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Anthropology as a Vocation and Occupation

The University of Milano-Bicocca

The panel Anthropology as a Vocation and Occupation, convened by Hana Cervinkova and Karolina Follis was held on August 3, 2014 at the 13th Biennial EASA Conference in Tallinn, Estonia.

The goals of the panel, as stated in the Conference Programme were as follows:

1. On behalf of EASA, we seek to understand how our members who fall in the early career category view their current career prospects;

2. Drawing on current debates on the future of research and higher education under conditions of austerity, digitalization and casualization of academic labor, we seek to stimulate an exchange that would examine those international concerns from a perspective specific to European anthropology

3. We hope to learn whether EASA itself has a role to play assisting early career anthropologists as they navigate both the available and the yet-to-be-created (or discovered) opportunities for anthropologists in Europe today.” The audience of approximately 20+ fluctuated between the three panel sessions and included several senior anthropologists.

The overall findings are that in the current academic environment early career anthropologists, understood for these purposes as advanced PhD Students, postdocs and junior lecturers are facing a set of external conditions which imperil the pursuit of anthropology as a vocation and an occupation. Of such factors, most frequently mentioned were (a) the uncertainty and precariousness of employment at institutions of higher learning and research institutes; (b) the pressure to secure research funding in a highly competitive environment as a condition of continuing employment; (c) constraints resulting from the demand that EU and nationally funded research be policy relevant and adhere to non-anthropological norms of knowledge production; (d) lack of preparedness for careers outside of academia. Several participants noted that prevailing definitions of “policy relevance” are difficult to reconcile with the methods and theories of anthropology. At the same time participants brought up their desire to practice “engaged” and “public” anthropology, while noting the ambiguity of these terms.

As a result of the panel, Karolina S. Follis together with Jessica C. Robbins-Ruszkowski and Christian R. Rogler prepared a list of recommendations for the EASA Executive, which include both immediate and long-term suggestions for actions, including: the establishment of a permanent Task Force, organization of a plenary session at the next EASA conference, workshops, preparing lobbying initiatives, issuing a statement of career progression/good practice in academic hiring, etc. For more information about the initiative, please contact Karolina S. Follis () or Hana Cervinkova ).