I: Is anybody speaking? Anthropology and the public
Organisator*innen: Sahana Udupa, Thomas Reinhardt
Over the last few decades, the discipline of anthropology has seen significant challenges and opportunities in vital aspects of its craft, especially around what or who constitutes ethnographic authority and the related calls for collaborative and participatory research. Alongside these disciplinary churnings, anthropology is also facing the challenge of living up to its responsibilities towards a broader public. While ethnographic expertise is selectively sought for public policy and media coverage around issues of topical significance, such engagements are yet to become a regular feature of the discipline’s core principles of practice. If skepticism about the need to boil down complex content to catchy thesis for mediated public debates holds back some scholars from regular media commentaries, others have been more active on media, especially social media networks, to communicate about their research topics and contribute to public discourses. Such engagements display new enthusiasm to regard public and policy interventions as central to the scholarly commitments of the disciplinary community. However, anthropologists with critical research agendas who are active on media face the new reality of possible attacks by regressive actors online, as incidents of online trolling, offline intimidation and confrontational blaming and shaming appear to become more common. How should critical scholars navigate and confront a hostile terrain of academic trolling that often feeds the political project of deligitimizing expert knowledge? Under these shifting and volatile
conditions, how can anthropological expertise be transferred from its disciplinary contexts to the broader public domain, and by what means? How, finally, can anthropologists gear up to the challenge of dispelling stereotypes both about their own discipline and the lived worlds they claim to navigate and learn with? What kind of introspection and self-critique is needed to develop engaged anthropology and articulate its public responsibility? How do we meet the dual obligation to serve academic and public discourse with their seemingly contradictory demands? The plenary session will take up these questions and explore the contours of an engaged anthropology that reaches out to the wider world while remaining attentive to its own pitfalls, prejudices, and emerging tensions in the digital world.
Peter Hervik (Free University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Daniel Miller (University College London, UK)
Judith Albrecht (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
II: Contested knowledge: Museological perspectives
Organisator*innen: Philipp Schorch und Diana Gabler
Museums have been under intense scrutiny for decades by a variety of actors: Indigenous activists, politicians, journalists, scholars, among others. For example, critics have dissected museum institutions to shed light on what knowledge is produced how and by whom. In doing so, they have often contested museums’ modes of knowledge generation and dissemination as well as the legitimacy of their knowledge claims. The interconnectedness of these processes with historical developments, societal conditions, and power relations have been examined from various perspectives. In Germany, a current example is the establishment of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, which has brought the country’s long neglected colonial histories back to the forefront of political, journalistic, and academic debates, and has exposed the academic discipline of ethnology, or social and cultural anthropology, to an unseen level of public awareness. As a consequence, particularly ethnographic museums are facing much more scrutiny than other museum types and knowledge-producing institutions with similar legacies, such as universities and libraries. Given the increasing interest of activists, scholars and practitioners in historical collections and their contemporary and future relevance, as well as recent academic developments such as the material and ontological turns, it seems timely to ask what knowledge claims can and should be made based on museum things, if (re)approached as living entities, material archival records, creative expressions, sources, witnesses, and interlocutors, among other manifestations. This plenary engages with the challenge of gearing (post)colonial critique towards decolonial knowledge practices. It explores what museological reimaginations and reinventions from around the world, enacted through e.g. Indigenous and interdisciplinary museologies, can tell us about how the contestation of knowledge can help to bring about more collaborative and participatory knowledge practices.
