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Sam Beck

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.

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Sam Beck

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.

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Sam Beck

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.

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Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck

The community of practice is an organisational form that complements the current knowledge economy, which since the late twentieth century has accelerated with advances in information production and dissemination (Wenger 2000). Communities of practice ensure greater engagement for sustainability by the public as local and global actors. A paradigm that arose through the anthropological imagination, the community of practice is an organisational form that complements the current knowledge economy (Lave 1988). A community of practice provides a framework for understanding social learning in complex organisations, specifically the notion of knowing. For novices and experts alike, knowing within a community of practice is based upon socially defined competence, or the ability to act and to be viewed as a competent member. Belonging to a particular community is based upon engagement, imagination and alignment within a social learning system that supports and sustains members and the community itself. Communities of practice provide the framework for social learning, because members: share a sense of joint enterprise, indicative of the level of learning energy within the community; interact on the basis of mutuality, which points to the depth of social capital generated by mutual engagement; and share a repertoire of resources, indicating the degree of participants’ self-awareness (Lave and Wenger 1991). This framework – of knowing, belonging, and social learning through more informal styles characteristic of a community of practice – provides members with the skills to engage meaningfully in knowledge production, exchange and transformation in complex organisations by creating new ways of ‘being in the world’.

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Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck

This is Part Two of a set of articles related to how communities of practice inform global sustainability; a more extensive introductory essay (Maida and Beck 2016) is included in the first of this two-part special issue. The community of practice is an organisational form, which since the late twentieth century, has accelerated with advances in information production and dissemination (Wenger 2000). Communities of practice ensure greater engagement for sustainability by a public as local and global actors. As a paradigm that arose through the anthropological imagination, the community of practice is an organisational form that complements the current knowledge economy (Lave 1988).