EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Applied anthropology as a source of innovation (EASA Applied Anthropology Network)

Location S-420
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00


Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU) email
Rachael Gooberman-Hill (University of Bristol) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The panel provides examples of anthropology in practice outside the academia, reflecting on collaboration and contribution in various settings and with different disciplines. The debate is centred on current trends and possible futures for applied anthropology.

Long Abstract

Europe is witnessing a new expansion of applied anthropology, with anthropologists contributing widely outside the academia. Anthropologists work in a variety of areas, including, but not exclusively, business, design, health and medicine, work, education, media, tourism and policy. In all these applied fields anthropology has a capacity to foster innovation at multiple levels. Anthropologists may generate innovations within interdisciplinary research and development teams (in private and public sectors). Applied anthropology may also provide a source of innovation for anthropology as an academic discipline, through identification of new research fields, themes and methodologies, and opening debates around the ethics in research and engagement.

Presenters are invited to talk about:

1. examples of innovative use of anthropological skills and knowledge beyond academia;

2. development and use of new methodologies or methods 'borrowed' from other disciplines;

3. transfer of applied anthropological knowledge into research projects and study programmes, and the so called intertwining of academic and applied anthropology.

Presenters are also encouraged to address the possible futures of applied anthropology and its potential contribution to economic and social crisis. The panel will discuss how the current applied anthropology in Europe compares with applied anthropology elsewhere, and will try to establish the opportunities which are especially relevant and promising. Discussion will also explore whether and how professional links on a global scale would help anthropology to broaden its scope from a descriptive, hermeneutical and interpretative branch of humanities to an applied and normative science, and the desirability for such shift.

Chair: Rachael Gooberman-Hill

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


'Thick description' in applied contexts: using interpretive qualitative observations to inform quantitative indicators in food security research

Author: Michael Vimont (University of Akron)  email

Short Abstract

Explanation of theory and methods used in a Community-based Research and Service Learning project combining interpretivist thick description and quantitative analysis to outline food insecurity in a US school, with implications for future studies of European immigration detention centres.

Long Abstract

With the relatively recent and drastic restrictions imposed on legal access of immigrant populations to asylum throughout the European Union, conceptual and methodological approaches common in the United States such as structural violence and Community-based Research and Service-Learning (CBRSL) have a potentially great significance in documenting the suffering these restrictions inflict in the form of food insecurity. In particular, a thorough empirical analysis of conditions in European immigration detention centres since the 2011 Return Directive has been sorely lacking. A methodology capable of operating from a limited window of observation would be a useful tool in discerning the potential existence and measurement of food insecurity and other behavioural manifestations of structural violence in these centres. In 2009, I and four other undergraduate researchers under the supervision of Dr Carolyn Behrman of the University of Akron undertook a study of food security at a local inner-city elementary school. By using interpretative local 'thick' descriptions of food insecure behaviour (i.e. 'power eating') to inform quantitative indicators, we were able to detail the scope and pattern of food insecurity in children in the community from the beginning of the month to the end of the month. It is hoped this methodology will influence food security studies of detention centres in particular, immigrant groups in Europe in general, and methodology within applied anthropology as a whole.

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Fieldwork in corporate offices in Mumbai (India): methods, tools and challenges

Author: Frauke Moerike (TU Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is reflecting on 12 months of fieldwork at the offices of a multinational consulting company in Mumbai, India. It has the objective to give an example on how “classic” ethnographic fieldwork methods had to be adapted to fit to the corporate world and which tools proved useful in such a setting.

Long Abstract

This paper is a reflection on fieldwork carried out for a PhD project on 'misunderstandings in the work environment'. This multi-sited research took place for the duration of 12 months in Mumbai, India, at the offices of a multinational consulting company. The three offices were spread across the city, with approximately 800 employees of various hierarchy levels and designations.

The objective of this paper is to give an example on how "classic" ethnographic fieldwork methods had to be adapted to fit to the corporate world and which different tools proved useful in such a setting.

In an environment of highly specialized experts of commercial topics, participant observation had to cater for the actor's changing workload situations and multiple communication channels used throughout a workday, including virtual communication. Similarly, interviewing strategy was developed around the constant hunt for a share of the actor's time, a highly precious and protected resource at work, and to balance out potential notions of company politics.

I also will to discuss how small digital tools for data collection proved most useful such a setting of fast moving actors and limited space, as well as the relevance of online social portals and powerpoint for network analyses.

