Why public anthropology matters now more than ever
Writing and journeying are lifelong pursuits, pleasures, and passions for me.
At first, I traveled only by the vehicle of my imagination and later by cheap airfares from Student Travel Australia.
Lonely Planet guide book in hand, I launched myself upon the physical world, one culture at a time.
Anthropology and, in particular, public anthropology, is a natural home for people like me.
Once the study of the exotic, the foreign, and of the cabinet of human curiosities, eventually anthropologists returned home. What they found was that their own culture was at least as bizarre, and often more so, than anything else they had encountered ‘out there.’
Anthropology is a kind of intense form of journeying – just as famous writers delighted in new ideas and practices very different from their own – so anthropologists revel in gaining a deep understanding of what at first seemed offbeat, uncanny, or unexpected.
That’s because when we encounter differences we gain the tools to begin the process of re-examining the familiar.
Anthropology is about the power of examining tacit assumptions. About the diversity and the limits of human experience. About the messiness and imperfectness of humanity and its astonishing capacity for resilience and hope.
We need the anthropological gaze as much now as any time in the last century. Globalization brings us closer together but so does the growing number of refugees fleeing violence, persecution and climate change habitat devastation.
Together we need understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and the richness of diversity – otherwise we too easily slip into believing fake news, conspiracies, and ‘alternate facts.’
It is too easy to pretend that someone is radically different and incomprehensible to us. Anthropology shows us just how similar we truly are, and how flexible, resilient and creative humans are when presented with adversity.