Presidential - Oral Presentation Session
Anthropology finds itself in a world of great, somewhat frightening, changes and challenges. It has heeded the call for participatory engagement and action research. The close relationship between theory and practice has been extolled and explored, although as a discipline we experience significant distance between the two. Anthropology’s partially unsavory history with empire and practice left a discipline rightfully wary of action. Social organization located the discipline in the university where one’s livelihood and prestige depended upon research and theory-building. Confounding the academy with its products (research and theory) and wary of practice, anthropology has engaged in the intellectual bad habit of thinking of itself primarily as a research discipline. It has dismissed, or worse, forgotten the integral part of science that is practice.
This presentation reminds us that theory and practice are integral parts of the scientific enterprise. Contemporary anthropology’s re-engagement with human struggles needs theoretically-sound research, research-based knowledge and tested applications. We see increasing opportunities across differing contexts to remedy problems in areas such as health, education, economics, climate change, and governance. What is needed is collaboration among theory builders, researchers and practitioners. The complex challenges our planet and its people face require problem solving and collective action. We must find ways to bridge the structural and social distances between the academy and practice. We must change our thoughts and habits to see us as one discipline engaged in the scientific enterprise of working on behalf of the human population as well as its home planet.