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Teaching Anthropology Annual Conference 2017

Oxford Brookes University, Harcourt Hill Campus
10am-4pm, 7 December, 2017

In collaboration with the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)

Attendance is free but spaces are limited. Please click here to register.

Conference Programme


9.30-10.00     Coffee and registration (FG11)
10.00-10.15     Welcome (Patrick Alexander)
10.15-10.40     Thoughts on the Teaching of the History of Anthropology (David Shankland, Director, RAI)

10.45-12.00   Session 1: Presentations (FG07)
10.45-.11.05    “Choose-Your-Own-Ethnography”: making teaching strange and China familiar through educational videogames (Andrea E. Pia, LSE)
                      Keywords: digital ethnography, educational videogames, ludic learning.
11.05-11.25     Comfort and Discomfort: A Brechtian Intervention in Anthropology Teaching (Thomas Chambers, Oxford Brookes University)
                      Keywords: Theatre, critical pedagogy, anthropology
11.25-11.45     Innovative Resources for Teaching Using Ethnographic Film (Emma Ford, RAI)


12.00-1.00    Lunch and demos (FG11)

1.00-2.30     Session 2: Workshops (FG07)
1.00-1.30       Through the Looking Glass: Returning to the Anthropologist’s Body (Dr. Eline Kieft, Coventry University, Centre for Dance Research; Dr. Ben Spatz, Univeristy of Huddersfield, School of Music, Humanities and Media)
                     Keywords: Body as research instrument; somatics toolkit; sensory anthropology
1.30-2.00       Ethnography and indigenous knowledge systems (Kevin Purday, IB teacher of anthropology)
                     Keywords: indigenous knowledge; ontological positions
2.00-2.30       Teaching ethnographic portraiture, teaching double vision (David Mills, University of Oxford)
                     Keywords: Portraiture, ethnography, method.

2.30-3.00     Coffee, discussion and demos (FG11) (FG07 available for workshop extension activites)
                    (Emma Ford, RAI: Innovative Resources for Teaching Using Ethnographic Film)

3.00-4.00    Session 3 (Panel 1) (FG07)
3.00-3.20     Teaching with and through ethnography: Translating ethnographic ideals into classroom practice (Angela Rivière, International Baccalaureate)
                   Key words: Diploma Programme, engaging with anthropology, engaging with ethnography
3.20-3.40     Making the Kula Ring accessible at an elite B-school in South Asia: auto-ethnography of a pedagogical experiment (Muntasir Sattar, teacher/independent researcher)
                   Keywords: Pakistan, ethnography, b-school
3.40-4.00     The social science of social silence: Co-opting the “awkward moment” in a Finnish anthropology classroom (Roger Norum and Taina Cooke, University of Oxford and University of Oulu)
                   Keywords: silence, power, language

3.00-4.00    Session 3 (Panel 2) (FG11)
3.00-3.20     Teaching and learning ethnography in Southeastern Europe: Making sense of cultural difference in familiar contexts (Dr. Ioannis Manos, Assistant Professor, Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece)
3.20-3.40     Anthropology as a Vocation (Dr Elizabeth Cory-Pearce, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations)
                   Keywords: Tavistock; anthropology; consultancy
3.40-4.00     Relating Ethnography: Stories of transformation through respectful research (Evie Plaice, Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick)

4.05-4.20    Plenary discussion and close (Patrick Alexander; Ioannis Manos) (FG07)
4.20-5.00    Informal discussion and networking (Westminster Square Bar)

Note: The conference will be followed by a separate event involving a lecture from Prof. Pia Christensen, University of Leeds, on the anthropology of childhood. This will take place in the Glasgow Room from 5-630pm and all are welcome to attend. 


Thoughts on the teaching of the history of anthropology
David Shankland, Director, RAI
Anthropologists are, in general terms, aware of their past. It forms, indeed, a frequent subject of discussion. However, in university departments, it is usual that serious explorations of the discipline’s history wait until a person has retired, and it is extremely unusual that the historical development of the discipline forms a core part of a curriculum in anthropology. There are, of course, exceptions to the assertions made above, but I think that they are broadly speaking valid. In this presentation, I suggest that this has serious consequences for the way anthropology is taught and experienced by our students, particularly in their understanding of when and how the sub-disciplines of anthropology have come to separate, how social anthropology was founded, and the intellectual substance of the different debates that have taken place of the discipline’s history.

