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Accepted Paper:

Re-thinking the Boundaries between Anthropology and Activism: Insights from Ethnographic Research on Working Class Communities  
Demet Dinler (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

By deriving insights from my ethnographic research and activist experience with working class communities, I argue that neither anthropology nor activism should be absorbed by another. They should maintain their distinct values and territories for a mutually productive engagement.

Paper long abstract:

The role of the anthropologist who works with disadvantaged groups is an uneasy one. Activist researchers can project their own moral norms and ideals onto the communities they work with and expect them to conform to these values. Self-reflexive anthropological research may relativise these norms and remind the absence of an authentic unified subaltern voice to be romanticised and represented. On the other hand, the complexity anthropology aims to grasp with a longer view may fall short of exigencies of activist campaigns obliged to negotiate certain issues over others so as to fulfill their ethical responsibility to enact more urgent positive change. Despite and perhaps thanks to those tensions, anthropology and activism can still inform each other through productive engagements, by blurring, yet still maintaining the boundaries between their distinct territories. In this paper I make this argument by deriving insights from my own experience as an activist and researcher. I explore the ways in which I navigated some of these tensions during ethnographic research with working class communities. I situate my narrative within the broader debates on anthropology and activism.

Panel Speak24a
First things first: the good of anthropology I
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -