Anthropology Communicates

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A lecture series organised by the RAI’s Anthropology of Policy and Practice Committee.

The following RAI lectures have been recorded and are available online to listen to or download. Videos of other RAI events are available on our YouTube channel here.

Anthropology Communicates: with Anthropologist Politicians

Two anthropologists will talk about their experiences of being politicians within legislatures in Sri Lanka and the US state of Nevada, and consider the impact of their anthropological training and approach to research.

Anthropology Communicates in Schools and Colleges

Prof Joy Hendry (Oxford Brookes; Scottish Qualifications Authority) Tomislav Maric (Bentley Wood High School) Emma Ford (Secretary IUAES Commission on Anthropology and Education) Dr Kevin Purday (Hockerill Anglo-European College; International Baccalaureate’s workshop leader for Social and Cultural Anthropology) chaired by Richard Axelby (SOAS)

This webinar considers the importance of communicating anthropological perspectives and methods to students in schools, colleges and other non-university settings. In an era when global understanding and recognition of diverse ways of seeing the world are of critical social, political and economic importance, anthropology has a central role to play in education. Speakers – including Joy Hendry, Tomislav Maric, Emma Ford and Kevin Purday – will discuss how anthropological thought can be introduced, taught and encouraged in schools.

Anthropology Communicates: with Civil Society

With speakers: Alex Clegg (Senior community coordinator at Sense about Science), Ingrid Abreu Scherer (Civil Society Lead at What Works Wellbeing), Prof Danny Miller (Professor of Anthropology, UCL) and chaired by Richard Axelby (SOAS).

Time and resource poor. Often working with marginalised groups. Locally based. There are lots of similarities between anthropology and charitable organisations. This webinar aims to bring anthropologists, charities and civil society organisations together to explore how they can work more effectively and collaboratively. From funding proposals to communicating research and advocacy work to designing interventions, practical insights and solutions will be provided.

It will also provide an opportunity to explore how anthropologists can effectively work with charities, co-designing research and interventions. We will also explore the challenges anthropologists face in communicating their research. What support is needed and how networks can be developed. What is the role of the RAI in showcasing the work of anthropologists? How can we further encourage and assist public engagement?

Anthropology Communicates: with Corporations

Catherine Dolan (SOAS, University of London), Rebecca Prentice (University of Sussex), Dinah Rajak (University of Sussex), chaired by Richard Axelby (SOAS)

Anthropologists often criticise corporations for contributing to the harmful environmental and social conditions we face today. However, anthropologists are also increasingly confronted with the moral ambiguity of the corporate form, as business asserts responsibility for all manner of global development concerns, from climate change and poverty, to disease and worker welfare. What is the appropriate evaluative stance for anthropologists working with corporations, which on the one hand often shift costs onto workers and the environment while on the other hand claim to move beyond the imperative of shareholder value to prioritise the wellbeing of the many rather than the few? How should anthropologists engage with corporations that pledge to tackle global crises of environmental sustainability, gender inequality, and labour rights? This panel discusses the role anthropology can play in shaping the possibilities and futures of corporate practice. Based on research with corporations in fashion, consumer goods and extractive industries, we explore what, if any, the ethical limits to anthropology’s cooperation with business are, and how anthropologists can preserve independence and avoid co-optation when entering research collaborations with corporations.

Anthropology Communicates: Sue Black on Forensic Anthropology

Forensic anthropology – no longer a cowboy!

Prof Sue Black, Baroness Black of Strome (President of the RAI and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University)
chaired by Dr Emma Crewe (SOAS)

A policy is a proposed, or adopted, course of action. It is no surprise therefore that much of our personal and working lives are influenced by policies and those who make them. These become the ‘code’ by which we operate and we refer to them when we need to take a ‘soundcheck’ on our actions or evaluate a chosen direction of travel. Forensic anthropology emerged from the disciplines of anatomy and biological anthropology largely in response to a specific medico-legal conundrum. In the UK, this can be traced back at least to the Buck Ruxton murder of 1936 in Lancaster. For the next half century, there were sporadic requests for experts to translate their academic learnings into probative medico-legal opinion to assist the jury, as triers of fact, to pronounce on the guilt of an accused. However, the ensuing high media profiles of such involvement, successes that led to greater investigative demand for their services and the insatiable public appetite for science in the courtroom, led to a proliferation of higher education courses in the subject, that worked to no common policy. Practitioners, experts for the court, were being trained against no common guidance and to no appreciable standard of practise. Forensic anthropology in the UK had morphed organically into a largely quasi-professional discipline of increasingly prominent public, government and legal profile. It was therefore necessary for the discipline to turn its focus to professionalisation and policies that would bring conformity and rigour. There are many actors in this piece and this presentation will consider the involvement of the main protagonists – practising forensic anthropologists, higher education establishments who train the upcoming experts, national scientific academies, commercial forensic employers, the discipline’s governing body (the RAI), Government departments and the Home Office Forensic Science Regulator. It is a complex story but one which may provide a useful template for other subjects that may be transitioning into professional practising standards.