The social science of social silence: Co-opting the “awkward moment” in a Finnish anthropology classroom
Roger Norum and Taina Cooke, University of Oxford and University of Oulu
Keywords: silence, power, language
Cultural awareness plays an important role in the international classroom. Paying attention to or having knowledge of subtle cultural cues is critical to effective communication with students. No less so than when teaching anthropology, a discipline whose core tenets involve sensitivity to, respect for and – ideally – understanding of difference between and across cultures and societies. But how should anthropology teachers cope with the cultural phenomenon of silence in the classroom? In the Finnish context, individuals are known for being prototypically taciturn, and silence is regarded as a part of communication, linked in part to intimacy between nature and humans (Berry 2013). While the image of the laconic Finn is a commonly lampooned stereotype, pervasive silence is indeed ubiquitous in Finnish society, particularly in educational settings. But silence, rather than just the absence of speech, can itself have meaning, and there may be multiple reasons behind a given silence (Samarin 1965). As Foucault has put it, “There is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say … There is not one but many silences” (Foucault 1976: 27). This paper analyses the multiple roles of silence in the context of the Finnish anthropology classroom. It addresses the ways in which silence underlies the classroom’s unspoken discourses of power, dominance and legitimacy (Bourdieu 1991). We ask whether silence, seen as a heuristic device, can be instrumentalised as a productive mode of eliciting anthropological analysis and critique.

Berry. Michael. 2013. ‘Finnish silence can be golden, says American expert’, Yle Uutiset. 16 January. Available at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finnish_silence_can_be_golden_says_american_expert/6454371 
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and symbolic power. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Foucault, Michel, 1976. The History of Sexuality Vol 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage.

Anthropology as a Vocation
Dr Elizabeth Cory-Pearce, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
Keywords: Tavistock; anthropology; consultancy
“Using social scientists [in business] is a growth industry,” said Roger Martin, former dean of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, to Gillian Tett. “I tell kids who want to study business to do courses in anthropology first.” Financial Times, April 21, 2017. Business interest in anthropology is keener than ever yet this comes at a time of uncertainty and precarity within the academy. It was in this context that I made my own recent transition, departing academia after a post-doctoral fellowship to join the Tavistock Institute in 2015. Initially daunted by the transition, the opportunity to delve into the Tavistock’s archive at Wellcome Library provided me with some welcome identifications. One early member of the Tavistock, Eric Miller, had made the same transition 60 years earlier. With his post-doctoral fellowship in hand, Miller became a consultant-anthropologist to Ludlow textile manufacturers. What struck me most was that Miller’s anthropological training was considered hugely valuable to business.  Miller went on to join the Tavistock where, with other colleagues, he established applied ways of working with groups and organisations. Anthropology was a founding ‘thread’ within this Tavistock tradition, yet this remains largely unknown in anthropology as it is currently taught. I suggest the Tavistock archive provides useful insight into how to apply social science to understand and address societal and industrial concerns, from the post-war period on. The use of field-notes and diaries – whilst down coal mines, on hospital wards or aboard ships – are methods ethnographers will instantly recognise. Teaching these materials in anthropology would not only demonstrate to students the value of learning ethnographically, it also strengthens their value to business as they graduate to take on new roles with ever greater certainty.

