Welcome to the ‘Who are “We”?’ project!
Who do ‘we’ anthropologists think we are? And how does our sense of being part of larger collectives – disciplinary, professional, regional, and so on – shape our understandings of sameness and difference, self and other, intimacy and distance?
For much of its history and in the popular imagination, socio-cultural anthropology has been characterized by its study of ‘other’ societies – not only the remote, exotic natives of Malinowskian legend, but also ‘others’ at home: marginalized minorities, activists, religious communities and the like. In recent decades – particularly since the postmodernist ‘writing culture’ debates of the 1980s – much ink has been spilt on the question of how anthropologists construct and theorize otherness, as well as the ethical and epistemological ramifications of their efforts. What remains hidden, however, is the other side of the story: the implicit assumption of affinity between ‘us’ anthropologists, on which understandings of otherness often hinge.
The ‘Who are “We”?’ project seeks to redress this imbalance by interrogating how ‘we’ are imagined and invoked in anthropological writing, theory and practice. Rather than taking the anthropological ‘we’ for granted as a (broadly homogeneous) foil to the subjects of ethnographic inquiry, it has two main aims:
1) to explore how anthropologists around the world construe and conduct themselves as part of larger communities, movements or disciplines; and
2) to investigate how these processes relate to conceptualizations of alterity and affinity more broadly.
The project consists of two main components: a small Wenner-Gren funded workshop, to be held in Cambridge in September 2014, and a set of online discussions to which anthropologists and other interested parties from around the world are warmly invited to contribute. We plan to incorporate the online discussions into a special panel at the workshop itself and then feed those discussions back into the digital realm, where they can carry on unfolding.
More details will soon be available. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, want to get involved or need more information, do get in touch!