Is the discipline really moving forward from the armchair enthusiasts who sat theorising and picking apart travel accounts to ‘document the people of the world’? Or have we managed to dislodge ourselves from the red velvet seats and step into the field?
Yes we have. But have we actually made a difference? Has our speculation amounted to anything? For a long time I don’t think that it has, for instance, what contribution did our fellow Malinowski make to the Trobriand Islands except for enlightening them to our very different existence? And perhaps demeaning them in the process?
It has only been in the past decade that I feel anthropology has really begun to contribute towards making the differences we so need in this world. Particularly with regards to medical anthropology, developmental/sustainable approaches and other more hands on ‘philosophising’.
Its good to philosophise, don’t get me wrong, but lets work to put these ideas into practice. Work with the people we seek to understand to ‘Learn to listen’ (Anderson & Jack , 1991) and to truly grasp someones view of the world in order to make the necessary adjustments in their community that could help them. But not just by studying down, we can study up too. Look at the materialism and wealth that essentially hide our human essence in a cloak of corporate fallacies. We can work towards illuminating our reasons for existence and work together with common goals, towards a common humanity. It may sound idealistic and impossible. But every little movement, moment and thought counts.