EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution
Anthropology as a vocation and occupation
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00
This panel is designed to bring together early career anthropologists in order to stimulate an exchange on career prospects and concerns of this professional group from an international perspective specific to European anthropology and to identify EASA's potential support role in this process.
This panel is designed to bring together early career anthropologists who seek to build their professional lives around the skills and knowledge they have developed in the course of their formal training in sociocultural anthropology. Our purpose is threefold. 1. On behalf of EASA, we seek to understand how our members who fall in the early career category view their current career prospects; 2. Drawing on current debates on the future of research and higher education under conditions of austerity, digitalization and casualization of academic labor, we seek to stimulate an exchange that would examine those international concerns from a perspective specific to European anthropology; 3. We hope to learn whether EASA itself has a role to play assisting early career anthropologists as they navigate both the available and the yet-to-be-created (or discovered) opportunities for anthropologists in Europe today.
Our definition of "early career" is expansive and it includes advanced PhD students, new PhDs and scholars with a few years of postdoctoral experience. We are also interested in hearing from anthropologists who completed Masters degrees and are pondering their next steps. For this panel we welcome contributions in the form of traditional 15-20 minute presentations, as well as shorter 5-10 minutes reflection pieces. Depending on interest and the submissions we receive, we will configure the sessions as roundtables or panels, with an emphasis on maximizing participation and discussion.
PLEASE NOTE: as this panel is intended to be a professionalization panel and not a forum for the presentation of academic work, participation in this panel does not count as a paper presentation. Consequently participants may also present in another panel or laboratory.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Anthropology and public debates
My contribution addresses the issue of anthropologists’ public presence. I ask to what extent is anthropologists’ growing presence in the mass media related to their decreasing chances of finding an academic position how "anthropological" is the view they offer on the public fora?
My short contribution aims at discussing the issue of (young) anthropologists' public presence - in the form of newspaper articles, TV and radio appearances, invited blogs, to name some. In recent years, a growing number of anthropologists has been invited to provide a commentary of ongoing events and social problems. On the one hand, such an interest in anthropology seems more than welcomed, but on the other hand it brings about many consequences which, in my view, are rarely reflected upon. I would like to pose three questions regarding the anthropologists' public presence. First: are anthropologists able to offer a more nuanced view on public issues or, quite the contrary, they are forced to simplify and reduce complexities, making their stories more "readable" and providing clear-cut opinions? Second: what is the interrelation between public appearances and anthropological practice? And third: to what extent is young anthropologists' growing presence in the media related to their decreasing chances of finding an academic position and continuing on scholarly research? I hope that these questions will lead to an interesting discussion and comparisons. Certainly, the dynamics of this phenomenon differs from country to country and so do the stands of anthropologists. While some, such as Thomas H. Eriksen, call for the anthropology's "public presence", others remain skeptical about the discipline's public engagement.
Between a rock and a hard place: being an anthropologist in the neoliberal transition
The proposed intervention is a short personal account of being caught in the middle of neoliberal transition that takes place in the higher education in Poland and of its incoherence with anthropological foundations.
The ongoing neoliberalisation of higher education poses some serious questions concerning the politically imposed demands on public universities. The proposed intervention is therefore a short personal account of being caught in the middle of neoliberal transition that takes place in the higher education in Poland. Drawing on my own educational experience as an undergraduate and graduate student (before neoliberal reforms), and then, a doctoral candidate and postdoctoral researcher, I will attempt to present the changes that gradually affected my academic career and anthropology itself. The statement therefore concerns such issues as: McDonaldization of social sciences and humanities; research funding schemes and their incoherence with the foundations of anthropological fieldwork; the concerns of quantity over quality in the context of imposed parametric system; and, last but not least, the problem with officially expected close dependency and collaboration between academic research and the free market.
Studying old age in anthropology: reflections on creating an interdisciplinary career path
As a recent anthropology Ph.D., my jobs thus far have largely been in interdisciplinary fields that share some of anthropology’s topical concerns, if not theoretical orientations. This paper offers reflections on forging an interdisciplinary career path while practicing a critical anthropology.
As a sociocultural and medical anthropologist who recently received my Ph.D., thus far my career prospects have been equally strong in interdisciplinary fields (e.g., bioethics, public policy, gerontology) as in anthropology itself. These fields share some of anthropology's topical concerns, if not its theoretical orientations. Interdisciplinary conversations have required me to frame my research questions and findings in language that is accessible to scholars with diverse intellectual backgrounds and urged me to think about the practical implications of my work. I welcome these opportunities as productive challenges that improve my work both empirically and theoretically and help me to see its relevance to broader intellectual and policy conversations. In these interdisciplinary contexts, however, I often struggle to maintain and translate anthropology's critical theoretical perspectives and the nuanced insights of ethnographic work.
In this paper, I will offer reflections on my experiences of creating a career path that crosses disciplinary lines, but maintains the distinctive critical and complex perspectives that characterize anthropological and ethnographic research. I will draw on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork on aging in educational and medical institutions in Wrocław and Poznań, Poland; job interviews with bioethicists and gerontologists; and research conversations with political scientists, historians, psychologists, and gerontologists. This analysis of ethnographic fieldwork and interdisciplinary academic experience works against the domaining tendency that remains common within academia, yet also takes seriously the epistemological challenges presented by translating anthropological insights to other contexts.
Occupational hazards of (un)timely knowledge
In my contribution to the forum, I would like to reflect on the various demands for knowledge that early career anthropologists may have to navigate as they practise anthropology as a vocation and an occupation.
In my contribution to the forum, I would like to reflect on the various demands for knowledge that early career anthropologists may have to navigate as they practice anthropology as a vocation and occupation. For example, these may include the call of the nation, a demand for relevance, a demand for innovation or for significance.
Academic careers and the politics of employment at Polish universities
In my contribution to the panel, I plan to reflect on systemic issues related to career opportunities for young anthropologists at Polish universities.
Based on the my own experiences as both an early career researcher and a vice-director of an anthropology department, I discuss systemic obstacles for the development of carrier opportunities for young scholars in Poland. While contemporary crisis in the academic job market is almost a universal phenomenon, I will focus on specific features of the Polish context, which include the impact of the new system of financing in higher education, an obligatory process of habilitation as well as customary, informal rules regulating the politics of employment that make finding academic employment for young scholars within the Polish academia difficult.
Career prospects of early career anthropologists in Austria and Denmark
I am not only a PhD student in Austria myself pursuing an academic career, but one who is studying fellow early career anthropologists in Austria and Denmark, the conditions of their academic training and work as well as their career perspectives.
This panel appeals to me for two reasons: On the one hand as a PhD student (of the University of Vienna) who is himself pursuing an academic career in times of increasing competition, casualization and internationalization within the academic field. On the other hand as a researcher who is studying the current conditions of the academic training and work of early career anthropologists (in a so-called knowledge economy) and their consequences for the career perspectives of early career anthropologists. After having finished a year of fieldwork at the University of Vienna I am currently doing fieldwork for seven months at the University of Copenhagen. I feel that I cannot only contribute my own views when it comes to current career prospects of early career anthropologists, but as well those of other PhDs and Postdocs from these two university contexts that differ very much: one providing training for early stage researchers in the context of an "open access to higher education institutions", while the other one is highly selective in choosing its PhDs.
Tragedy, farce and the comparative method
In this paper I want to explore anthropology’s role in countering repetitive and damaging narratives that involve ‘ethnicity’. Examining how these narratives play out across different field-sites can hopefully help counter new emergences elsewhere.
Based on my PhD research comparing majoritarian paranoia about population growth in India and Northern Ireland, I want to examine the persistence and re-emergence of narratives with highly damaging claims about race, religion and ethnicity. Despite proving groundless in the past, similar narratives re-emerge (sometimes in the same site) and continue to repel most quantitative refutations. I want to examine the role anthropology could play in teasing out the persistence of these narratives and the means by which they could be successfully challenged by offering comparisons across time and space.
In doing so anthropology could cement its place in historical comparison, engage constructively with quantitative methods (which have failed to quell the enthusiasm for doomsday demographic models) and renew a critical stake in the concept of 'ethnicity'.
