Flashback Friday #3: Public Anthropology, Applied Anthropology, and Ethically Engaged Ethnographic Writing from 2009

sfaa-podcasts-logo-2008Please note:  This is a podcast from a past meeting that is being re-posted as part of our new “Flashback Friday” program.  We hope you  will enjoy this and the many other podcasts from our library which can be found on the Short Cut To Podcasts page.  

Anthropological historians may variously trace applied anthropology to a fraught status in nineteenth century colonialism, to a more explicit, “politically correct” status, or to points in between. Since the 1990s, the neologism of “public anthropology” coined by Renato Rosaldo and Rob Borofsky has occupied an ambiguous space obliquely or alongside applied anthropology. While applied anthropology has long focused on action that may or may not include forms of ethnographic writing, public anthropology explicitly demands anthropological action through writing. This session will consider the intersection between applied anthropology and public anthropology that intentionally engaged forms of ethnographic writing can create. Bilinda.Straight@wmich.edu (TH-126)

CHAIR: STRAIGHT, Bilinda (W Mich U)


METZO, Katherine (UNC-Charlotte)

Collaboration and Co-Authorship

This paper explores how to move collaboration into the writing process. Within applied anthropology, team-based research and collaboration are increasingly the norm. Public anthropology has successfully brought about changes in outreach and engagement. While co-authorship is common in both areas, the writing process is often unequal. Moving towards a more collaborative approach in writing builds on existing relationships between anthropologists and consultants while making our research more relevant to local communities and within academic circles. The author uses examples from her research and collaborations in Russia’s Lake Baikal Region to consider the differences between collaboration and coauthorship. kmetzo@uncc.edu (TH-126)

LANGFORD, Jean M. (U Minn)

Dying Words: Khmer Stories and Bioethical Possibility.

Stories from marginalized communities are more than reiterations of cultural difference; they suggest unique perspectives for engaging with social problems. This paper explores Khmer stories of death for the insights they offer to contemporary bioethics. Physicians and Khmer laypersons or monks employ different kinds of language to address the dying and the dead. While it might appear that one is a technical language of matter, and the other a sacred language of spirit, each language presumes a particular relationship between matter and spirit. Khmer stories illuminate the Christian entailments of a secular bioethics, and evoke other possibilities for approaching death. langf001@umn.edu (TH-126)

GOUGH, Meagan (U Sask)

You Never Sit by The Same River Twice: Reflections on Recording the Life Histories of Two Elders from the Sto:lo First Nation in British Columbia.

This presentation illustrates aspects of my academic and personal journey to record and write two Sto:lo elders’ life histories. The goals of our life history project are to make a positive contribution to the Sto:lo community in culturally significant and practical ways, and to foster the general advancement of multidisciplinary theory and practice regarding how research involving Aboriginal Peoples is conducted. Implicitly, this opportunity for each Elder to “testify” to their experiences, challenges larger issues regarding how history has been told, and by whom. I would like to illustrate how trust and rapport, considered essential to doing ethnographic, oral and particularly life history work, developed in our project. (TH-126)

MCKENNA, Brian (U Mich-Dearborn)

Doing Anthropology as a Radical Journalist: Theorize Global, Write Local.

In The Last Intellectuals Russell Jacoby showed how the 20th century’s great muckrakers were followed by lost generations who entered universities and became socialized into academic culture, abandoning their civic voices. With Thomas Eriksen (Engaging Anthropology 2006) I argue for an engaged practice where “anthropologists step out of their academic cocoon to embrace the wider public” to help replace these lost critical voices. I discuss how I translate my ethnographic studies of Mid-Michigan into radical journalism for local (Lansing’s City Pulse) and national newspapers (CounterPunch). I explore techniques, contestations, and fault lines between scholarly, applied and journalistic writing. Anthropology can become radical journalism in form and practice in the way it analyzes local structures of feeling to illuminate taken-for-granted ideas for local communities. mckennab@umd.umich.edu (TH-126)

DISCUSSANTS: KRATZ, Corinne (Emory U) 

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Session took place in Santa Fe, NM at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in March 2009.

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