What if we use theory and method to benefit the people we study and with whom we partner to develop an increasingly just world in which inequities are reduced and all people may believe in their ability to reach their potentials by having access to resources that are more or less equally available, distributed and accessible? Each in her or his way, the contributors to this ‘Special Issue on Public Anthropology’ provide example trajectories which move anthropologists in this direction.
This issue forms the second of a two-part issue focused on Public Anthropology (Beck and Maida 2009). In this second part, the articles by Judith Goode, Udi Mandel Butler, Raul Acosta and Billie Jean Isbell continue the discussion of Public Anthropology and provide examples of a specific form of something I am calling Critical Applied Anthropology. What I had in mind in developing a Special Issue on Public Anthropology is a deepening and expansion of Public Anthropology beyond that which is text-based. Although, for most anthropologists, inside and outside the academy, the text is a prerequisite upon which professional advancement is based and hence inevitable, the non-text-based acts of public anthropology are not and most of the time are dismissed.
The nature of capitalism in its neoliberal form is decreasing higher education’s exclusive domain of knowledge production by exposing students to and exploiting local knowledge production. This has created a paradox. Experiential learning is being supported as ‘academic’ because students learn skills, values and perspectives by engaging in communities of practice. Through community service learning and social justice oriented internships, students learn about emancipatory social movements while simultaneously providing their intellectual capital. Urban Semester Program students participate in the movement for affordable housing, with its origins in post-war Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where many Puerto Ricans settled. Engaged in a struggle against displacement, for self-determination and developing community sustainability by advocating and winning low and moderate income housing, residents are determined to remain in their neighbourhood. Students are engaged in this struggle and connect this exposure to their internships, and the globalising world economy, the role of the state, and corporate power.