Accepted Paper:

Applied, engaged and an activist anthropologies as the main enemies of the public anthropology  


Marcin Brocki (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

The problem of the present “public anthropology” is that it is linked with an applied, engaged and activist perspectives, the perspectives that do not generate or multiply anthropological knowledge nor brings any authority to the discipline.

Paper long abstract:

It is usually taken for granted that anthropology should be present in public space. The fact is treated as so natural that the discourse on it takes place almost exclusively within the frameworks of the "how" and "where" to be present, as if the problem was merely "technical". However, bearing in mind that anthropologists have inscribed in their discipline to question the obvious ("natural"), including commonsense truths generated by their professional culture, it's important to answer the question why "public anthropology" should be "natural" component of the discipline. I'll try to show that reflection on the "how", in today's cultural and institutional conditions must be adjourned, mainly because the involvement in public debate was disastrously combined with an engaged, applied and activist anthropologies. Such a view on public anthropology does not generate or multiply anthropological knowledge nor it brings any authority to the discipline. Public anthropology should rather abandon the paradigm of the socially useful knowledge. Anthropologists definitely should not be judged by how they promote social change, they also should not concentrate on influencing the public opinion. They should rather be judged by the effectiveness in stabilizing (by translation) the social and cultural spaces. Anthropologists also should not follow the public debate to influence the public opinion; they should rather do their own thing: create conditions for efficient communication of our knowledge, and point out problems which are important from "anthropological point of view", and try to convince the public that these problems are also important for them.

Panel P073
Predicaments of public anthropology and fundamental questions for the future of the discipline (Commission on Theoretical Anthropology)