Anthropology in, and about, the world: issues of audiences, modes of communication, contexts, and engagements

David Trigger (University of Queensland)
David Martin (Anthropos Consulting)
Claus Moser
Start time:
10 June, 2012 at 9:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

If anthropology increasingly has multiple audiences, is the distinction between pure research ('about the world') and applied work ('in the world') better understood as a continuum of professional endeavour established through such factors as diverse languages, media and contexts of communication?

Long abstract:

In asking the question "Is anybody out there?" of audiences for anthropological writing, David Sutton (1991) raised the issue of the nexus between the language and purposes of anthropological texts and their intended audiences. Sutton argued that … "taking audience into consideration is part of a process by which anthropologists are developing their theories, not just communicating them. Indeed, we may benefit by cultivating a more direct interaction between theory, rhetoric and audience. (1991:100)" Grant McCall (2000: 75) has similarly suggested that the academic audience is just one of several that we might address. While his focus was largely on the responses of increasingly literate 'natives' to anthropological writings, he argued (p.83) that … rather than fear or be suspicious of our multiple audiences … we should embrace them and value their reactions to our work. This panel seeks contributions (written papers or other forms) which address the issue as to whether anthropology has (or should have) multiple audiences, and if so how this might impact on the often hierarchical distinction drawn between pure research ('about the world') as practiced in the academy, and applied work typically practiced outside it ('in the world'). Does anthropological engagement with diverse audiences and for diverse purposes necessitate the adoption of multiple communication strategies in terms of such factors as the languages and media adopted and the contexts in which they are communicated? If so, are the 'pure' and 'applied' endeavours better understood as mutually entailed and lying on a continuum of anthropological practice?