Making the Kula Ring accessible at an elite B-school in South Asia: auto-ethnography of a pedagogical experiment
Muntasir Sattar
Keywords: Pakistan, ethnography, b-school
Graduates of the elite Pakistani institution where I taught for one year were sought after by the captains of industry, by multinational corporations, and occupied a high status in the social hierarchy. It was my role as one of the first instructors of anthropology to introduce theory and method to a crop of third year business students who had little exposure to the humanities and social sciences and already felt pressure of the job market bearing down on them. In a cut-throat academic culture, I was unsure of how to engage students who did not have the time or the preparation to read about the Kula trade or for that matter, the Nacirema. However, I was confident that the principles of thinking comparatively, working systematically, and analyzing ethnographically could be of great value to their careers if not lives. I abandoned material that felt convoluted. Instead, choosing more accessible readings, using YouTube, and having the freedom to incorporate actual research allowed students to rich ethnographic studies of a vast variety of topics. Students’ final term papers demonstrated strong linkages between theory and method in a context in which theory is difficult to come by. Rather than asking students to do long literature reviews – what I did when I learned anthropology in a liberal arts program – students engagement in the field for a weekend turned out to get them to think through major questions confronting society while using the methods and ideas Malinowski layed out. A stronger emphasis on fieldwork rather than theoretical mastery produced results that I sought and may be a way forward thinking about introducing the discipline to students in a very different academic context.

“Choose-Your-Own-Ethnography”: making teaching strange and China familiar through educational videogames
Andrea E. Pia, LSE
Keywords: digital ethnography, educational videogames, ludic learning.
This presentation will showcase The Long Day of Young Peng, an interactive, non-linear digital ethnography introduced as a seminar activity for the postgraduate module AN447: ‘China in Comparative Perspective’, currently offered by the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. The game is based on fieldwork conducted by the author of this text in 2008-2009 and has been developed on the open-source web platform Twine in collaboration with two media artists (Marco De Mutiis and Tom Chambers) and supported by an LSE Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI) IGNITE! Grant for the academic year 2016-2017. The Long Day of Young Peng is an interactive storyline that uses original ethnographic material (fieldnotes, excerpts from interviews, pictures, videos) to chronicle one day in the life of one of the participants to the afore-mentioned ethnographic project, a young Chinese migrant fictitiously named Peng. The student/player is put in Peng’s shoes on his journey from his native village to Beijing in search of employment. By taking Peng to the city, students actively revise the ethnographic material on which the game is based and disclose new perspectives on the readings and class topics covered by AN447. In this talk I will focus on how the game is used in class and discuss students’ reactions to this new class activity. The game is based on a multiple-choice mechanic. Students play in small groups on iPads across several weeks and discuss among themselves what choice to make and for what reason. These choices will determine the places, people and topics Peng will eventually encounter in the game. Students also collect items, money and key words that can be used to unlock further content in the game: an ethnographically-enriched lexicon, a map and a bibliography. The game ends in diverging ways depending on the cumulative effects of the choices made throughout the game. The game’s non-linear dynamic does not only reflect the roundabout way in which migratory choices may in fact be taken in real life, but exemplify the process of co-construction of ethnographic knowledge and experiment new ways of including students in this very process.

Teaching with and through ethnography: Translating ethnographic ideals into classroom practice
Angela Rivière, International Baccalaureate
Key words: Diploma Programme, engaging with anthropology, engaging with ethnography
This paper discusses how the IB Diploma Programme’s social and cultural anthropology course is taught with and through ethnography.  Designed as an ethnographically rich two-year pre-university course students are expected to engage critically and reflectively with a range of ethnographic material.  This critical engagement has two dimensions – a specific approach to the study of ethnography and anthropology, and a worldview which students are expected to embrace through this study. However, despite the centrality of ethnographic material in both the teaching and assessment of the course, it is not regarded as end in itself.  Rather, in the context of this course, it is a means through which students come to understand the recursive nature of anthropological preoccupations; and, the significance and relevance of the discipline’s continuous engagement with the question of what it means to be human.  Utilising Ingold’s thinking, students are expected to ‘proceed beyond an awareness of cultural diversity to a more fundamental grasp of our common humanity’ (1985). In explaining the rationale behind the structure of the course – which sees the three elements of engaging with anthropology form a common thread through engaging with ethnography – this paper provides an insight into how students begin to move from regarding anthropology as a body of knowledge to be learnt, to a particular way of thinking about, and understanding the world(s) around them.  In other words, it is a course that offers both things to think with and things to think through, as well as the tools to pursue those questions.  Using two specific classroom examples, this paper seeks to demonstrate how teachers of the DP social and cultural anthropology course translate the ideals around the use of ethnography into classroom practice.

