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The President’s Mother, the Anthropologist and the Anthropologist’s Son

Anthropological Issues and US President Obama

David Lempert

Keywords: cultural rights; ethics; expatriate community; international law; multiculturalism; Obama family

Barack Obama was the first son of a PhD anthropologist to serve as President of the United States, and some popular press linked his political views and actions, which were allegedly in violation of international law, to failures in American anthropology to uphold international law as well as to personal failures by anthropologists to transmit the professional ethics of the discipline to their offspring. This essay examines those critiques and identifies deficiencies in anthropological presentations of ‘multiculturalism’ and in anthropology’s adherence to international law. It also reviews the cultural self-identification of President Obama, drawing attention to the sub-cultures of ‘expat’ communities like those in which President Obama was raised and in which many practising anthropologists and their children live.


Lempert, David - Humboldt University of Berlin