This chapter enquires into anthropology's contributions to the conceptual history of innovation, considering innovation as an object of research, and into anthropological engagements for innovation, considering innovation as a normative agenda. Our analysis of the term's absences and usages in publications in the journal American Anthropologist between c. 1900 and 1950 retraces the rise of an anthropological concept of cultural innovation, marked by social embeddedness as opposed to linear conceptions of technological innovation. This conceptual advance helped anthropologist study dynamics of modernization, but also turned applied anthropologists in (post) colonial settings as well as in industrial societies into potential agents of innovation through cooperation and consultancy for modernizing institutions. After discussing normative issues raised by anthropologists in the space opening between the study of innovation and engagement for innovation, we discuss in conclusion the current Western crisis of innovation as an object for future anthropologic research and engagement.