This essay examines changing practices of public anthropology in terms of their relationship to the political economic processes of global capitalism and neoliberalism as well as changes in the position of anthropology within a hierarchy of knowledge-producing disciplines. Examining my own experiences in different historic regimes, I argue that today's call for a public or engaged anthropology partially conflates two contradictory processes: the drive to raise the value of disciplinary expertise and stake a claim to authority in the world of policy elites located in the state, media and academy; and the drive to use contemporary theories and methods to offer cogent critiques of the very institutions which are gatekeepers for public knowledge. We often find ourselves examining actors in the same professionalized settings in which we ourselves are situated and within which we seek more authority. I argue that we should continue to work on two tracks simultaneously with serious analysis of their contradictions. While we conform to dominant public questions, producing knowledge in ways that fit mainstream formats of communication, we must also invest significant effort in finding ways to help audiences reframe urgent issues by working to better convey contextualized understandings of how power and politics work through sociocultural processes. As a result, we will become more mindful of the specific structural constraints and cultural processes which work against broadening and reframing popular understandings.
New Challenges in the U.S. Academy
Political and Academic Agendas
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Since the early 1960s, Scandinavian anthropologists have made considerable contributions to the study of ethnicity, an early high point having been reached with the 1967 Wenner-Gren conference leading to the publication of Ethnic Groups and Boundaries in 1969. Later Scandinavian research on ethnicity and social identification more generally has been varied and rich, covering all continents and many kinds of majority/minority relations. However, over the last twenty years, anthropologists have increasingly focused on the study of the relationship between immigrant minorities and the majorities in their own countries. There are some significant general differences between ethnicity research overseas and at home, shedding light on the theoretical constructions of anthropology as well as the 'double hermeneutics' between social research and society. It can be argued that anthropology at home shares characteristics with both European ethnology (with its traditional nation-building agenda) and with sociology (which, in Scandinavia, is almost tantamount to the sympathetic study of the welfare state), adding a diluted normative relativism associated with the political views of the academic middle class (to which the anthropologists themselves, incidentally, belong). The article reflects on the consequences of embroilment in domestic politics for anthropological theory, using the experiences of overseas ethnicity research as a contrast to ethnicity research at home, where anthropologists have been forced, or enabled, to go public with their work.
Investigating European Societies
This article analyses the difficult relation between anthropology and history. The point, therefore, is to show how anthropology conceptualises the past differently from history as a discipline. Beginning with the differences between anthropology and history in terms of the concept of time, the article highlights that while for history time is concrete, objective and exogenous to human beings, for anthropology it is characterised by its being condensed, collectively subjective and endogenous. By analyzing actual examples, the article shows that the anthropologist is not interested in the past per se, but rather in the past as a dimension of the present. Accordingly, actualised, revised and manipulated history as well as the role of the past in the present need to be taken into account. Consequently, history and the past have their own specific efficiency because they are also a form of knowledge and social resource mobilised by single individuals or groups to find their bearings and act accordingly in the present and likewise to plan the future.
Dilemmas of, and concerning, US anthropology in the world
Virginia R. Dominguez
Paradoxes shape the relationship of the US anthropological community to its counterparts elsewhere and require new thinking about leadership that focuses on mutuality, responsibility, reciprocity, and pragmatism. Explored here are some key contradictions I see in ways of looking at the current, past, or plausible role of the US anthropological community and, in particular, the American Anthropological Association and its nearly forty Sections. Marked inequality exists among national and international anthropological organizations in size, finances, journal production, and conference attendance and often in perceived degree of importance, control, vibrancy, or agenda-setting. Yet this intervention argues for ways to mitigate that marked inequality, nonetheless, by refusing a binary us-them conceptualization and emphasizing creative pragmatism, mutuality, and responsibility. Unconventionally it even asks whether US anthropology should lead more in the world of anthropology than it currently does or lead less, and why both are worth exploring.
Anthropological Interlocutions of Sport and Religion
Thomas F. Carter
Religion has been a central object of anthropological inquiry since its earliest days. In contrast, sport has remained an ancillary object of interest at best. Nonetheless, anthropologists have written some provocative analyses that challenge other disciplinary approaches to sport. Principally, those analyses emerged out of anthropological approaches to religion. Concerned with the ways in which anthropology theorizes and analyzes both religion and sport, this article begins by assessing the modern-day myth that 'sport is a religion'. It then compares subject-specific approaches to the relationships between sport and religion. The article then moves to the anthropological focus on ritual as it developed in the study of religion and how those ideas were then applied to analyses of sport. The article concludes with an examination of how the anthropology of sport has moved beyond those initial efforts before discussing various anthropological approaches to sport and religion.
This article describes the role graduate students can play in transforming their education in the emergent field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, as occurs at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR), at George Mason University, Washington, DC. It also unpacks how anthropology plays a role in the education of these students at the Master's and Doctoral levels. The primary contribution of anthropology to the conflict resolution curriculum has been conceptual, around the notion of culture. Most of our MS graduates, and many PhDs, work in government or NGOs specialising in development, human rights or conflict resolution, coming from diverse backgrounds with mature life experiences and without prior training in anthropology. Only four of our 21 faculty are anthropologists. This article discusses why these diverse graduate students and their anthropological faculty viewed the traditional foundations of the field of conflict analysis and resolution as inadequate, and why it required an infusion of culture theory and understanding into their training and education.
A Synthesis Waiting to Happen
This article explores the potential for developing anthropological investigation in the field of social circus – in particular with those projects that work with individuals living with disabilities. The author uses examples of research in Belfast to argue that the applied nature of anthropology is the ideal mechanism for analysing and comparing the emerging field of social circus projects around the world. In this case, anthropological tools were utilised that had a direct effect, not only on understanding the phenomenon of social circus projects but also on raising the levels of quality, leading to a direct improvement on services provided.
An Activist's Report
This is the first in what we intend to be a series of practically focused and reflective articles by anthropologists who work in policy or practice, discussing and sharing their experiences of ‘engaged’ anthropology.
—Christine McCourt, Editor, May 2011
Physical anthropology in Hungary and Romania, 1900–1940
This article discusses the relationship between race and physical anthropology in Hungary and Romania between 1900 and 1940. It begins by looking at institutional developments in both countries and how these influenced the most important Hungarian and Romanian anthropologists' professional and research agendas. Drawing from a wide range of primary sources, the article reveals the significant role the concept of race played in articulating anthropological and ethnic narratives of national belonging. It is necessary to understand the appeal of the idea of race in this context. With idealized images of national communities and racial hierarchies creeping back into Eastern European popular culture and politics, one needs to understand the latent and often unrecognized legacies of race in shaping not only scientific disciplines like anthropology, but also the emergence and entrancement of modern Hungarian and Romanian nationalism.
When compared to the extensive historiography on missionary activity, the anthropology of missions is a relative newcomer, emerging as such in the context of the recent critique of the colonial system. In view of the importance of historiographical literature in outlining the subject, on the one hand, and of the impact of the decolonization of the African continent on anthropology, on the other hand, my purposes in this essay are, firstly, to examine how the historiography of colonial America and of African colonialism has handled the subject of missions; secondly, to describe the role of missionary activity in the historiographical debate in the context of the crisis of colonialism; and, lastly, to analyze how post-colonial critique has given rise to a new anthropology of missions.