Anthropology and Displacement

Culture, Communication and Computers Applied to a Real World Problem

in Anthropology in Action

Displacement following natural disasters brings about both short- and long-term issues that urban planners must address. While we recognize that many (though not all) aspects of the short-term plans may not require extensive anthropological insights, the long-term plans, on the contrary, do. We suggest in this article that one of the most important contributions anthropologists can make is producing formal models of indigenous knowledge systems (which are derived from underlying cultural systems) and identifying the ways in which such systems are communicated. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach which borrows from developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and multi-agent modelling (MAM), we argue that many of the tools that such disciplines have produced can serve an important role in long-range planning for the coexistence of disparate communities if they are adequately informed by anthropological understandings of the communities involved. We briefly outline the anthropology of communication and the culture concept before turning our attention to something that AI and MAM researchers have dubbed ontologies to suggest that it is possible to model cultural systems in dynamic ways that enable sociocultural models of communities which are simultaneously resilient and robust. We give a concrete example of such a cultural system (izzat or 'honour' in South Asia) and demonstrate what an ontology of such a system might look like.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Anthropology in Action

Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice