This article addresses the relations between archaeology and social anthropology, as exemplified by archaeological research in the Middle East. It is argued that further integration between both disciplines, as well as between archaeological theories, methods and data, is necessary. As an example of such an 'archaeology of relations', an analysis of domestication in the prehistoric Middle East is presented in summary.
Relating the Past and the Present
Reflections on 'Ontology'
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.
Birth and Becoming of a New Field of Studies
Laurent Sebastian Fournier and Jean-Marie Privat
In this article we present the ongoing theoretical discussions concerning the relations between anthropology and literature in France. We recall the historical relationship of a part of French anthropology and the world of literature. We then try to show how the anthropology of literature began by using the model of the anthropology of art, mainly concentrating on literary works as individual creations specific to the style or the cosmology of a given writer. We explore a new perspective on the analysis of the social and symbolic meanings of literary worlds, putting the emphasis on what is called ‘ethnocriticism’ in France. In order to understand better the influence of literature and literary motives on contemporary cultural practices, and to grasp the relation of literary works with the outside world and with everyday life, we propose to build up a comparative approach of literary works and rituals. Through different novels or other literary works, we address possible developments of contemporary anthropologies of literature in France.
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.
Abigail Baim-Lance and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros
Academic funding bodies are increasingly measuring research impact using accountability and reward assessments. Scholars have argued that frameworks attempting to measure the use-value of knowledge production could end up influencing the selection of research topics, limiting research agendas, and privileging linear over complex research designs. Our article responds to these concerns by calling upon insights from anthropology to reconceptualise impact. We argue that, to conduct socially beneficial studies, impact needs to be turned from a product to an inclusive process of engagement. Anthropology's epistemologically and methodologically rich tradition of ethnography offers a particularly apposite set of tools to achieve this goal. We present three concrete examples of how we have used ethnography to impact on the work we carry out, particularly in shaping multidisciplinary team-based research approaches.
Its Importance and Implications for Policy and Practice in Pakistan
M. Sajjad Abro
A seminar on ‘Anthropology: Its Importance and Implications for Policy and Practice’ was collaboratively organised by the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, in the University of Sindh in Pakistan, and Anthropology in Action (Figure 1). The event was also supported by the civil society organisations Al-Mehran Rural Development Organization (AMRDO) and Dev-Con. The objective of the event was to create awareness among the public and the media regarding the importance and scope of anthropology and how anthropologists can better design social policies and interventions that have limited negative unintended consequences. The speakers were academic and practicing anthropologists who delivered lectures based on their personal extensive encounters with development in Pakistan.
A Critical Review
Hannah Gibson and Sita Venkateswar
The Anthropocene refers to the planetary scale of anthropogenic influences on the composition and function of Earth ecosystems and life forms. Socio-political and geographic responses frame the uneven topographies of climate change, while efforts to adapt and mitigate its impact extend across social and natural sciences. This review of anthropology's evolving engagement with the Anthropocene contemplates multifarious approaches to research. The emergence of multispecies ethnographic research highlights entanglements of humans with other life forms. New ontological considerations are reflected in Kohn's “Anthropology of Life,” ethnographic research that moves beyond an isolated focus on the human to consider other life processes and entities as research participants. Examples of critical engagement discussed include anthropology beyond disciplinary borders, queries writing in the Anthropocene, and anthropology of climate change. We demonstrate the diverse positions of anthropologists within this juncture in relation to our central trope of entanglements threaded through our discussion in this review.
Widening Participation and the Challenge for Anthropology
Paul Hawkins and David Mills
Drawing on recent ethnographic research with 'non-traditional' humanities and social science students at a 'new' university in the North West of England, this paper explores their contradictory experiences of alienation and engagement, and their attitudes to institutional 'Widening Participation' initiatives. It argues that these students' institutional survival depends on negotiating the conflicting expectations of their academic relationships and their day-to-day social responsibilities beyond the university.
What might these findings mean for anthropology's own pedagogic strategies? The paper ends by suggesting that a subject that asks its students fundamentally to question their established senses of self and 'home' may pose a further challenge for students for whom strained personal and domestic relationships, ambivalence and self-doubt are dominant motifs of their whole university experience.
Valerie M. Smith
Although early reviewers of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland recognized the novel as a fictional travelogue, the travelogue aspect of the novel remains underexamined. This essay examines Flatland as a travelogue and as a work of ethnographic criticism in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science. Situating Flatland in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science and in relation to Notes and Queries on Anthropology, For the Use of Travellers and Residents in Uncivilized Lands (1874)—in particular to its concerns with the dangers of cultural assumptions—provides a means of tackling the problem both early reviewers and more recent scholars have noted concerning the marked differences between the novel’s two parts and the difficulties of making sense of the novel as a whole.
A Critical Assessment
Recent cognitive and evolutionary approaches to the study of religion have been seen by many as a naturalistic alternative to conventional anthropological interpretations. Whereas anthropologists have traditionally accounted for the existence of religion in terms of social and cultural determinants, cognitive scientists have emphasized the innate—that is pre-cultural—constraints placed by natural selection on the formation and acquisition of religious ideas. This article provides a critical assessment of the main theoretical proposals put forward by cognitive scientists and suggests possible interactions, perhaps interdependencies, with more standard anthropological sensibilities, especially between cognitive and evolutionary perspectives that see religion as a by-product of innate psychological dispositions and anthropological approaches that take the 'meaningful' nature of religious symbols as their point of departure.