'Who are “we”? Reimagining alterity and affinity in anthropology' workshop

Nayanika Mathur and I have recently obtained Wenner-Gren funding for a workshop on collective anthropological identities (in short, who we anthropologists think “we” are), to be held at Cambridge University, from 3rd to 5th September 2014. Here’s the blurb:

This workshop revolves around the myriad ways in which anthropologists construe and conduct themselves as part of larger communities, movements, and disciplines, and the implications of these practices for our understandings of difference and similarity. Although the ethnographic "other" has been subject to endless investigation and description, less attention has been paid to its implicit foil – the anthropological "we". Yet the the tacit assumption of belonging and speaking to an intellectual collective is often pivotal to conceptualizations and theories of alterity, which remains a mainstay of anthropological knowledge-making. This workshop seeks to lay bare the relationship between forms and ideas of anthropological affinity and broader issues of alterity and affinity in ethnographic theory, practice, and writing. Explicitly plural and international in scope, it will invite scholars from around the world to interrogate questions about anthropology’s composition, ethico-political agendas, and futures. In the process, it will build on existing reflexive trends within anthropology while extending them beyond the influence of post-modernism and the Euro-American circles in which they have mostly occurred. As the discipline becomes increasingly public, engaged, and global, this workshop will be a timely and democratizing intervention that will engender new understandings of how anthropology is crafted and mobilized.

Due to financial and other constraints, we had to limit the number of core participants to about 20; a more-or-less final list should be available by the end of the year. A handful of extra places will probably be available on each of the three days. However, Nayanika and I are also keen to get as many anthropologists as possible to participate in our discussions. To this end, we’re hoping to use OAC as a kind of extended forum to which anthropologists from around the world can contribute; we’re also looking at pre-circulating some of the material (possibly as an e-seminar) and engaging with people’s responses during the workshop.

Obviously it’s still early days, but I just wanted to flag this workshop well in advance in the hope that some of you will be keen to get involved in its online dimension! We plan to begin posting stuff and starting discussions on the OAC forum early in 2014. Meanwhile, feel free to drop me a note if you’ve got any ideas or want to find out more about this project! 

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Comment by John McCreery on November 1, 2013 at 11:06am

Who are our alters? Who are our affines? Both now seem incredibly diverse.


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