Anthropology has emerged from the crisis of the post-colonial era. Our theoretical debates are lively; our methodology is creative; we focus on issues of serious human concern. Why does there seem to be a problem with the public understanding of what anthropology is all about? This debate is part of the activities of the World Council of Anthropological Associations.
In January 2006, the international community of anthropologists was confronted with a surprising piece of news: Frances principal funding body (CNRS) contemplated giving up on anthropology, re-attributing to it a subsidiary role within the field of contemporary history. Ultimately, confronted with international outcry, the decision was dropped. Many of us, however, remained preoccupied by the event, feeling that a misunderstanding on that scale should not be treated as an isolated event. Similarly, when covering large anthropological meetings, such as AAA meetings, journalists characteristically ignore the vast majority of the sessions, where anthropologists debate contemporary human problems, focusing exclusively on sessions in archaeology and evolutionary anthropology. Finally, we continue to find among other social scientists and historians the disturbing practice of using the word anthropology in its dictionary sense rather than by reference to our discipline and its already long history. Today, anthropology is emerging out of the crisis of self-doubt from which it ailed during the post-colonial era. Theoretically, our debates are lively and continue to spill over into other areas of scientific endeavour as a source of inspiration; methodologically, we remain in the forefront of the exploration of new methods of research in the social sciences; empirically, anthropologists are today, as they have always been, at the centre of most contemporary issues of serious human concern. How, then, can we understand this failure to communicate? This workshop promoted by the World Council of Anthropological Associations debates the issue of the public image of anthropology by considering different national and international scenarios.