Looking for community potentials: applied anthropology in the context of long-term unemployment

Author: Pavla Burgos Tejrovská (Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague)  email

Short Abstract

The project Work habits deals with lack of employment opportunities and non-functional strategy for working with long term unemployed. The purpose of the project is to identify the potential of local communities to generate new job opportunities in the region through qualitative social research.

Long Abstract

The interdisciplinary project called Work habits is a study that aims to test the innovative instruments of integration of long-term unemployed people into the labor market. The project is based on the premise that if you want to effectively intervene in any given social environment, you need to have enough understanding of the local relationships. Intense relationships in real time are a prerequisite for the integration of the unemployed persons and are observable through the methods of qualitative social research.

The innovative component of the project is the establishment of cooperation among the representatives of the local community environment when creating or mediating a job opportunity. Cooperation with local social actors provides a good understanding of their needs and the needs of the whole community environment. Anthropological skills and knowledge will enable the researchers to describe the social structure of the population in the locality, understand the nature of social relationships between key individuals, between formal community groups (associations, institutions, businesses, political groups and others), and informal community groups (people with significant cooperation in friendship, neighborliness or activist collectives). The sum of these relationships creates "local imagined communities". Based on the definition of the structure of social relations, functions that the community practices fulfill in the local environment will be identified. The expected result will be a representative knowledge of the social environment in which a subsequent intervention is possible. This intervention leads to satisfying needs of the local community through creating new job opportunities for the long-term unemployed people.

Insights produced in talk-in-interaction: what discursive psychology may offer anthropology

Author: Karen Mogendorff  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how discursive psychology methodology (DP) may enrich anthropological insights and may help to account for and substantiate anthropological knowledge claims that are produced intersubjectively.

Long Abstract

Discursive psychology (DP) is a young methodology that aims to better understand what is going on in complex social environments by studying how informants discursively manage stakes, interests and dilemmas in face-to-face encounters with other informants or the researcher. So far, discursive psychology and anthropological methodology are rarely combined.

This paper explores what discursive psychology with its focus on what informants do and achieve with talk-in-interaction may contribute to anthropological inquiry. It focuses on how discursive psychology may deepen anthropology's understanding of processes such as the production and reproduction of social hierarchies, e.g. by drawing upon sociocultural inferences and the structural affordances of language in use. I also investigate how discursive psychology may be deployed to substantiate and account for anthropological knowledge claims rooted in inter-subjectivity, e.g. by deploying the participants' proof principle.

The paper is based on my experiences with a study I conducted in publicly contested plant (genomics) science in staple crops and that draws upon anthropology and discursive psychology. The focus of this study is on how Dutch plant experts discursively relate to human and non-human Others to account for how they deploy, shelve or disregard 'lay' and user perspectives in (publicly contested) plant technology development.

Recycling people: a study of a program to help reintegrate ex-offenders in Indianapolis, Indiana

Author: Susan Hyatt (Indiana University)  email

Short Abstract

Mass incarceration in the US is well documented. This paper describes a methodologically innovative project evaluating a program in Indiana that provides an alternative to re-incarceration for ex-offenders who have committed violations in the terms of their probation.

Long Abstract

Every year in Marion County, Indiana, up to 45.9% of individuals released from prison return within three years of their release. In many cases, individuals are returned to prison not because they have re-offended but because of what are called "Technical Rule Violations," or TRVs. TRVs are violations of the terms of probation or parole which can include such reasons as: failed or missed drug-testing drops; missing appointments with parole or probation officers; not completing mandated classes in such areas as anger management or parenting skills; or not paying child support. This paper evaluates a new program being implemented by the social enterprise RecycleForce, which aims to divert individuals who are convicted of TRVs from a return to prison to being alternatively sentenced to work at Recycleforce, where they will receive job training, paid employment, counseling and social services. As researchers, my students and I are examining the impact of what RecycleForce is calling "Work Court" by observing court hearings where ex-offenders are being brought up on TRV charges. We are then interviewing presiding judges and other professional personnel— including prosecutors, defense lawyers, probation and parole officers—about how they render the decision in these cases whether to return an offender to prison or redirect him (or occasionally her) to RecycleForce for a second chance at staying out of prison. Our goal is to assess whether how these decisions are made and whether access to these wrap-around services will decrease current high rates of recidivism.

Three innovations from clinical anthropology: fieldwork among young men coming of age as knowledge validation procedure

Author: Dirck van Bekkum (MOIRA CTT)  email

Short Abstract

Three decades of ethnographic fieldwork in guiding clients (young men) and in teaching professionals in Dutch adolescent care settings yielded three epistemological and applied innovations. A transitional model, tested in clinical and educational practices, is presented by three exemplary cases.

