P19
Audible anthropology: anthropologists in government

Convenors:
Kathryn Tomlinson (BBC Media Action)
Andrew Garner (FCO)
Lise Waldek (Ministry of Defence )
Chair:
Lise Waldek, Anselma Gallinat
Location:
F
Start time:
11 December, 2008 at 8:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Anthropologists are sought by state institutions for their specific skills-set, including the understanding of social organisation, culture and change. In this panel government anthropologists will present the diverse ways in which they are engaging with knowledge ownership and appropriation.

Long abstract:

The relationship between knowledge and power is a central theme in much anthropological literature. As a consequence, when anthropologists move into the realm of application becoming more than just the owners of a repository of social knowledge, they must engage in challenging dialogues with both theoretical and practical implications. This is particularly the case when the seekers of such knowledge are bound within the power structures of a country's formal governance. Increasingly we find anthropologists in dialogue with, and directly employed by, the diverse institutions of the State. These anthropologists are not tasked to carry out ethnographic studies on the employing organisation, although this is often an unintended and colourful consequence. Rather, they are sought for their specific skills-base surrounding the understanding of social organisation, culture and change. In the words of Rappaport (1993), this raises 'deep theoretical as well as practical problems' for all those involved in such transactions of knowledge - anthropologist, government organisation and the subjects under scrutiny. However, these practical encounters also allow connection with new ideas and perceptions. As such engagements push the anthropologist deeper into the role of translator, how do we ensure that the voice of anthropology is intelligible to both specialist and non-specialist, and prevent a 'fight for ownership' in which all involved stand to lose? In this panel Government anthropologists will present the diverse ways in which they are engaging with knowledge ownership and appropriation.