Anthropology is often seen as a discipline that deals with alterity—that is, with ‘other’ societies, cultures and ways of life. Indeed, the task of ‘making the strange familiar and the familiar strange’ is often viewed by anthropologists as a defining feature of their work and academic identity. But at a time when anthropology itself is becoming an increasingly diverse discipline, how do we define what is ‘strange’ and what is ‘familiar’?
This workshop will tackle this question head-on by interrogating the relationship between collective anthropological identities (who we think ‘we’ are) and anthropological theories of alterity (who we think ‘they’ are). Its remit is twofold: to explore the myriad ways in which anthropologists construe and conduct themselves as part of larger communities, movements and disciplines, and to examine how these practices shape prevailing understandings of similarity and difference. Rather than treating alterity and affinity (‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘self’ and ‘other’, etc.) as diametrically opposed categories, it will ask how they can be understood relationally—as shifting coordinates that must constantly be constructed and justified.
Explicitly plural and international in scope, this workshop 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 global, public and engaged, this workshop will be a timely and democratizing intervention that will engender new understandings of how anthropology is crafted and mobilized. In order to open up the discussions to the widest possible pool of international participants, it will also involve digital collaborations with the World Council of Anthropological Associations and the Open Anthropology Cooperative.