The web project

Who are ‘we’? The web project

**An invitation to anthropologists around the world: Share your thoughts and experiences here!**

Who do ‘we’ anthropologists think we are? And how do our collective identities and relations – as part of wider communities, movements, disciplines, ‘schools’ and so on – shape our methods, theories and analyses?

Although we’ll be grappling with these questions at our workshop in September, we’re also very keen to open up the discussions to as many people around the world as possible. To this end, we’ve put together a list of questions, below, that we hope will spark some discussion and debate.

You’re warmly invited to respond to all or any of these – or just to the general theme – in one of three ways: i) via our Facebook page; ii) by leaving your comments here, in the box below; or iii) at the Open Anthropology Cooperative’s dedicated forum. Or just drop us an email. You don’t need to be a ‘professional’ anthropologist or even an anthropologist to participate, and you can write anything from a paragraph to a treatise…or send us a non-textual response! Whatever the case, we look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Who are “we”? Anthropological texts commonly refer to an “us” or a “we” – an imagined anthropological (or other) community – that is engaging with the text. Do you follow this convention? And what/who do you see this “we” as comprising?
  2.  Is your anthropological practice shaped by how you relate to certain collectives, real or imagined – language communities, regions, disciplines, ‘turns’, departments, specific audiences, etc.?
  3.  To what extent are certain anthropological methods, theories and concepts premised on the existence of shared backgrounds, politics, preoccupations, etc. among anthropologists?
  4. What do you make of concepts aimed at either broadening the discipline or demarcating a particular anthropological sub-set? E.g. “peripheral anthropology”, “world anthropology”, “other peoples’ anthropology”, “applied anthropology”, “digital anthropology”…etc.
  5. Does anthropology have its own internal “Others” and/or “elites”? How are they produced?
  6. Why are alterity and affinity extensively analysed by anthropologists when it comes to studies of the “Other” but less so when it comes to “us”?
  7. Historically, has the anthropological “we” changed its form? If it has, how? If not, why not?
  8. If one were to reimagine an anthropological “we”, what would it look like?

4 thoughts on “The web project

  1. Pingback: The ‘Who are “we”?’ web project: discussions now open | who are 'we'?

  2. Hi Nayanika, hi Liana! Great project. I’ll be interested to see the results (and congrats on getting this project up and funded!). I will respond to your point 1. I, like you, used to assume that some writers used “we” and “us” (even when a text was sole-authored) rather than “I” and “me” because there was an assumed we-ness between writer and reader. “We” (writer and readers) will proceed through this text together. However, one of my colleagues here at Sydney years ago suggested to me that “we” and “us” in sole-authored texts instead tells you something about that writer’s relationship to his or her self. The writer’s self – presented in this context as an anthropologist – is experienced as divided. One wonders if, for these writers, their experience of speaking anthropologically is an experience of being internally conflicted, unresolved or in two minds? Or perhaps it shows an identification (falsely and ultimately detrimentally) with anthropology as super-ego. I have come to suspect that it is something along these lines, so I have stopped using “we” and “us” when what I really mean is “I” and “me”. I reason that, if I don’t feel comfortable identifying myself as “I” or “part of me” in a particular piece of writing, then I probably shouldn’t be writing it at all.

  3. To point out the obvious, this is an issue somewhat specific to English and related languages. I’m no linguist, but there are certainly other languages out there in which different kinds of “persons” (not just first person singular and plural) can author texts and speak on their own behalf.

    Marilyn Strathern once advised me not to write in the first person at all, perhaps to avoid some of these thorny issues (am “I” a dividual, or an individual? etc.). I followed her advice on that occasion and still try to avoid such constructions – but it’s worth reflecting on how writers generate empathy and other forms of fellow-feeling among their readers even when they don’t address them as “we” explicitly.

  4. Pingback: Bright Horizons – July #EVENTS! | Allegra

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