WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn72 )

Transformations of Fieldwork: Anthropology and Social Change

Organizers

    Marta Wójtowicz-Wcisło

    Poland

    University of Warsaw

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Monika Joanna Jarosz

    Poland

    Independent Researcher

    Online - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Human Rights

Keywords:

collaborative and engaged methodologies, reflexive anthropology, dialogical anthropology, action anthropology, social change

Abstract:

Since the beginnings of the discipline, anthropology has directly and indirectly become an agent of social change. From those like Bernardino de Sahagun who are considered its precursors to those like Edward Evans-Pritchard and Clifford Geertz who operated within an already formed discipline, the knowledge produced by anthropologists served as essential support for the imposition and maintenance of occidental/colonial political control and economic exploitation. These mechanisms were exposed when many communities were already identifying the figure of the anthropologist with, as Vine Deloria Jr. wrote, "ideological vulture" (1988). It became clear that what anthropologists refer to as "fieldwork'" produces changes in the communities studied, to the extent that in a "reflexive feedback loop" (Swancutt and Mazard 2018) anthropological terms are used by native thinkers to relate their ontologies in subsequent studies. Hence the need for a decolonization of the social sciences and anthropology in particular. Knowing that there are no neutral epistemologies (Santos and Meneses, 2010), anthropology is in a process of continuous exchange of theoretical-methodological contributions that has led to the creation of contextualized knowledge. Social scientists have questioned dichotomous categories such as subject/object, subjectivity/objectivity, theory/practice, center/periphery, nature/culture, mind/body that have limited the development of research. Similarly, work has been done to reinforce participatory and engaged methodologies: reflexive and dialogical anthropology, anthropology committed to the "life of the people" (Hale, 2011), collaborative engaged ethnographies (Álvarez, Dietz and Katzer 2022) and alternative discussion-action spaces, as a mechanism of articulation between anthropology and society. With this panel, we would like to create space for reflection on our methods of research and knowledge production and their impact on society. Is the anthropology (and other sciences) of today necessary in the eyes of the communities involved in the study? How do they understand the work of the anthropologist/scientist and what expectations do they associate with it? Which of the existing and developing research methods enable us to produce knowledge that is not destructive? Which ones lead to positive change from the perspective of the communities and individuals involved in the study? What methods do we use to decolonize anthropology (and science in general) as a political and ethical task? Do these methods present any contradictions? And finally, what are the ideals and goals of anthropology today? We invite scholars to submit their contributions in English or Spanish (the presenters that choose Spanish must provide detailed slides in English). There will be 15 minutes for the presentation and 5 minutes for the discussion.