? learning and teaching anthropology - Imponderabilia

learning and teaching anthropology

Introduction by Anna Grigoryeva

A (non-anthropologist) friend recently said to me, “I think everyone should study anthropology for a year at least. But I also think no one should, because it would stop them from ever doing anything.”

We learn to challenge, deconstruct, contradict – but are we perhaps engaging in (as phrased by David Mosse), “anti-social anthropology”? This section aims to push forth debate on ways of making anthropology relevant, ethical and politically engaged – in the contexts of climate change, international development, and human rights. What can we do, and how do we think, about creating a positive contribution, a precedent, a debate, a public stance? Must we – can we – work “within the system,” be political radicals, or skeptics?

Marjolijn Vreeken’s article can be considered an example of more “traditional” applied anthropology, starting to unpack complications of social life in a development context and for better-planned development initiatives. The social life of such analyses, as narrated by David Sneath and Nick Long in interviews, is in itself fascinating if at times disillusioning. More radical activist thinking leads contributors to take politics where biology reigns (Angelo Brieussel’s article, putting species distinctions next to racial ones), and to view activism itself ethnographically (Clare Whitney’s notes on Climate Camp).

Inevitably, making research ‘active’ and action ethical is a personal journey (Mischa Foxell's and Christine Stevralia's contributions are perhaps best examples of that). Each article is a negotiation of institutions (academic, government, development), politics and ethical choices. Read them as that but do not forget to ask yourselves these same questions – and come, hopefully, to practical answers.