EASA beyond crises: continuities and innovations in European anthropology
The European Association of Social Anthropologists is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The inaugural General Assembly of EASA was held in 1989, in Italy. That year was also marked by the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the World Wide Web. The fall of the Wall in Berlin stands as a symbol for both epochal crisis and opportunity in late twentieth century Europe, and crisis is one, amongst other, iconic tropes of our time. A quarter-century later, Europe is in the midst of a different kind of crisis and one which informs the theme of the association’s biennial conference in Tallinn. The texts available on this page were presented at one of the conference's plenaries. They address how European anthropology has reacted to and engaged in different revolutions of the 20th century, how it inhabits crisis as an epistemic moment, and how it manages its intimacies and fall-outs. We take our 25th anniversary as an opportunity to locate EASA in the key events of the past century, and to look forward to the role we envision for the future of the association in particular and European anthropology in general in the next 25 years.
EASA PLENARY TALK
This paper is drawn in part from the conclusion to the new edition of my Anthropology and Anthropologists (Routledge, 2014).
Reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the founding meeting of the EASA, I will talk about the intellectual issues that were on our minds. They seemed urgent, because we recognized that the discipline was in the throes of a post colonial crisis, particularly in Britain and France, which were still the main intellectual centres of social anthropology.
First of all, having lost their Empires, British and French anthropologists had to find a role. This was not straightforward. They were accused of being ‘Orientalists’ who viewed colonial peoples as objects, and constructed false and mystifying differences. Nationalists charged that their research encouraged tribalism. According to ‘dependency theory’, much favoured by Latin American writers, human lives everywhere were ultimately shaped by multi-national companies. To emphasise local cultural differences was to draw a veil over this deeper reality.
And then an even more fundamental problem had to be faced. The anthropologists needed to think again about the very nature of their scientific object. Colonial natives had once been loosely identified as Primitives. By the 1970s few social anthropologists were using the old idiom of 'primitives' or 'savages', except in a fit of absentmindedness, or, like Malinowski, ironically, or, like Lėvi-Strauss, with provocative ambiguity. Hardly any would still claim that there was a distinct category of ‘tribal’ societies, for which a special theory had to be constructed. Yet anthropology was associated with the intellectually indefensible and politically unsavoury idea that the colonial peoples were uncivilized, backward, and very different from Europeans. Few anthropologists addressed these popular misconceptions. Perhaps the old notions had even been rather convenient, since they shielded ethnographers from ticklish questions about why they spent so much time in the colonies or, by the 1970s, the former colonies.
And yes, many anthropologists did indeed do their fieldwork in Africa, Oceania and the Amazon. Indeed, as development aid began to flow to the former colonies and in consequence a new applied anthropology emerged, not only in France, Britain and The Netherlands, but even more strongly, and idealistically, in Scandinavia and Germany. So was social anthropology to become a science of “undeveloped countries”? Was this perhaps the new incarnation of the old “primitive society”?
A more considered defense of research priorities was now required. If those folk did not represent a different, tribal world, why were they the privileged subjects for ethnographic research? And if social anthropology did not have its special field of research - a particular type of society and culture - then what could it contribute to the broader discourse of the social sciences?
Three possible answers to these questions were floated, perhaps even three and a half, but none was entirely persuasive. The first option was to insist that social anthropologists had indeed honed special methods for doing research in … not, of course, Heaven forbid, ‘primitive societies’. There was a search for euphemisms - pre-literate peoples, or better still, less patronizing, the Other: the non-western. In any case, the claim was that when it came to these … Other Cultures … anthropologists could draw on a store of accumulated wisdom. In short, social anthropology did possess its own proper subject matter, even if it wasn’t easy to give it a name.
At the extreme there has been a revival of the primitivist project – two in fact – one political, the indigenous peoples’ movement, another, not unrelated, which looks for a social wisdom, in tune with nature and even the supernatural, founded on a pre-modern ontology. Lėvi-Strauss may be the patron saint of this movement, but I do not believe that in either incarnation it represents a fruitful or realistic research programme, perhaps even in the Amazon.
The claim that anthropology was about the exotic other was in any case problematic,
if only because local ethnographers in Asia and Latin America were making studies ‘at home’, although usually in the poorest and most marginal communities in their countries.
A second claim, at variance with the first, was that the ethnographer’s magic could work very well at home, or anyway, quite near to home. Indeed what was termed ethnology in many European countries was exclusively concerned with national traditions. By the 1980s some ethnologists were drawing on models from social anthropology, but without the discipline and perspective of comparison. Yet in any case, switching to doing fieldwork ‘at home’ could hardly represent a new programme for the discipline as a whole, unless social anthropology were to merge with sociology, bringing as a dowry only its questionable copyright on a particular method of collecting data.
Some did seize upon the ethnographic method as a guarantee of the anthropological project. In some quarters a cult of ethnography developed. This might qualify as a half-answer to the question, whither anthropology, but, of course, even ethnologists and sociologists were doing ethnography, and it was hard to justify piling up ethnographies in the absence of a thought-out research programme.
If a cult of ethnography was no real solution, the social anthropologists had to face up to a very big problem, because even more than development studies or ethnology, sociology seemed to threaten the identity and ambition of social anthropology.
Sociology was, of course, a well-established discipline in the USA and in many European countries, but until the 1960s it had only a marginal presence in British universities. Then it suddenly took off, encouraged by a Labour government and fuelled by student demand. Elsewhere in Europe sociological faculties grew by leaps and bounds.
