Accepted Paper:

Anthropology of activism or anthropology for activism? Academia, public engagement and anthropological work  


Begonya Enguix Grau (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to interrogate the concepts of "activism" and "public engagement" in relation to fieldwork and academia. We think that there are many different possibilities for an engaged anthropology and that it is difficult to find a unique and/or general formula of/for action and public engagement.

Paper long abstract:

The discussions on the role of anthropology in changing (challenging) the world and its potential for setting new topics in the sociopolitical agendas can be traced back at least to the sixties. However, nowadays, the different contexts where anthropologists work and the changing nature of their work make this discussion urgent. Anthropologists are, more than ever before, aware of the necessity for a public engagement of their discipline. However, in general, public engagement of the discipline is presented as separated from the academia.

Departing from my experience in conducting fieldwork in activist settings, this paper aims to discuss the limits and frontiers of anthropological research and of the role of the anthropologist in the field and in the academia. In my experience, the different contexts where we work, and the negotiated nature of the relationship between anthropologists and informants make it difficult to find a unique and/or general formula of/for action and public engagement. In consequence, I propose a discussion on the many possibilities for an engaged anthropology.

This discussion will be centered in the interrogation about what we consider to be "activism" and "public engagement", and the relationship between engaged anthropology and academia. In my experience, producing texts, lecturing and participating in public debates in the media are also considered as activism. In consequence, it is necessary to discuss the existing divide between academia and applied and/or engaged anthropology in order to consider these contexts as complementary, in coherence with the demands and the considerations of my particular context of research.

Panel Disc002
Engaged anthropology: Reality? Necessity? Utopia?