Joshua Bell (National Museum of Natural History, Washington, USA)
Jacek Kołtan (European Solidarity Centre, Poland)
Flower Manase (National Museum of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam)
III: Contesting/contested knowledge in the field
Organisatoren: Magnus Treiber und Henry Kammler
Bygone are the days when anthropologists from todays’ global North gathered data in the world’s margins, leaving the field and their local collaborators behind just to move on, establish academic careers and become the one authoritative voice on how to understand the examined population. Ethnographic fieldwork and knowledge have faced fundamental critique since then, most prominently during the ‘Writing Culture’ debate and from emerging Postcolonial Studies – and certainly, ethnographic research and method have developed towards collaboration, multivocal representation and interpretation. Still, fundamental tensions around the legitimacy of ‘being there’ and ‘writing about it’ remain unresolved, leading Tim Ingold to comment: “Anthropology’s obsession with ethnography, more than anything else, is curtailing its public voice” (2014). Furthermore, the burden of the colonial era persists. While global inequalities prevail, anthropologists have become just one voice among many and have to argue for their findings and interpretations to a wider public as well as to members of the communities where fieldwork took place. The age of globalization and electronic communication have transformed access to information, mutual exchange and entanglements in unforeseeable ways. New venues for collaborative research and transparent research processes have thus become available. At the same time, classical questions of ethnographic fieldwork once more come to the fore: Who is representing whom, in what way and why? So, anthropology-fed media flows highlight unsolved questions around the usability of images, representations of objects and rituals, sounds, texts and even words. How then to deal with normative expectations of anthropological advocacy in a research setting? What about expectations to articulate claims of authenticity and to delegitimise similar claims by other local groups or factions in their field? While anthropologists —native and foreign— usually welcome liberal multiculturalism and legal recognition of collective (indigenous and other) cultural rights and autonomies, they are frequently at odds with other actors’ criticism of patriarchal cultural structures and internal exploitation. While co-authored works may become more and more important in future, contentions will remain as multivocality iterates down to the smallest social unit: there is not one “native’s point of view”. Can anthropologists make themselves effectively heard when the results of their rich ethnographies are way too differentiated for funding agencies, policy makers, media and not the least their research partners who expect ‘deliverables’: concise knowledge pieces apt for a Twitter feed? How to do fieldwork in political tense situations, when anthropologists have to well weigh their words – risking to be called colonialists, terrorists or paid foreign agents? How can ethnographic insights into evolving socialities inform an equally ongoing debate on situational research and its ethics? Anthropologists may share political concerns and even take a deliberate stand in their respective fields and its political struggles, but they have to be committed to ongoing academic debates after all.
Kiya Gezahegne Wotere (Addis Ababa University, Ethopia)
Barbra A. Meek (University of Michigan, USA)
IV: Images on the Move. Dynamics of knowledge generation in visual worlds
Organisator*innen: Frank Heidemann und Kristin Kastner
Despite multiple and often hidden forms of manipulation images constitute essential elements in knowledge production. They appear as cornerstones in academic research, dissemination of news, realpolitik, everyday consumption or social practices such as dating or remembering. Images show an enormous potential in
mobility, which has steadily increased in speed since the invention of photography, film, television and the internet. Mobile images follow ramiform tracks, they halt, rest, and proceed. At their crossroads, new visual words emerge in archives, albums, mobiles phones and various media. Each of these visual worlds emerges in co-existence and as co-production with specific groups of viewers and users and has its own intrinsic modes and rules of interpretation, often as embodied and partly-conscious practice.
In anthropological research, the ontological status of technologically produced pictures has long been contested. From the colonial introduction of photography for administrative purposes to its postcolonial appropriation and reinterpretation and their central role in migrant worlds, (modified) images continue to serve for both, documentation and imagination. The impact of images in an imaginary socio-cultural complex world with dislocated cultures and multiple mobilities shows many faces: Refugees carry partly damaged photographs in their minimal luggage, while other images are send – fully insured and professionally framed – around the world for art exhibitions. Hence, there is a need for multiple approaches to investigate in the dynamics of traveling images.
In this plenary session, we focus on the social life, the transformed meanings and the multiple uses of images on the move, how they emerge, change, circulate and the ways they are interpreted. We follow their trajectories and observe their production of meaning and knowledge. Images on the move are the other – and often neglected – part of worldwide mobility and its contested knowledge.
Jennifer Bajorek (Hampshire College, Massachusetts, USA)
Naluwembe Binaisa (Independant Researcher, UK)
Valerie Hänsch (LMU Munich)