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Locations: Anthropology in the academy, the workplace, and the public sphere

35th Biannual Conference of the German Anthropological Association from October 2-5, 2013 at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz

For quite some time, anthropology in Germany has been expanding thanks to consistently high rates of student enrolment, the creation of new academic chairs, and a growing demand for intercultural skills and anthropological expertise. What is the implication of this development for anthropology's ambivalent locations in the academia, the professional world, and the public sphere? This question is right at the center of the 35th Biannual Conference of the German Anthropological Association (GAA), taking place from October 2-5, 2013 at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Anyone interested in attending the conference may register via The deadline for registration is September 20, 2013. Information on conference fees is available at the conference website.

Given anthropology's engagement with both the political and epistemological consequences of the post-colonial critique, will (and can) the discipline become the vanguard of the academia? Or should it rather remain on the margins, as a discipline that destabilizes and subverts the Euro-centric biases of neighboring disciplines? But in a post-modern world no longer geographically or epistemologically structured by center-periphery hierarchies, what is the raison d'être of a discipline traditionally devoted to the global periphery? On the other hand, maybe there is a strong case precisely to the contrary? In such a fractured, decentered world anthropology's established strengths might be what is most needed: its attention to the hermeneutics of informal practices, confounding realities, and diverging domains of meaning. What are the methodological and theoretical implications when anthropological fields of enquiry are broadened - from the marginalized to the elites, from the peripheries to the centers of global society? How do anthropologists deal with the conflicting demands of their research ethos of unbiased understanding on the one hand and public expectations to take a political stand on the other hand? To what degree can or should anthropologists champion the interests of their interlocutors? How can the increasing anthropological engagement in such areas as development cooperation, international business, or even the military be reconciled with a disciplinary ethos that has tended to cast anthropologists as critical observers of power rather than as parties to it? Can anthropology continue to be a troublesome discipline and still prepare students for the job market?

The 2013 conference of the German Anthropological Association will explore these questions and anthropology's ambivalent locations in the academia, the professional world, and the public sphere. In university contexts anthropologists work increasingly in interdisciplinary networks. What consequences does this have for the discipline's self-definition and its methods? Considering that neighboring disciplines have made participant observation and "ethnography" part of their own methodological repertoires, what is the added value of our discipline? Most anthropology students go on to work outside the university. What demands does this place on the anthropological curriculum? What aspects of the discipline are relevant to graduates' professional lives? In what ways does feedback from these professional contexts present new challenges and opportunities for anthropological theory? In public debates on the integration of immigrants and the challenges of multicultural society, civil war, failed states, genocide, and other urgent socio-political or security issues, German anthropologists only seldom make notable contributions. Should this reticence be overcome and what would a "public anthropology" look like?


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