Teaching and learning ethnography in Southeastern Europe: Making sense of cultural difference in familiar contexts
Dr. Ioannis Manos, Assistant Professor, Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies,
University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece
When teaching ethnography and talking about anthropology in the Greek universities, we try to make students familiar with the study of otherness and introduce them to alternative ways of understanding social phenomena. Yet, we deal with perceptions of cultural difference shaped by notions of cultural homogeneity. Moreover, our students have never heard of anthropology before, and according to a prevailing mindset they probably do not even need Anthropology for their academic and professional careers, let alone pursuing a job as anthropologists. How can we demonstrate ethnography’s potentials in studying diversity and understanding social reality? And then show its utility in making a living from it? These considerations require a revisiting of the teaching process for a better understanding of the discipline and its method. If ethnography is regarded as the fundamental mode of production of anthropological knowledge, its teaching can be carried out both in the classroom and through the conduct of intensive short-term research projects. This concept of the experiential learning of ethnography seeks to combine theory with practice. It connects the knowledge presented in the classroom with the lived experience in the ‘field’. This approach activates the personal experiences of the participating students in order to push them to a reflective consideration of their own mode of perceiving reality. The paper reflects on teaching experiences in various academic and non-academic contexts and discusses the practices employed, the educational objectives set and the challenges and dilemmas dealt with when teaching ethnography in a Greek/Southeast European academic context.

Relating Ethnography: Stories of transformation through respectful research
Evie Plaice, Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick
Current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his recent speech at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (21 September 2017) to draw attention to the harsh Canadian legacy of Indian residential schooling. The ‘calls to action’ of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schooling (2015) has occasioned an intense discussion about developing respectful, sustainable and equitable relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. As an anthropologist teaching in a Canadian faculty of Education, I find myself in the ‘hot seat’ in terms of understanding, appreciating and explaining this particular legacy of colonialism. After nearly two decades in this role, I still find little comfort in the apologist arguments supporting our discipline. But I have been able to hone my appreciation of what anthropology is for non-anthropologists – and therefore what it might come to mean for us anthropologists as well. As the discipline struggles to reframe an enduring identity in the face of ongoing bleak criticism about its role in fostering and furthering colonialism, our defining ethnographic method is resurfacing in Indigenous research – newly transformed and uniquely transformative. How do we explain this? Blended with critical theory as an Indigenous method, ethnography has grown beyond ‘the particular’ (Abu Lughod 1991) to become relational and even ceremonial (Kovach 2009; Wilson 2008) in Indigenous usage. I explore these fertile transformations through the Indigenous ‘storywork’ (Archibald 2008) of my own relationships inside and outside the academy. (236 words)
Key words: Indigenous; colonialism; residential schools

Through the Looking Glass: Returning to the Anthropologist’s Body
Dr Eline Kieft, Coventry University, Centre for Dance Research
Dr Ben Spatz, Univeristy of Huddersfield, School of Music, Humanities and Media
Keywords: Body as research instrument; somatics toolkit; sensory anthropology
Ethnography’s sensory, somatic or affective turn acknowledges the researcher’s embodied experience in the field as an important factor that contributes to insights into a culture or subject of the study. With a grant from the National Centre for Research Methods, we are building a ‘somatics toolkit’ for anthropology students, to utilise our bodies as research instrument during fieldwork, and as asset during other phases of the research cycle including literature review, gathering data, analysis and dissemination. The toolkit has three potential applications. First, we investigate the relevance of somatics to the autoethnographic dimension of anthropology, offering new ways of understanding the role of the anthropologist’s own body in the research process. Secondly, a structured exploration of body awareness and sensations helps to interpret external (fieldwork) data and deepens the researcher’s understanding of subjects’ experiences regarding complex issues. Moving with the research themes in and through the body allows for different possible interpretations of the data. Themes may start to relate to each other in a different way. It can also highlight aspects that are perhaps only present ‘between the lines’ in the written and spoken data. These two strands support knowledge production, and can result in a richer and more authentic representation of the data. Thirdly, the toolkit will also provide an alternative form of support to the researcher regarding challenging aspects of the research cycle. Through drawing from the active agency of the body, the researcher is able to shift perspective when encountering challenges such as drowning in complex data, dealing with personal (emotional) responses to the material, or writer’s block. This supports mental health and wellbeing of researcher. In this workshop, we will briefly present the project, and then awaken and explore physical awareness, and play with how that may influence our role as anthropologists in the field. We are aware that this is only the first strand of the toolkit and, depending on interest of those present, we could choose another focus for the workshop. We will conclude the workshop with time for reflection and feedback, to hear your suggestions of what we should include in the toolkit, as the project will have really only just begun at the time of the conference.

