Dear Dr. Schwetz, I am writing you concerning the recent debate that has erupted regarding institutional review boards and the standards to which they hold all anthropologists conducting ethnographic research. The traditional mantra of most anthropologists is borrowed from the Hippocratic Oath: “Do No Harm”. However, there has been a recent outcry arguing that, in return for their participation in an ethnographic study, the subjects of any anthropological investigation must also receive some benefit. I propose an alternative: that while anthropologists should be absolutely sure to do no harm, they should also make an effort to affect as little change in the culture as possible. I urge you to alter the requirements placed on anthropologists engaging in ethnography to stipulate that while they must do no harm, they also must affect no significant change. There exist several problems with the notion that all participants in an ethnographic investigation must receive some benefit. The first of these is the difficulty in quantifying
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