Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Attending to the poor and marginalized, anthropologists are well acquainted with crisis, its aftermath, and ecologies. This paper responds to the question of what these emergencies entail for ethnography by turning to the activities anthropologists undertake in the public sphere to enact care. As public and applied anthropology show, ethnographic data provide anthropologists the credibility to speak at a moment when facts are under attack but experiential knowledge remains valued. Ethnography underpins “multiple roles to affect change,” a framework that gathers together positions that anthropologists may occupy (social activist, thought leader, public intellectual, lobbyist, honest brokers), as well as positions anthropologists create for ourselves. Rather than prescriptive, the framework is open-ended. Its values anthropologists’ range of work, acknowledges the diverse skills required when life is in ruins, and recognizes the constraints anthropologists encounter at diverse points in our careers and personal lives. The framework encourages three steps to shift our object of concern and animate our roles: acquire skills to address implicit bias, both our own and that of others; identify our relationship to the crisis as well as the relevant people/place, including to the history of relations that produced the crisis; offer transparency regarding our ethics and associated deconstructionist stopping points. Attending to crises requires a series of ethically informed decisions. Within these, anthropologists arrive at moments where analysis stops and action begins. Clarity surrounding the ethics that inform such moments can help anthropologists navigate change where complex, nested ecologies of harm and healing can challenge one’s integrity.