Trancending identities and othernesses: a challenge for public anthropology
Vassiliki Lalioti (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Paper short abstract:
In the context of globalisation, anthropology could improve its public profile by transcending the dipole ‘contextualisation or human universals’, developing an active dialogue with non-governmental organisations that promote issues such as human rights and religious and racial equality.
Paper long abstract:
Anthropology has emerged as a translator of ways of life beyond the borders of its readers' experiences, challenging ethnocentrism, media stereotypes, denouncing discrimination and prejudice. One of its main purposes has been to call into question the established, offering distinct perspectives on the larger social dilemmas and fields of national and transnational power. All these have created the image of a discipline that cannot be carried out solely 'behind closed doors'. For achieving its purposes anthropology, at least in its recent history, has focused almost exclusively on the celebration of human diversity alone, through studies of the politics of identity and difference, of cultural difference within the context of history of power relations. In an increasingly globalised world, however, anthropological knowledge will be irrelevant as long as it does not provoke universal despair, if it does not offer feelings of security and solutions to social problems, if it does not help people understand their place in the world (natural and cultural) as a whole. Even within the context of recent developments in other disciplines (e.g. biological sciences - cloning, organ transplantation, etc.) nature is becoming artificial and culture is becoming natural while both categories are called into question. Anthropology could thus create a higher public profile by transcending the dipole 'contextualization or human universals' and help individuals place themselves more effectively in a connected and able to communicate world.
A WCAA debate: the public image of anthropology