Public anthropologists believe anthropology can play an important role in the public debate only while serving the "public interests" as an applied science. Are they right? Should we follow "public interests"? Should we fit into public media formats with our message?
Public anthropology has been inseparably connected with applied anthropology by its proponents, because they believed that the question, whether anthropology can play an important role in the public debate, depends on whether or not it can be applied or serve the public interests. But we can ask if it's right identification, and what are the practical and theoretical consequences for anthropology of such a binding. Serving the public interests might mean many things, not necessary very noble, as the definition of those interests is a part of power relations. Thus do we really have to follow the "public interests"? The part of the game is media. What about formatting our message according to public media that mediate anthropological knowledge? Are there any limits in the process: should we be worried by the danger of tabloidization of anthropology? Should we than reconsider what is the public space - what about limiting it to university and lecture halls? Applied sciences are promoted by our institutional surrounding - should we follow their track, should we use practical results as a criterion to judge the quality of work? According to those criteria for the largest part anthropological knowledge is of little value - should we thus rebuild our discipline or rather try to influence institutions? The competition among social sciences in the struggle for being present in public space can't also be overlooked - are we the same effective at translating our problems into the language of the public debate?