Popular anthropology

04 Jul 95 17:13 GMT+1000


"Warfare, genocide, fratricide" ...is this the cry of the
arrangements of life we call the modern nation-state?

It has been asked, "What can academic anthropologists offer
people?" What do people want?

An end to unnecessary mental and physical suffering - social and
cultural healing. These are some of the things people want.

I see anthropology reforming itself into a relational and healing
anthropology to replace an imperial-dominating anthropology out
to prove the superiority of western metaphysics (science,
Darwinism, evolution, progress etc).

A relational anthropology which can assist in helping one part
of life communicate with other parts, and focused on addressing
the problems confronting life.

Anthropologists could apply the intellectual and practical
resources they have acquired from the peoples of the world to
solving some of these problems.

For example, look at the mess produced by nationalism (and
associated closed-minded ways of relating to others and to the
rest of life and world) in this century alone.

But to be of any practical use, anthropology must itself struggle
to free itself from the captivity of the State.

This struggle can be brought to the surface by becoming engaged
in the struggles of others. It won't be long before the messages
of control start coming from the adminstration department - and
become visible.

Academic anthropologist are presented with a choice - to maintain
the status quo and protect their mortgaged and privileged
positions or to side with life.

There is no shortage of problems to concentrate on, and a
concentrated effort may be required. Semiotic analysis, for
example, could be very useful in extending peoples understanding
beyond that of politicians and media barons.


Such discussion and analysis needs to involve, and be directly
accessible by, non-anthropologists. Popular anthropology - and
we have the means by the use of the internet, World Wide Web, and
other emerging technologies.

I believe that these gifts belong to the peoples of the world -
to be used for truly adult purposes. At the moment they are part
of the false consciousness fantasyland industry which worships
market forces without respect for the higher forces which
generate us all. Time to take the toys away from the boys.

Adult starts have already been made to use these new means of
communicating. I believe that it is necessary to tackle
contemporary problems - as defined by peoples and not by states -
to realise the full potential of both anthropology and (quite
frankly) those technologies.

Applied anthropology, to my mind, was dominated by the agendas
of states (How to keep the natives under control). Little wonder
the real contributions anthropology (as a collective creative
endeavour - an expanded mind - which crosses cultural boundaries)
has had little popular appeal.

Yet, the history of literature and art will come to treat the
works of anthropologists as major features of twentieth century
forms of representation. Hopefully, the next transformation will
be one in which those representations incorporate other modes of
relating/Being at their core.

Holistic standards of adequacy which go beyond having a grasp of
bloodless 'ethnographic facts' will be necessary to produce this
transformation. How we align our Being is the key. Becoming
involved in peoples struggles - in a firm but healing way - is
part of this process of alignment.

We need some real time informed anthropological debate on things
which are happening right now!

As the Rainbow Warrior sails into the danger zone, where better
to concentrate our limited resources than at Mururoa?


What are the messages produced by the atom bomb - for which
differing parts of life?

Nation-States are blocked forms of relating. Life is an energy
flow and on the move. Living anthropology, siding with peoples,
joins the movement...and produces its representations away from
comfortable Chairs.

In Solidarity,

Bruce Reyburn
4 July 1995