Applied Anthropology in Europe

Historical Obstacles, Current Situation, Future Challenges

in Anthropology in Action
Author:
Dan Podjed Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts dan.podjed@zrc-sazu.si

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Meta Gorup Ghent University meta.gorup@ugent.be

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Alenka Bezjak Mlakar Ergo Institute alenka.bezjak@ergo-institut.com

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Abstract

The article presents the state of applied anthropology in Europe, in particular focusing on the application of anthropological knowledge and skills within the private sector. Firstly, the text depicts the historical context, which has had a strong and often negative impact on the developments in contemporary applied anthropology and specifically on applying anthropology in for-profit endeavours. It then provides an overview of this type of applied anthropology in Europe by identifying its main institutions and individuals. Building on this analysis, the article elaborates on extant challenges for its future development, and outlines the most promising solutions. The authors conclude that it is of crucial importance for European anthropology to make the transition ‘from words to actions’, especially in the areas not traditionally addressed by anthropologists, such as business and design anthropology or consultancy work in the private sector. While the discipline has a longer applied history in areas such as development, human rights and multiculturalism, few anthropologists have played significant roles in the efforts usually associated with the private sector. It is argued that anthropology should – also outside the non-profit and non-governmental sectors – shift from being a descriptive, hermeneutical and interpretative branch of social sciences describing and explaining the past or commenting on the present, to an applied discipline intervening in shaping the future.

Contributor Notes

Dan Podjed is the convenor of the EASA Applied Anthropology Network, a Research Fellow at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and an Assistant Professor for anthropology at the University of Ljubljana. He leads the DriveGreen project, the main goal of which is to develop a culture-sensitive and user-friendly smartphone application for promotion of sustainable mobility. E-mail: dan.podjed@zrc-sazu.si

Meta Gorup is the co-convenor of the EASA Applied Anthropology Network and PhD candidate at CHEGG – Centre for Higher Education Governance Ghent at the Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Belgium. Her PhD project focuses on university management and explores the intersection between anthropology, organisation sciences, and higher education research. E-mail: meta.gorup@ugent.be

Alenka Bezjak Mlakar is the Director of Ergo Institute, which integrates anthropological and business approaches to design and improvement of products and services, and carries out research of organisational cultures. Alenka received her PhD at the University of Ljubljana, in the framework of which she carried out an ethnographic study of information and communication technologies in a telematics company. As a member of the DriveGreen research team, she is interested in anthropological approaches to the development of technologies for promotion of sustainable mobility. E-mail: alenka.bezjak@ergo-institut.com

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Anthropology in Action

Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice

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