World Anthropology Day: The Field Under the Current Administration

Happy World Anthropology Day! Today is a day to celebrate the field and join a global recognition of all things anthropological. It is also a day to look forward and think about the future of the field, especially under our current political administration. Below, several UC Press authors share their thoughts on what the state of the field may be over the next four years.

T.M. Luhurmann and Jocelyn Marrow, authors of Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia across Cultures

“I think this new president is highly unpredictable, and it is not at all clear what will happen within the world, not to mention our field. On the upside, the chaos has made some of us feel that scholarship, careful methods, and good evidence matter now acutely.”

Jon Bialecki, author of A Diagram for Fire: Miracles and Variation in an American Charismatic Movement

“Other than the obvious and unfortunate changes to disciplinary funding resources that Trump’s expected budget cuts will bring, I think that this will bring back some of the classic Foucaultian concerns with power and the political that have been partially eclipsed by discussions of topics such as ontology, ethics, and post humanism. The challenge will be for anthropologists to bring the array of possibilities pend up by these more recent discussions to those earlier concerns with power and politics, and to do so in a way that will allow us to connect with a wider audience.”

Naomi Leite, author of Unorthodox Kin: Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging

“For decades cultural anthropologists have emphasized the situated, partial nature of all knowledge, including our own, and avoided making claims to truth. The more we hear of “alternative facts” and open dismissal of academic expertise, however, the more I think we will see anthropology move in the opposite direction, toward reclaiming an authoritative voice in the public sphere—or so one can hope.”

Sarah Besky, author of The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India

“As anthropologists, we aren’t in the business of predicting the future, so I can’t say what the impact of this administration will be.  What we can do is help our students and each other gain a better sense of where we are now, and how we got here, by critically examining the intersection of racism, inequality, and corporate power.”

Juan Thomas Ordonez, author of Jornalero: Being a Day Laborer in the USA

“The new administration poses challenges to our discipline in a world where truth, lies and perceptions are conflated and used in the name of a non-existent but well “imagined” homogenous nation; a thing so absurd we had put it more or less aside in our fields of inquiry. We must meet such challenges on different fronts, from the critical stances that have made us what we are, to a more engaged anthropology that is accessible to everyone. Now is the time to speak up in unison, and to do so “bigly.””

Deborah Boehm, author of Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation

“In these turbulent times, anthropologists are reminded of the immediate—even urgent—need for public scholarship. On World Anthropology Day, I am grateful to be part of a field that includes the tools to carry out this kind of engaged research. Ethnographers are especially well positioned to witness, analyze, and respond to injustice, and to call on policymakers and the public to bring about change.”