Operational Social Anthropology

I have a proposal: let us give room for an operational social anthropology!

Let us pay more attention to social anthropology in order to better understand and have more knowledge of individual and contextual factors that affect human behavior and the micro-dynamics of social interaction. Psychologists have a well established field of “operational psychology” which with its excellent and unique knowledge on human behavior. However, by paying further more attention to contextual, social and dynamic aspects of operational teams and its cultural and outer frame, we will have a complementary knowledge to better understand operational teams in different micro-dynamics and context.

An operational social anthropology will increase the understanding of human behavior in relation to socio-economic, political, historical, religious, language and the omnipresent “culture” as factors which affects human behavior and interactions in the act of the world of the mundane.

“Culture” is a widely discussed word world-wide, nonetheless an area of great ambiguity within the area of social anthropology. If you google “what is culture” you will get a result of 2.390.000.000 in less den 0,55 seconds! Impressive! It has taken me a masters degree and 10 more years to accept a definitions that define culture roughly as skills, perception and manners which a person has adapted as a member of a society (Thomas Hylland-Eriksen 2010:15). The unease of defining culture persist omnipresent though the need for using it as a reference to understand human behavior continues to remain an imperative.

Let us pay close attention to how the language-barrier can affect the social interaction between the captain of the mother vessel and the Mooring master in communication with tug-boats and coordination in general during a ship-to-ship operation. Let us pay more attention to the subtle “yes sir” when orders are given from captain and what is actually meant by this “yes”. Let us pay more attention to how gender, religion, ethnicity and other factors can affect and even challenge the maritime hierarchy. Let us pay attention to cultural differences between seafarers in the operational field and their colleges on land which both work in different social and physical frames as a team to achieve a common goal. Let us pay attention to the difference in risk assessment despite the existence of well-developed check-lists and protocols.

An operational social anthropology looks to the uniqueness of the empiric findings in order to better understand social interaction and the larger frames that affect human behavior. Let us devote more attention to cultural understanding and intercultural communication.

Therese Landås, Social Anthropologist and Human Factors Specialist, Test and Assessment Center Responsible