EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Applied anthropology: the old and the new

Location Wills G32
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton) email
Jeanne Simonelli (Wake Forest University) email
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Short Abstract

Through histories and case studies, this panel will consider the trajectory and extension of applied anthropology from its colonial European roots in social anthropology to its status as the modern American fifth-field.

Long Abstract

In spite of the differing structure of Anthropology in Europe and the US, both began with practical research, as part of the colonial endeavour. In the context of applied anthropology, why then did anthropology disappear into the academy in the mid 20th century? And why and how did the discipline once again branch out of its university cloisters? In part, the general maturing of the discipline has seen the move of researchers from rural to urban, from exotic to mundane, from far away to close to home, and from theoretical to practical, if such distinctions can be maintained. And in these shifts, there have arisen stigmas and biases concerning the nature of the real anthropologists and real anthropology: applied anthropology and applied anthropologists – sometimes considered no-longer anthropologists – have suffered from this in their own particular fashion. Applied anthropologists suffer the Janus-faced task of accounting for their status, actions and knowledge accumulation to their informants as well as their fellows. With this history and these experiences and struggles in mind, this panel seeks to explore the relationship between social anthropology and applied anthropology. Submissions are thus welcome in the following areas: history and development of applied anthropology worldwide; case studies in applied anthropology; the relationship between applied anthropology/anthropologists and academic anthropology/anthropologists (personal narratives are welcome); the publication and assessment of applied anthropology; the development of applied anthropology outlets (such as Anthropology in Action, Practising Anthropology); the relationship between applied anthropology and humanistic anthropology; the relationship between theory and method through applied anthropology (from PRA to activity-based ethnography).


Applied anthropology and interdisciplinary action research: the case of the PETREA programme on agroforestry

Author: Quentin Gausset (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Long Abstract

PETREA (People, Trees and Agriculture in Africa) was an interdisciplinary action research programme funded by the Danish Cooperation (DANIDA) and aiming at improve local access to trees and tree products in Burkina Faso and Tanzania. The project was divided in two phases, the first one aiming at identifying problems relating to the use of trees, and the second one aiming at identifying realistic solutions. The present paper will discuss the difficulties met when confronting anthropological methods, theories and ethics with colleagues belonging to different disciplines ranging from biology to forestry, animal science, geography and political science. Accommodation in situ instead of in 4-stars hotels, collaboration with local colleagues on an equal footing, open-ended and flexible research projects rather than rigid synopsis designed in Europe, qualitative and long-lasting participant observation rather than quick and dirty questionnaires or PRA, focusing on the reality in the field rather than on reality on paper, or on existing power relations rather than on an ideal and immagined legal world, questioning conventional wisdom (on desertification narratives, on participatory forest management, on devolution, etc.), building on local ideas of social justice rather than on values imported from Europe, accountability of research results towards farmers rather than employers, were some of the aspects of a constant struggle to apply anthropology critically and try to avoid reproducing conventional and cynical ways of doing research and development.

Missionaries, Mandarins and Microsoft: anthropology beyond the academy

Author: David Mills (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-author: Anne Jepson

In this article we explore the changing profile of applied social research in the UK, using the case of social anthropology. With the dramatic growth in PhD production within the social sciences, more anthropologists are working outside their 'home' disciplines and in non-university settings, and the mixture of qualitative research methods adopted in these multidisciplinary situations are changing the public profile of the discipline.

Juxtaposing the history of applied anthropology in the UK during the 1980s with our recent research into the training and 'careers' of anthropology PhDs now working outside the discipline, we argue that these changes mark a whole new stage in the debate about the application of social anthropology. They have profound implications for training social anthropologists, for communicating anthropological ideas, and for understandings of disciplinary autonomy.

Piggy in the middle muck: an anthropologist in the midst of marvellous (yet modest) mayhem

Author: Rosellen Roche (University of Southampton)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines the relatively new trend of including young people in the making of state funded measures and the on-going political processes in Northern Ireland. Drawing from a recent and successful attempt to include some of the most disadvantaged Catholic and Protestant young people in a youth-led survey project over three years in Derry/Londonderry as a case study, the author and previous Head of this project discusses the positives of gaining insight from young people in work such as this.

After describing the context in which these young people live, the paper explores the processes by which young people became involved in the project and how their input changed the outcomes of such measures substantially. The paper then moves to describe the 'middle' circumstance of the anthropologist both inside the project (negotiating the wishes of young people and the wishes of statisticians), and outside the project, describing initiatives following its aftermath (negotiating the wishes of policy makers with the reality of what the applied work revealed). Sometimes feeling 'neither fish nor fowl', the anthropologist on the case discusses the personal experience of navigating a constant middle and muddy ground, and how this mucky position provides a fascinating and valuable vantage point.