important contributions to applied anthropology in two areas. First is the documentation of applied anthropology practice. He organized the Applied Anthropology Documentation Project at the University of Kentucky Library. This has resulted in a large collection of technical reports produced by anthropologists in the course of their work. These materials have been described in the Sources column of Practicing Anthropology and formed the basis for his publication, Anthropology in Use: A Source Book on Anthropological Practice. Through his work in documentation he has helped increase the understanding of the contribution of applied and practicing anthropologists to the discipline. Documentation helps us understand who were are and what we have done.

The second aspect of his service is in the area of training for application and practice. He served as the chair of a joint SfAA and National Association for the Practice of Anthropology committee that developed Guidelines for Training Programs in Practicing Anthropology. He developed and organized the initial Applied Anthropology Training Program Information Exchanges and served as compiler of the number of SfAA published Guides to Training Programs and the NAPA Bulletin, Becoming a Practicing Anthropologist: A Guide to Careers and Training Programs in Applied Anthropology. He feels that effective applied and practicing anthropologists need to know techniques for practical action, have thorough understanding of the contexts of professional work, and sound strategies for collaboration with communities and other disciplines.

He has also received the Omer C. Stewart Memorial Award of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology, two Fulbright Lectureships (India) and a Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Teaching at the University of Kentucky.