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Accepted Paper:

The perils of public anthropology? Debating the Muhammad cartoon issue in neo-nationalist Scandinavia  
Peter Hervik (NOISE - Network of Independent Scholars in Education (Copenhagen))

Paper long abstract:

Sanday has noted that anthropologists are remarkable good at description and theory, but remarkably absent in working for change. This has been the case with the non-public-engagement of Nordic anthropologists in the Muhammad cartoon issue and also seen through collegial advice not to use "upsetting" concepts such as neo-nationalism and neo-racism. Such examples are used to enter what should be an ongoing discussion of anthropology's engagement in public issues and its contribution to society even if it is at the risk of what Borofsky called "subverting the narrow niched conversations of specialization."

In this paper I will discuss a number of perils of public anthropology as they have come out in research engagement with the lopsided and simplified representation of ethnic and religious minorities in the Danish news media and discourses of neo-nationalism, neo-racism, populism, and Islamophia. These discourses are growing out of the intimate relationship between the Danish field of journalism and the field of politics, which again fosters and frames popular consciousness. I will also argue that public anthropology is an obligation not to be confused with publicity of research findings but to engage seriously as individuals and departments through research projects and investing expertise in public issues, for instance, to combat discrimination, deprivation, intolerance, political manipulation, inequalities and by using the special strengths and creativities of anthropology that may serve to enlarge the public sphere.

Panel W077
Public anthropology for a world in crisis
  Session 1