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Choosing ones enemies: the unexpected turns of interventionist anthropology
Ragnhild Freng Dale
(Western Norway Research Institute)
Paper short abstract:
Interventions in conflicted futures require the anthropologist to choose not only her friends, but also her enemies. This paper reflects on how these relations may affect both methodological approaches and ethnographic insights in and beyond the field.
Paper long abstract:
Whilst the notion that science can be neutral has long since been debunked, what is our relationship to those we alienate when we intervene in the making of futures with the humans and non-humans amongst whom we work? From the explicit reflections on advocacy in industrial disasters, to those of indigenous advocacy or environmental movements, there is much to learn from anthropology's current and historical interventions. But whilst we reflect much on the ethics of working with and alongside, interventionist anthropology must also reflect on the relationships we build with those we choose not to align with, whether in or beyond the field. As any attempt at intervention is nested within power imbalances, coloniality, and a range of other concerns, we must, I argue, reflect on our enemies as much as our friends.
Following my own trajectory from environmental activism to researching petroleum and advocating for indigenous rights, I discuss how a practice of bifurcation (Fortun 2001) and hybrid identities as researcher, advocate, cultural worker, 'ally' and 'enemy', enables particular conversations with actors whose views and ethics do not align with mine. Rather than a question of closed or open doors, I propose to stay with this discomfort and discuss how relations of different kinds allow for different ethnographic insights and - by extension - differently informed interventions in the work to make particular futures possible.
Futures Anthropology as Interventional Theory and Practice [Future Anthropologies Network]