Ethnographic boost in the RAI

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Following my summer internship at the RAI as part of my Univeristy placement, I wanted to write a brief reflection and share how my experience in anthropology has made an impression on me.  I thought that I would need to spend time reminding myself of the theories, methodologies and  disciplinary principles from key anthropological texts. However, I quickly realised that the thread that knits me with anthropology goes far beyond books and experiences like working with the RAI reminded me right away why I chose this anthropologic path.

At the anthropological discipline’s core is the practice of fieldwork. There is nothing like interacting with strangers to realise the strangeness of oneself. Spending time with this ‘otherness’ at the RAI enabled me to find out for myself how much we can expand our personal view of the world. The best way I can explain what I learned is likening it to an ethnographic boost, triggered when learning to merge with the context around. During my internship, I faced challenges, learned a new ‘language’, interacted with a new group of people, and dived into their dynamics.  Due to the pandemic my internship was held online, but I still got to be part of the RAI’s community for a short while. I managed to see how ethnographic skills are useful within the functioning of an organisation such as the RAI. I realised the importance of being a good listener, an active observer-participant, a curious learner and a creative crafter. This is how the team at the RAI work and how Joanna Yates (their fundraising officer) guided me along the way.

So, coming back to the initial question, I chose and connect with anthropology because the impression it has made on me transcends its disciplinary scope. Rather than being a suit one wears when entering the office and takes off when leaving, the anthropological practice is a way to live, be with others, and perceive life. Collaborating with the RAI’s staff has got me closer to the multiple experiences of being an anthropologist. With sincere gratitude to the RAI for reminding me that an anthropologist is a high-quality human being, I say goodbye for now and leave the door open for our next ethnographic boost.

Mónica Jaramillo Sanjuán
Intern at the Royal Anthropological Institute summer 2021