Making Anthropology Matter
In connection with the 2015 AGM, we organised a symposium focusing on the situation of anthropology in Europe. The event took place at Villa Lanna, Prague, on 14–15 October 2015, with support from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Czech Association for Social Anthropology. It was convened by our Vice-President, Hana Cervinkova (Czech Academy of Sciences). There were 55 participants, representing 17 countries and representing a broad range of perspectives on the state of the art.
In spite of a healthy growth in publications and recent success in funding large projects, especially at the ERC, all is not rosy. European anthropology is facing challenges at the institutional level, with programmes threatened by closure and declining student numbers in some countries. There is also a tendency that anthropological publications are rarely read outside the discipline, which reduces the impact of anthropologists in broader intellectual discourse.
On this background, participants were invited to present short (7 minutes) statements on the main priorities and challenges, and 26 speakers contributed, in addition to the two keynote speakers, an ex-President of EASA, Michal Buchowski (Poznan) and our current President, Thomas Hylland Eriksen (Oslo). Some had a focus on empirical areas such as health or the refugee crisis; some spoke about the asymmetry in funding opportunities between the different parts of Europe; some spoke about ways in which the messages of anthropology could be conveyed to broader audiences without compromising complexity and depth; some spoke of interdisciplinary and applied work; and others, taking their own work as a point of departure, showed ways in which anthropology generates knowledge which is both necessary and unique to anthropological practice.
At the end of the second day, Susana Narotzky (Barcelona) and Niko Besnier (Amsterdam) held a successful capacity-building workshop focusing on the writing of research applications. As many had pointed out earlier, there is a serious imbalance in favour of West European countries regarding success in obtaining funding at the European level.
Following up on the Prague symposium, we are currently producing a position paper on the importance of anthropological knowledge, with non-anthropologists as intended readership. It will be translated into as many European languages as possible and made available on the EASA website. Other publications from the symposium will also follow.