Accepted paper:

What do anthropologists actually do? Studying anthropological competences


Hanne Mogensen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the results of a study of anthropological practice inside and outside of academia. The purpose of the study was to identify tacit competences that characterize work practices of anthropologists and the paper suggest new ways of talking about anthropological competences.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropological competences are often said to be ethnographic fieldwork, in particular qualitative methods, and the ability to translate cultures. Yet, it seems there is rather more to anthropological practice than that. But what do anthropologists actually do? This paper is based on a research project on practices and competences of anthropologists working within diverse fields inside and outside of academia. Four researchers from the University of Copenhagen set out to study anthropologists working in health care, business, management, and interdisciplinary research, arenas within which a majority of the graduates from the Department of Anthropology in Copenhagen find employment. We studied their practices in order to identify the tacit competences that characterise work practices of anthropologists, and what anthropology turns into when anthropologists become part of various kinds of collaborations with people from other fields.

The presenter's own research focused on anthropologists working in the health care system as well as health workers with anthropological training. The paper will primarily draw on material from this study of people carrying out non-research task within the health care system - people who happen to also be anthropologists. The paper also draws on insights from the comparative analysis of the four studies and suggest new ways of understanding and explicating anthropological competences.

panel P002
The mobility of applied anthropologists: in and out of fields and between jobs [Applied Anthropology Network]