Roundtable - Executive Session Status Awarded
Sponsored by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Teaching
At the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in 2006, a roundtable, "Witness, Voice, Reinvention: The Uses of Public Anthropology," focused on two questions: What would anthropology look like if our efforts were to include public discussion to achieve a just and sustainable society? How can anthropology contribute to this dialogue around public concerns that reaches across disciplinary boundaries and beyond the academy? This roundtable explores the growth of “academic engagement” as a framework that supports the growing relationship between universities and the public and private sectors through community-based teaching, learning and research. This is increasingly identified as university-community engagement and seeks to satisfy a variety of goals from education for democracy, to civic engagement, service learning, participatory, action and translational research, among others. Anthropology entered into this discourse at the margins until the American Anthropological Association, under Roy Rappaport’s presidency in 1988-1989, encouraged anthropologists to pursue public and engaged research and practice. While this academic and anthropological engagement movement traces back to the beginning of American anthropology with Boas, Mead, Benedict, Bunzel and others fighting racism, xenophobia, and then participating in defense of the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s by Wolf, Diamond, Nader, Berreman, Hymes, and others. However, it was in the mid-1990s that “engagement” gained momentum with the establishment of organizations, academic associations and university commitments spurred on by government and the private sector’s dissatisfaction with the academy’s isolation and its seeming disinterest to benefit the economy and the country’s productivity, but also by academic educators who sought more effective pedagogies than “knowledge transfer” methods , including Freire, Schön, Argyris, Kolb. By the new century, a shift has also taken place in how millennial students learn best, moving didactic pedagogy into the realm of practice-oriented teaching, learning and research. Drawing on a variety of approaches that include critical ethnography, action research, applied anthropology, and community-based participatory research and service learning, the roundtable will examine specific practices that have helped move the discipline toward research designs that reflect a sense of collaboration and partnership with people; an active commitment to community-directed change; and an approach to education that transcends classroom walls and social barriers. The perspective we examine in this panel discussion views anthropology’s holistic, experiential, and participatory methods as implicitly embracing the idea of “sharing knowledge and sharing power” between researchers and community partners. Dell Hymes and his colleagues explained why it was necessary to “reinvent” anthropology during the Vietnam War era. In 2006, panelists discussed why this was necessary in the post-9/11 era. Anthropology will also need to engage in the present era characterized by new global realignments. This roundtable, celebrating Rappaport's call for greater engagement thirty years ago, explores the continuing growth of the American Anthropological Association’s public and engaged agenda as a framework that supports the growth of both the university and anthropology, itself, to reach across disciplinary boundaries and beyond the academy.