In working with and researching in communities that have suffered the impacts of disasters or displacement over the last 40 years, I am convinced of the need to link theory to practice in applied anthropology. The trying circumstances faced by people in disasters and displacement, as well as the enormous variation that these millions of people in their diverse contexts represent, test the resilience of real communities, the fundamental constructions we have developed about community, and the theories and methods employed to assist them in recovery. In my work, I have found that it is both appropriate and necessary that theoretical and policy oriented projects be closely linked. If policies and projects related to disasters and displacement are not based on a solid understanding of human behavior in general and cultural behavior specifically, their success in terms of how they respond to human needs is jeopardized. By the same token, policy and practice can form the testing ground for theory. In other words, if policy or practice fail to produce beneficial outcomes, it is not the fault of the people, but in effect, signals us that we need to improve our theory and methods in addressing the losses and needs of affected people. In broader terms, then, my goals have always been to bring theory and practice together to better inform applied anthropological practice in disasters and displacement. The 20th century saw enormous numbers of people and their communities damaged, destroyed, or uprooted by conflict, environmental upheaval, natural and technological disasters, and infrastructural development projects. Forces ranging from intensified disasters, ethnic nationalism, global climate change, and globalized forms of development promise more of the same for the century we are just beginning. This paper traces the development of applied anthropological theory and method in meeting the challenges posed by such forces in the 21st century.

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