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Accepted Paper:

Citizen Anthropologists? Anthropology's Potential for Democratizing Knowledge  


Suzanne Gottschang (Smith College)

Paper short abstract:

Could anthropology consider translating the citizen science model to democratize our methods and inquiries by working alongside citizen anthropologists?

Paper long abstract:

As we consider ways anthropology might contribute to the interruption of what seems like an inevitable march towards a future determined by technoscience, this presentation asks whether citizen anthropologists might contribute to disrupting or reshaping the paths that neoliberal forces perpetuate. Not without its problems, citizen science can and has provided data and direction from outside the technoscientific community to shape futures, especially in the case of ecological research. While avoiding a direct translation of the citizen science model, anthropology could consider loosening its grip on the role of the solo researcher as a collector of data and information. How can anthropology contribute to the democratizing of knowledge? What particularities about our disciplinary frameworks and research practices might contribute to a meaningful breakdown between the expert researcher and the research subjects. In considering these questions I will offer some insights from citizen science projects about the possibilities and pitfalls that arise from this research model. Moving to models that are frequently used in social science research I reflect on the Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) model where researchers collaborate with local groups and communities with the aim of developing solutions and actions. I then turn to the work of anthropologists like Kim TallBear that draw on indigenous knowledge systems, situated knowledges, and feminist approaches that centralize "care of the subject" as a way to counter some of the problems with CBPR. From these reflections we can begin a conversation about the possibilities and problems we might find in rethinking anthropology.

Panel R011
Shifting Horizons: Anthropology and STS in the 21st Century