Engagement beyond critique? Anthropological perspectives on participation and community
In response to the ideals of cultural critique, complexity and moral relativism promoted in postmodern anthropology, different attempts have been made in recent decades to make anthropology more ‘engaged’ in the promotion of social change. In this article, we focus on three central contemporary positions on anthropological engagement: policy-oriented activist research, feminist-inspired collaborative research, and what we have chosen to call research for alterity and alternatives. Each of these approaches highlights certain ideas of participation and thereby conjure up particular kinds of communities to work with and through. We discuss the value and limitations of the three positions on engagement and argue that, in all its diversity, anthropological participatory research can play an important role in co-creating platforms for resistance and protest against various forms of domination and oppression while simultaneously contributing to preparing the ground for alternative imaginations, desires and ways of living.
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