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Can anthropology work for migrants? Anthropology (-ists) at work in charities and NGOs 
Beata Świtek (University of Copenhagen)
Start time:
8 June, 2012 at 11:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel looks into the production, dissemination and use of anthropological knowledge in voluntary migrant organisations. It probes the practicalities and morality of ideologically informed anthropological practice in addressing the immediate needs of the organisations and migrants alike.

Long Abstract

Migration, diversity and integration are high on the agenda of policy-makers and voluntary organisations alike. As national sympathies, economic and political rights and privileges mix in the debates surrounding migration, it remains a highly contested and politicised area. Organisations working with and on behalf of migrants through such engagement place themselves on a specific side of the ideological barricade.

Anthropology on the other hand, has been determined to remain as politically or ideologically neutral as possible. Yet anthropologists assume professional positions in politically non-neutral organisations working on behalf of migrants where the anthropology they 'do' is explicitly harnessed towards achieving politicised goals. How do, therefore, anthropologists reconcile their inculcated commitment to value-free thinking with the need to position their work in support of migrants' interests and in opposition to the world-views represented by other agents such as state institutions or the host society's values? What tactics help anthropologists negotiate the rigour of 'academic anthropology' based on prolonged ethnographic research and the need for tuning it to the requirements of a temporal immediacy of the migrants' lives? Is such 'humanitarian anthropology' possible? Finally, what are the risks related to the interpretation, dissemination and use of ethnographic knowledge in the working context of migrant-focused organisations, and what is the scope of the anthropological responsibility for the end results of the actions taken on the basis of the knowledge produced?

This panel welcomes contributions from anthropologists working 'on migration' within and without academia. Paper-based talks, visual presentations, demonstrations, and other formats are welcome.

Accepted papers: