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Engaging Feminist Anthropology in Vanuatu

Local Knowledge and Universal Claims

Jean Mitchell

In Vanuatu, where the revival of kastom (custom) has been pivotal in defining postcolonial identity, articulations of feminism(s) are offen met with ambivalence. The tension between discourses of individual rights and collective obligations and the tension between universal ideas of women's rights and local cultural practices such as kastom must be confronted. An engaged feminist anthropology, I argue, resists singular accounts of modernity by locating local knowledge and kastomary practices within a larger context that unsettles the boundaries of local and universal. Disentangling the ways in which contemporary critiques of kastom resonate with missionary and colonial representations of Melanesian violence and drawing attention to the structural violence of everyday life are also important tasks. Invoking the concepts of 'modest witness' and 'situated knowledge', I discuss what Strathern (1987) has called the 'awkward relationship' between anthropology and feminism and consider the possibilities of an engaged feminist anthropology.

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Grassroots Dedication and Opportunism

The Pre-university Anthropology Education Movement in the United States

Colleen Popson and Guven Witteveen

To anyone who has taught anthropology to middle and high-school students in the United States, the discipline's value to intellectual and social development is undeniable. These educators are the engine of a small, long-lived movement to make anthropology a core part of the curriculum that students are exposed to during middle and high school, before they enter college or university. Despite valiant efforts and because of some very difficult challenges - (public misperception of the field, lack of institutional support, and the nature of the U.S. public education system) - the movement has not caught the momentum it needs to induce major changes. Nonetheless, new opportunities and some limited pockets of success offer good reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Rather than trying to compel entire school districts or education departments to adopt anthropology courses and standards, advocates are now focused on leveraging such opportunities to introduce as many educators and students as possible to anthropology.

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Vicos as Cold War Strategy

Anthropology, Peasants and 'Community Development'

Eric B. Ross

This article examines how anthropology's emphasis on the traditional values of peasants reflected the general precepts of 'modernization theory', the dominant development discourse of the Cold War era. It explores how such ideas lent credibility to the U.S. strategy of 'community development' as a central part of its response to radical rural change. Special attention is paid to the Cornell-Peru Project at Vicos in the Peruvian highlands, which attained legendary status as a case of applied anthropology, but is here examined in relationship to the strategies of the U.S. power elite and Cold War government policies.

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Medical Design Anthropology, Improvisational Practices and Future Imaginings

Jonathan Ventura and Wendy Gunn

The body as an anthropological nexus of sociocultural norms and conventions has been discussed at length in the humanities and social sciences. However, within the worlds of industrial design, an important player infl uencing an understanding of the body within a design process has been neglected and that is the industrial designer. Our main thesis considers designing as an anthropological, sociocultural and physical praxis, in the midst of which stand person(s) engaging within their material environments. We argue that, as an interdisciplinary dialogue with anthropologists and designers alike, the industrial designer could pursue a broader perspective than the classic techno-practice perspective, which deliberately detaches the social qualities of human action with the aim of changing user behaviour through the use of medical products. Instead, we propose an understanding of industrial design practice(s) that considers the improvisational and interwovenness of peoples and practices and what this means for att uning industrial design practices accordingly.

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Anthropology and What There Is

Reflections on 'Ontology'

Paolo Heywood

This piece reflects on two 'ontological turns': the recent anthropological movement and that occasioned earlier in analytic philosophy by the work of W. V. O. Quine. I argue that the commitment entailed by 'ontology' is incompatible with the laudable aim of the 'ontological turn' in anthropology to take seriously radical difference and alterity.

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Grégory Dallemagne, Víctor del Arco, Ainhoa Montoya and Marta Pérez

This commentary seeks to engage the issue of 'impact' in social anthropology by scrutinising the topic of open access. Drawing on the discussions that took place at the international conference 'FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond', held in October 2014 in Madrid, we suggest that addressing the topic of open access allows a two-fold goal. On one hand, it elucidates that public debates about open access rely on a rather minimalist notion of openness that does not yield an adequate understanding of what is at stake in those debates. On the other, we argue that expanding the notion of openness does not only allow us to revisit the debate concerning what we do as academics, how we do it and what its value is, but also to do so going beyond current notions of 'impact' and 'public value' underpinned by the principle of economic efficiency in a context of increasingly reduced research funds.

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‘Is Anthropology Legal?’

Anthropology and the EU General Data Protection Regulation

Cassandra Yuill

In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London hosted an event on 25 May 2018 entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. In this article, I report and reflect on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research within this climate of increasing governance.

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Robin Whitaker

Many feminists have been troubled by questions of friendship in ethnographic research. For some critics, such assertions elide power imbalances, invoking a 'sisterly identification' built on essentialist models of gender. In this article I combine insights gained from partisan ethnography in the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition with feminist theory to argue that the problem lies not with claims to friendship as such, but with a naturalized model in which friendship is treated as a power-free zone. A more politicized approach to friendship offers analytical tools for thinking about methodological, epistemological, political and applied problems in feminist anthropology and politics and to wider questions about the relationship between intellectual and political life, critique and solidarity.

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Trading Up

Reflections on Power, Collaboration, and Ethnography in the Anthropology of Policy

Tara Schwegler

This article constitutes a pragmatic consideration of how to orchestrate access to 'powerful' individuals and a theoretical reflection on what efforts to negotiate access reveal about the anthropologist's subterranean assumptions about power, collaboration and ethnographic data. Too frequently, powerful actors and the contemporary settings they inhabit appear to be obstacles to ethnographic research. In contrast, I propose that we explore the ways in which working with powerful actors can enhance, rather than inhibit, the possibilities of anthropological data collection. In this article, I present several examples from my field research in the Mexican government to show how the ethnographic encounter can be constructive of the political process, not jut an appendage to it. By directing attention to the ways in which our actual research practices (and not just our findings) intervene in the political space, we can re-orient our expectations about data and the ontology of anthropological expertise.

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Documenting Impact

An Impact Case Study of Anthropological Collaboration in Tobacco Control

Andrew Russell and Sue Lewis

In this article we consider the 'impact case study' (ICS) as a specific kind of document, one which, as part of the U.K.'s Research Excellence Framework (REF), enforces a common template for the description and measurement of the social and economic effects of research in U.K. higher education. We track the development of an ICS describing anthropological research in tobacco control which, after many iterations, was not submitted as part of the REF. We ask 'what is impact?' in cases where anthropological research is based on principles of collaboration and serendipity rather than the mechanistic 'research > translation > impact > measurement' model which an ICS is expected to follow. What is included and what excluded by the strictures of such a model? We are generally supportive of the impact agenda, feeling that university resources and activities have a vital role to play in progressive social change. However, the way 'impact' is recorded, appraised and measured in an ICS only captures a small proportion of the effects of anthropological research, and encourages particular forms of public engagement while discounting others.