Anthropology Communicates for Social Justice: Strengthening the Equality Act?

This session was led by Dr Suriyah Bi (Founder and CEO of Equality Act Review), with speakers: Afzal Khan MP (Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons), Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (Shadow Minister Transport) and chaired by Richard Axelby (SOAS).

In this seminar, the speaker Dr Suriyah Bi will trace her journey of founding the Equality Act Review, an organisation that works on strengthening the Equality Act 2010. Using auto-ethnography and reflexive anthropology, she will first speak about the personal experiences that motivated her to want to bridge the gap between grassroots experiences, academia and policy; which rests on her theory ‘the cycle of decolonisation.’ The seminar will then turn to focus on the aims and objectives of the organisation, namely the vision of strengthening the Equality Act 2010 to create a fairer and more equal society. Next, we will consider the ethnographic research methods that underpin projects such as Predicting Futures and Empowered Employment, which allow the organisation to achieve its visions, and in doing so the founder will underscore the significance of anthropology in making a difference in policy and government. Finally, experiences of working closely with MPs will be shared, drawing on the importance of dialogue, platforms (especially during the pandemic), and trust. In this latter section, we will be joined by Afzal Khan MP, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, who will share his experiences of working with the Equality Act Review. The seminar is therefore a golden moment for anthropologists to learn about the inner-workings of translating research into policy, and also hear from a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet team.

Anthropology Communicates: with UN Agencies and International NGOs

A Mission to Accomplish: communicating anthropology to international governmental and non-governmental development organisations

This session was led by Professor Raymond Apthorpe (RAI), with confirmed speakers: Amy Croome (Oxfam) Alex Fenwick (Welthungerhilfe) and chaired by Prof Emma Crewe (SOAS).

In recent decades international development has grown into a world-shaping industry. What role can anthropological knowledge play in shaping policy and practice? And how can anthropologists communicate effectively to humanitarian and development organizations whose work spans continents? This panel considers the possibilities and limits for anthropologists wishing to communicate with international governmental and non-governmental development organisations.

Anthropology Communicates: with UK Parliamentary Select Committees

Engaging Anthropologically with UK Parliamentary Select Committees

Session led by: Emma Crewe, Director of Global Research Network on Parliaments and People, SOAS, University of London and Abbi Hobbs, Head of Social Science, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK Parliament and chaired by Richard Axelby (SOAS).

Anthropology Communicates – LSE Covid and Care Research Group

A Right to Care: The Social Foundations of Recovery from Covid-19 Session lead by the LSE Covid and Care Research Group: Prof Laura Bear (LSE), Prof Deborah James (LSE), Nikita Simpson (LSE), Jordan Vieira (LSE), Jaskiran Kaur Bhogal (LSE), Alice Pearson (LSE), Catherine Whittle (LSE), Milena Wuerth (LSE), Chaired by Prof Emma Crewe (SOAS)
Our report presents key findings from a 6-month ethnographic study on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on disadvantaged households and communities across the UK, conducted the LSE Covid and Care Research Group. This research involved in-depth interviews and multiple surveys with people across communities in the UK, with particular focus on a number of case studies of intersecting disadvantage. Crucially, our research has found that Government policy can improve adherence to restrictions and reduce the negative impacts of the pandemic on disadvantaged groups by placing central importance on the role of communities, social networks and households in economy and social life. In this session, we discuss the role of ethnographic research in the policy response to Covid-19 in the UK, and reflect on our experiences of working with policymakers. The report can be accessed here:
The webpage of the LSE Covid and Care Research Group:
Illustrations by Maggie Li (@mmaggieli)
Photographs by Grey Hutton (@greyhutton)
Supported by @InsideNatGeo’s Emergency Fund for Journalists