ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment

(P33)

Facing outwards: anthropology beyond academia (a panel convened by the ASA's Apply Network)

Location Quincentenary Building, Tausend Room
Date and Start Time 20 June, 2014 at 14:00

Convenors

Rachael Gooberman-Hill (University of Bristol) email
Mary Adams (Kings College London) email
Mail All Convenors

Summary

This panel aims to develop a deeper understanding of and dialogue about the possibilities of anthropological working and co-working outside conventional academic anthropology. The panel is convened by the ASA's Network of Applied Anthropology: 'Apply'.

Long Abstract

Anthropologists have long-since engaged in various ways with work outside conventional academic anthropology departments. Whether working in commercial, not-for-profit or public service settings, anthropologists arguably have much to offer and much to gain from this type of engagement. Their position can be viewed as outward facing in two senses: those with training in academic anthropology turn to face the world beyond the academy, but may also face back in from those new contexts. Such contexts are likely to be inter-disciplinary and shaped by the various 'non-anthropological' values and forms of understanding of research and engagement. This panel seeks to explore the challenges and possibilities of facing outwards on multiple levels, as well as in terms of how anthropologists and forms of anthropological knowledge are shaped by these unconventional orientations. In more general terms, the panel aims to develop a deeper understanding and dialogue about the possibilities of anthropological working and co-working outside conventional academic anthropology.

Topics to be addressed in the panel might include: the ethics of research and engagement; methodological challenges; employability and the definition of 'work'; equality and representation; examples of practice outside the academy; and the conditions of anthropological knowledge. We would also welcome papers on other themes related to anthropology beyond the academy, and would encourage submissions from those with practical experience of this kind of engagement as well as papers that reflect on the implications of engaged or applied work in the widest sense.

Chair: Rachael Gooberman-Hill

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Suspending the 'academic-applied' divide: my encounter with Barbara

Author: Roxana Morosanu (Loughborough University)  email

Summary

This paper explores the ways in which a focus on ethnographic encounters as resources of anthropological knowledge could open up a discussion about the similarities, rather than the differences, between academic and applied research.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the ways in which a focus on ethnographic encounters as resources of anthropological knowledge could open up a discussion about the similarities, rather than the differences, between academic and applied research.

I will draw on my research as part of an interdisciplinary applied RCUK-funded research project focused on domestic energy consumption and aiming to design interventions that would help lower energy demand in the UK.

While proposing a particular set of epistemological concerns, addressed during the stages of research design and analysis, the interdisciplinary context of my ethnographic endeavour was momentarily suspended during some research encounters. I will discuss this suspension by focusing on a series of video extracts from a 'house video tour' (Pink 2004) that I took together with Barbara. The clips show moments in which Barbara and I discover, imagine, and understand each other by following serendipitous paths to knowledge that emerge from the encounter itself, as it is often the case in 'traditional' ethnographic fieldwork.

I will use Crapanzano's (1992; 2010) conceptualization of the meta-pragmatic ordering principle of 'the Third' and Moore's (2011) analytic lever of 'ethical imagination' to discuss what could be an important similarity between 'academic' and 'applied' ethnographic encounters. This is an acknowledgement of fact that people are able to spontaneously relate in ways that surpass existent social categories, such as 'researcher' and 'participant', and, in doing so, they have the capacity to change the contexts that facilitated their encounters in the first place.

Knowledge, evidence and anthropological thinking in Scottish autism support services: reflections on a programme of practitioner research

Author: Joseph Long (Scottish Autism)  email

Summary

In this paper I explore the ways in which the methodological and theoretical paradigms of anthropology can contribute to and gain from research in autism support services. The paper reflects upon experience coordinating a practitioner research programme in services in Scotland.

Long Abstract

In this paper I suggest ways in which the methodological and theoretical paradigms of anthropology can both contribute to and gain from research in autism services: in providing a methodology for understanding autism in its social context; in engaging definitions of knowledge useful in recognising and circulating knowledge about Autism; and as a field that can inform theoretical discussions about normative models of sociality.

Firstly, I outline the value of ethnographic methods for contextualised research on the lived experience of autism. In a field dominated by clinical models for research, I stress the importance of collaborative methods that take seriously the perspectives of support staff, families and service-users for improving service provision.

Secondly, I show the utility of anthropologically-informed understandings of situated knowledge and evidence for drawing upon the experiences of support practitioners and parents in evaluating support strategies. I illustrate the value of practitioner-researchers as ethnographers taking the lead in this process.

Finally, I reflect upon the challenges in researching a condition often described as featuring impairments in imagination, interaction and empathy. I note the implicit centrality of these qualities to ethnographic research and suggest that working in autism services requires creative means of engaging these qualities. This involves recognising forms of imagination and communication that throw implicitly normative models of sociality into relief. Consequently, I suggest some ways in which applied projects on autism might speak to wider theoretical concerns with imagination, intimacy and sociality within anthropology.

Decluttering: a professional ethnographic encounter

Author: Zemirah Moffat (Insightful Moves)  email

Summary

Marilyn Strathern (1988) argued for the anthropologist being like 'an elbow' within the ethnographic encounter, a joint that looks both ways. Visual anthropologist Jean Rouch (1974) advocated a 'shared anthropology', where the ethnographer humbles himself, asking his collaborators, what they think of their representation. Since completing my PhD in shared anthropology I have been working within and outwith of academia, and I now see myself as growing into an elbow that articulates both worlds to and for each other.

Long Abstract

My work outside of universities is as a professional declutterer. I go into people's homes and help them release their objects through a combination of listening, creativity and pragmatism. Drawing upon my ethnographic training I open my senses to the myriad personal, cultural and historical stories that weave their objects through their homes. Drawing upon my filmmaking training I help them ‘edit’ their homes of their objects, helping them keep what is most important to their senses of self. Sarah Pink's (2007), 'Walking with Video' has also been influential as I will oft record their objects and homes, helping them let go of the materiality yet keep hold of (and share) the stories that are so important. The difference between doing this ethnographic work outside of academia, rather than from within, is that my clients pay me. And this shifts the power dynamic in a good way, for they are in charge, they are in control, and this is very empowering.

The most effective way to get a sense of this is to listen to one of my client testimonial. Here Helen explains the decluttering process in her own words and what it means to her:

Helen's Testimonial http://vimeo.com/81738674

In this presentation I propose to speak a little of the theory that led me into my work, and then give the platform over to my clients in video form, for as Ruth Holliday (2000) argued, it is the visual that opens up meanings, where words pin them down. I shall end by asking questions about what it is to be an ethnographer working outside of academia, what challenges it poses and joys it gives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.