Ethnography and indigenous knowledge systems
Kevin Purday
Social Anthropology is always at the centre of arguments about whether or not it is still for the most part working within a Western culture paradigm. For most people the Western epistemological and ontological views of the world are a given. However, there are ethnographies that try to give us an insight into very different ways of thinking about the world. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro termed this different way of seeing the world ‘perspectivism’ while Tim Ingold coined the term ‘dwelling perspective’ and moved the argument closer to ontology in order to understand the worldview of these societies. This seminar aims to encourage discussion concerning the use of ethnographies about societies that do think very differently about the place of humans in the world in an attempt to put the Western epistemological and ontological view into perspective – so to speak – pun intended!

‘Comfort’ & ‘Discomfort’: A Brechtian Interventionin Anthropology Teaching
Thomas Chambers, Oxford Brookes University
This paper disrupts notions of ‘comfort’ as always being a desirable product when attending to spatial contexts and teaching practice.  The paper draws on a long theatrical tradition stemming from the work of Bertolt Brecht which, among other things, seeks to stimulate critical thought not by making the audience comfortable but by creating a sense of ‘discomfort’ through alienation and other techniques.  I bring this together with work on ‘critical pedagogy’, which attend to occasions when ‘discomfort’ provides a powerful teaching tool and with anthropological ideas which seek to draw more embodied engagements with ethnography into classrooms and lecture contexts.  The paper takes a reflexive approach to these interventions, evaluating not only the successes but problems and challenges that the use of ‘discomfort’ throws up.

Theatre was long dominated by the ideas of naturalism.  The performers embodied the character completely and never reminded the audience that what they were watching was anything other than real.  The audience accepted what they saw and watched on passively through the ‘fourth wall’ as events unfolded in front of them with little critical reflection.  It was this problem then the work of Brecht and others set out to tackle.  For anthropologists, too, much of our teaching examines and challenges structures, narratives and discources.  An exploration of Brecht in the classroom, this paper argues, creates potentiality to deepen students’ reflection, engagement and critical questioning by exposing and disrupting naturalised ideals of ‘the lecture’ in order to open up more embodied spaces of learning.  In this context, ‘discomfort’ can be a powerful activating tool that has the potential to create a state of ‘fascination’ among students rendering them active rather than passive in the learning process.

Teaching ethnographic portraiture, teaching double vision
David Mills
Key words: Portraiture, ethnography, method.
This paper explores the pedagogic role of ethnographic portraiture. It includes excerpts from short ethnographic portraits written by research students enrolled on a methods course. Students first write their own short self-portraits, and then carry out an ethnographic interview or observation in order to develop a longer textual portrait of an individual, experience or relationship. Over the last five years the course has evolved, and many of its participants have gone on to use portraits in their own doctoral research.

The course makes writing an integral part of the learning experience, but also helps students face and work through their own methodological anxieties. The dilemmas of ethics, ontology and representation are brought alive. The process of writing ethnographic portraits allows participants to experience analytical and aesthetic ‘double vision’, and to practice the craft of bridging narrative intensity with analytical insight.

These forms of ‘live’ methods courses are a great way to introduce ethnographic approaches to non-anthropology students, and could be used in undergraduate and even school-level teaching. The focus on local lives and experiences beyond their own institution forces students to think about their own privileged positions within their local communities.