Yesterday I saw a remarkable film.
On a trivial, if entertaining, level, it is a state-of-the-art mostly CGI Sci Fi motion picture with lots of special effects designed to show off its 3-D format. But it touches on things which concern us as Anthropologists.
The setting is a planet with an indigenous population and a highly integrated eco-system that is threatened by human invastion for exploitation of its mineral resources. The link to us is that the humans wield military force, led by a caricature of a hard-bitten retired officer who sees violence as the best answer, and they use 'anthropologists' to find out about the natives so that they can understand and thus manage them (ie, move them on to make room for the excavations). The 'Avatar' of the title refers to the construction of creatures that can blend in with the local population (who are humanoid-ish but not human) and can be occupied by humans through a technical link - a sort of sci-fi version of the embedded amthropologist doing fieldwork.
The emotional level of the drama rests on the ethics vs practicalities (from the human point of view) of embracing local culture with the purpose of exploiting it. As anthropologists in touch (we hope) with popular culture, we need to understand the issues that this raises and, I suggest, be prepared to discuss them with non-anthropologists.
This could be a very good opportunity for us to talk anthropology to anyone and not just to the inner circle of professionals. We can use this to put anthropology where I personally believe it should be - into the World where it belongs and not chained up by specialist language in the Academy.
All the best - Happy New Year,