The politics of career progression
I will discuss my work as a public ethnographer, and how my research is community based while connected to contemporary global concerns. My question is: can the existing politics of career progression help me to develop as an ethnographer or academic?
I am engaged in public ethnography, fully committed to it as a career- and I am passionate about it; however it remains unclear how useful the current politics of academic career progression will aid my future career prospects. I began my post graduate studies in 2009, a year after the death of both Lehman brothers and the Celtic Tiger. I have observed and experienced how academic freedom is increasingly more entangled in employment embargos, slashed budgets, a culture of fear and a desperate bid to introduce an audit culture. In some ways I believe being a 'young scholar' in an age of 'austerity and casualization of academic labour has made me approach my work quite differently from the outset. I am less afraid to make mistakes, yet at the same time, I have benefited from a high level of academic training. Increasing insecurity in employment across third level institutions is creating fear and if scholars are fearful of being unemployed, will this lead to more conventional thinking and teaching? Also, I have a social responsibility to serve the public good and not simply to service a broken economy. Perhaps limiting myself to the ideal of being an academic would not have given me the freedom to consider working in broader social fields. My reward from my current work is the knowledge that my research will informs a wide variety of public platforms and not just take up storage space in a windowless room.
The early anthropologist and the emancipation of anthropology
This paper seeks to reflect on the method, based on ethnographic practice. I seek, as unique student who completed her studies in an anthropology course at UFSC, to be able to provoke a reflection on the definition of what should be the final thesis in anthropology.
Anthropology as construction of knowledge about each other can not be reduced to academic field. Its epistemological development as knowledge production and especially as a science is directly dependent on their achievement in various uses, the largest number of agents, the most comprehensive collection of methods, the most varied set of interests and for the longest time possible.
The emancipation of anthropological practice occurs when the anthropologist is allowed to carry out their research independently of the normative standards and reactionary of academic conduct. Reflected not only in whom, when or where the search is performed, it is also urgent to problematize the standardization of how anthropological knowledge is constructed.
Anthropology with emphasis on the multi-value is able to understand and foster a mixed-use, allowing the simultaneous existence of emancipatory movements and developments in multiple lines of the same mind, which is collective and liberating.
Anthropology is not a science that seeks a definitive answer. It should be obvious to any anthropologist that anthropological knowledge is in itself infinite in size, unreachable in its fullness, endless in scope and in constant revision and reconstruction of shape and body. With this type of discourse, I hope to highlight the importance of work, which even if not innovative in practice, are in perspective and positioning.
How long, how far? 'University drifters' and 'entrepreneurial academics' during Europe's economic downturn.
This intervention aims at discussing the role of EASA in the context of the current crisis-stricken European job market. Funding opportunities increasingly respond to the ideal of ‘entrepreneurial academic’ – but do they offer an alternative to constant underemployment and continuous displacement?
As for many colleagues, my employment path clearly reflects the post-2008 economic downturn. Having obtained full PhD funding in the UK, upon my thesis submission I was promptly offered employment by a German research institution.
While I enjoyed the privilege of a sound working contract and of a strong welfare system in Germany, my Britain-based colleagues witnessed the slashing of half of the higher education budget in 2010. This almost erased my prospects to go back to the UK, even if I had wanted to. On the other hand, German academia offered little opportunity for long-term employment.
Academics are recognized to be one of the most mobile professional groups. Yet, even for single academics, being a market-led floater is not always a feasible or desirable prospect. In the context of the recent economic crisis, those who want to remain in Europe are readier to accept continuous displacement and lower working conditions despite the high intellectual and personal costs.
Researchers are encouraged to be 'entrepreneurial', design large-scale projects and apply for funding provided by national research agencies (ESRC, DAAD…) or the EU. Not only these application processes lack transparency, but also require the applicant to invest large amounts of unpaid labour without any guarantee to be eventually chosen. What could the EASA do in this context? Should it only provide support to those who attempt this route to employment? Or, as a professional organisation, should it attempt to influence national and EU funding policies? If so, how?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.