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Anthropology Graduate Students Are Often Harassed in the Field, Study Finds

Graduate students and junior scholars conducting anthropological fieldwork at remote sites are vulnerable to abuse from their supervisors, according to a study presented this weekend at the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropology.

Fifty-nine percent of the 124 subjects in the study, which is continuing and includes men as well as women, said they had been victims of harassment in the field. Nineteen percent said they had been assaulted.

While those figures included subjects who had been victimized by peers, “we found most of the perpetrators were individuals superior in the hierarchy than the victims—so for instance, a faculty member harassing a graduate student,” writes Kathryn Clancy, the lead author of the study, in a blog post for Scientific American. Ms. Clancy is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Because doing fieldwork is such an important part of becoming an anthropologist, students may be forced to choose between their careers and their wish to speak up for themselves or others, the researchers said. They say grant-making agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health should require more oversight in the field to make sure researchers are safe.

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