Long Abstract

Since three decades the author performed fieldwork in Dutch adolescent clinical psychiatry, in youth and juvenile care and in teaching professionals in these areas. From this research a number of anthropological rooted concepts and models have been 'co-developed' in collaboration with young men (clients) and professionals (students). During this long term collaboration between academic and applied anthropology three innovations emerged. 1) A century of ethnographies, in particular on male initiation rituals, offers a rich source for applying anthropology in youth and juvenile care policies and care practices, 2) testing concepts in clinical and professional educational settings turned out to be a scientific validating procedure and, 3) from this insight follows that academic anthropology could be trapped in 'misplaced concreteness' and 'scholastic' fallacies. These innovations are illustrated by exemplary young men's cases.

One important product from the academic and applied collaboration is the innovative 'transitional model'. It gained some recognition within the Dutch (mental) health care settings (Van Bekkum 1992; De Jong & Colijn 2010; Van Bekkum et. al. 2010). The transitional model is based upon Van Gennep's three stage 'rite of passage' model (1908/1972), Victor Turner's ritual-processual approach (1969) and Patrick Meurs 'transitional space' model (1998). During coming of age young men become both mature members of their families-communities and 'full-fledged' citizens. Young men with and without migration background are 'layered transitional vulnerable' when coming of age coincides with a) migration effects, b) with destructive excluding effects and c) strong incongruencies between family-community and nation-state values.

Green, how I want you to drive green: co-creation of an ecodriving application

Author: Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU)  email

Short Abstract

This paper presents development of a mobile application that helps reducing CO2 emissions via the adoption of so-called ecodriving. R&D team, which includes anthropologists, takes into account socio-cultural factors, the understanding of which is important for designing a user-friendly application.

Long Abstract

How do we motivate people to change their driving habits, such as rapid acceleration, sudden braking, idling and speeding, which increase CO2 emissions? In this paper it is argued that simple and user-friendly mobile solutions provide a promising answer to these questions and promote the so-called ecodriving. The advantages of such a "green" driving style go beyond ecological initiatives - they include reducing driving costs and producing safety benefits.

This paper presents a co-creation of such a mobile application, developed in an interdisciplinary team of the telematics solution provider, headquartered in Slovenia. Since its R&D team, which includes anthropologists, believes a single approach to altering driving practices cannot be used in all socio-cultural settings, the application is cross-culturally oriented. Important part of its development is ethnographic research, combined with quantitative measurements of driving styles. By such "quanlitative" approach it is established which elements of the application should be adapted to specific driving practices, traffic infrastructure, number of vehicles on roads and other socio-cultural and technological factors.

Such R&D process is significant for several reasons: 1. Its main relevance is in its social impact, since the developed application contributes to the transition into a low-carbon society. 2. It brings several theoretical outputs about driving habits to the academic community and adds new findings to the emerging subfield of anthropology of traffic. 3. It establishes new synergies between anthropology, engineering and industry. 4. It broadens the spectrum of activities in R&D departments and adds "people-centric" design to the list of relevant approaches for development of new technologies.

The end is where we start from

Author: Jude Robinson (University of Glasgow)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on new technologies to communicate the findings from applied research with families participating in a community music project in England, I consider the politics and challenges of representing a community to the participants, to others in their community and to national and international audiences.

Long Abstract

There has been increasing pressure for anthropologists to extend the reach of their research and so communicate their ideas and thinking to new publics and to actively engage in national and international debates relating to their field. Anthropologists participating in applied research are concerned with exploring the transformative potential of the research, and so reflexively consider how the development of (new) methods and altered perspectives for both the researcher and the researched can be captured and communicated. However successive examples of anthropologists communicating to wider audiences indicate that this is not an unproblematic practice, and that the politics of representation involve the anthropologist in considerations of the sometimes conflicting dimensions of the moral, ethical, political, social, personal and academic.

This paper is concerned with these end stages of research - my thinking behind the challenge of communicating the learning from a music project for children to their wider local community and also to national and international audiences. The project is based at a primary school in Liverpool, England, in partnership with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, inspired by the El Sistema initiative in Venezuela. To explore how children's participation relates to their homelife I worked with 10 families over a period of 6 months using a combination of interviews and observation, and made photographs of people and objects and audio-recordings voices and music. Here I consider issues of authenticity and othering when using a visual and audio display to communicate the findings firstly to their community and then to other audiences.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.