(Oxford UniversityUniversity of Hull)
Paper Short Abstract:
Instead of daredevilry for ratings, anthropologists bring experiential knowledge through grounded engagement. Lived, not vicarious fieldwork, brings interpretation beyond the local, including material culture, with potential and proven policy implications, both for the powerful and the dispossessed
Paper long abstract:
Malinowski's emphasis on being there, language and the imponderabilia of the everyday remain central. He also popularized. Anthropology has long been engaged in wider political and cultural dialogue. It has been influential for policy, but only when politically expedient. Academic integrity may be retained, but risks rejection when contrary to governmental strategies. It depends on context and the decision makers in power. Engagement as policy adviser to the powerful, effectively a detached minority, or indeed the dispossessed, should be distinguished from popularization through media ratings. There have been impediments to the latter. Traditionalists have denigrated European fieldwork and cross-disciplinary links with some social sciences. Fortunately, the RAI has reversed an earlier decision to block A level anthropology, thus moving beyond class and ethnic stereotyping.
Media popularization through 'Disappearing Worlds' brought mass viewing, defying claims to anthropological elitism. Peoples were given voice as subjects, replacing the front man-commentator by subtitles and observational filming. Ironically, the latter has been appropriated by reality TV. But celebrity culture has revived the front man adventurer, constructing and performing exotica, and minimizing subtitles.
Instead of daredevilry for ratings, anthropologists bring experiential knowledge through grounded engagement. Lived, not vicarious field work, brings privileged interpretation beyond the local, including material culture across space and time. The anthropologist can bring retrospective interpretation to objects, oral and written history. Locations, seemingly without past traces, can be deciphered for former activities and presence. Again, this has potential and proven policy implications, both for the powerful and the dispossessed.
Engaging anthropology and archaeology: theory, practice and publics