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Pedagogy in Action

Rethinking Ethnographic Training and Practice in Action Anthropology

Mark K. Watson

While anthropology students may receive general instruction in the debates and critiques surrounding public and/or engaged anthropology, attention to the growing intersection between participatory action research (PAR) and anthropology is often overlooked. I contend that to think of PAR as a complementary approach to conventional anthropological fieldwork (i.e. interviews, participation observation, and focus groups) is problematic in that it runs counterintuitive to the former’s transformative logic. Drawing from my work co-leading a radio-based partnership project with urban Inuit organisations in Montreal and Ottawa, I repurpose Sol Tax’s ‘action anthropology’ to discuss an attitudinal shift that our team’s use of PAR has provoked, reconceptualising the aims and practice of our ethnographic enquiry in the process. I consider the effects of this shift for anthropological training and pedagogy in PAR projects and propose the use of ‘training-in-character’ as an organising principle for the supervision of student research.