By and large, the social anthropologists beat a retreat in the face of sociology. Sociology was about modern, industrial, western societies. Very well, some anthropologists concluded, social anthropology was to be defined as the science of the Rest, the ‘other cultures’. They also favoured traditional topics of research. Even when their fieldwork took them to societies in the throes of revolutionary change, they typically chose to study cosmologies and kinship systems. Back then to the first answer, the default response, social anthropology as exotica.
A third answer to the question – what are we doing over there? – was that social anthropology represented the comparative wing of the social sciences. It is obviously worth finding out whether social science theories work in other societies. Do their generalisations apply to human beings in general, or only to citizens of Western liberal democracies? 'Sociological theory,' Radcliffe-Brown had pronounced, 'must be based on, and continually tested by, systematic comparison.'i And who but trained ethnographers could put the propositions of the social sciences to the test in other conditions?
When we met in Castel Gondolfo it was, I think, evident that, perhaps above all, social anthropology required a fresh theoretical project. Could a starting point be recovered from our established theoretical inventory? After all, anthropologists had ideas about kinship, gender, ritual, classification, taboo, totemism, witchcraft, systems of exchange, patron-client relationships and so on. These were not all pre-modern issues. Many had analogues in all societies. More broadly, culture theory could be identified as an anthropological speciality, though not perhaps with much conviction on the part of British social anthropologists. And those of a structuralist bent might even aspire to work with neuroscientists to complete the project of Lėvi-Strauss and deliver a comparative account of human ways of thinking.
However, The Sixties, a decade of carnival and radical new ideas – still going strong in the 1970s and still just about alive in the 1980s – had been a traumatic period for all the social sciences. The orthodoxies were pummelled, the old authorities ridiculed. The standard theories – functionalism, structural-functionalism, structuralism – were denounced as reactionary, impotent in the face of change, an instrument for social control. The old school was not with the movement. Students demonstrating in Paris in 1968 held up banners proclaiming Structures Do Not Take To The Streets. At the very least, there was a need for new ideas about how societies changed – or entered the modern world, as people put it at the time.
And clearly the old models had nothing to say about social change or about the economic, political and religious currents that swept across national boundaries. The classical models tended to assume that societies and cultures coincided, and that their boundaries were real and rigid, and that they were in a state of equilibrium (though there were exceptions, notably Evans-Pritchard’s study of the Sanuni of Cyrenaica, Leach’s of the Kachin and Ernest Gellner’s of the Berbers of the Atlas mountains in Morocco)ii. Yet while the ethnographer might still be working in a remote village, the villagers were usually well aware that they lived in a larger world.
These weaknesses made social anthropology vulnerable to a Marxist critique, and for a time several departments were consumed by Marxist cargo-cults – some have still not really recovered. But then very suddenly, in the mid 1980s, Glasnost broke out. The mood changed in the West. There was a shift to a more personal politics, a politics of identity and representation. ‘Culture’ became a key word, and within European anthropology some came to feel that perhaps, after all, American anthropology had been right to take ‘culture’ as its subject rather than social structure.
Clifford Geertz was renewing the project of interpretive anthropology, and refining the notion of culture. In the 1980s interpretive anthropology seemed set for a while to sweep the board on both sides of the Atlantic. Even in its British heartlands, social anthropology barely resisted translation into cultural studies (yet another new discipline to threaten their identity). An extreme version of cultural idealism and relativism, the post-modernist cargo cult sprang up in the mid 1980s and swept into European anthropology from the USA. It proclaimed that attempts to understand other people were futile and politically suspect. To many of us gathered in Castel Gondolfo, this seemed to be a serious challenge to our discipline.
The culturalist discourse excluded much that was central to social anthropology. Politics was treated simply as rhetoric. Ethnic identity was merely an ideological construction. Religions were reduced to cosmologies. Kinship was a symbolic statement about shared identity, not a system of working connections on which people depended for dear life. Economics was about conceptions of nature, production and reproduction, but excluded such mundane factors as land law, labour, budgets, or calculations of profit and loss. Ethnographies were, at best, tentative essays in the difficulties of inter-cultural communication.
There is a profound gulf between the culturalists and those anthropologists who regard themselves as social scientists. From the idealist point of view of the culturalists, ways of life are so different as to be incommensurate. Indeed it is almost impossible to grasp how other people see the world. But social anthropologists are interested in the conditions and organization of daily life. They are impressed rather by the recurrence of certain institutions, the limited range of variation, the very common strategic responses to the problems of getting by, making do, rubbing along. An anthropology that situates itself in the social sciences would have a very different agenda to the culturalist programme.
While comparisons may be difficult they are not impossible, and there is very real need for broader perspectives and for better information about how other people manage their lives. Very nearly all research funding in the human sciences is directed to the study of the inhabitants of North America and the European Union. Ninety-six per cent of the subjects of studies reported in the leading American psychology journals are drawn from Western industrial societies.iii These represent a minuscule and distinctly non-random sample of humanity. The leading economics journals publish more papers dealing with the United States than with Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa combined, according to a report in the Economist. And it is a science of the rich. ‘The world’s poorest countries are effectively ignored by the profession’, the report noted.iv
And so new projects are emerging, on a wider stage. Our community of European social anthropologists is becoming more significant than the national traditions that it encompasses. The younger generation shares the classic commitment to Malinowskian fieldwork, but draws on a range of sociological and historical discourses. They engage with European concerns about immigration and ethnicity, but many do fieldwork in societies beyond Europe. A more cosmopolitan discipline is emerging, multi-centred, engaged in a range of current intellectual debates. The social science tradition is reasserting itself.
Young social anthropologists read widely and reflectively in social theory. Their arguments are closely tied to detailed ethnographic observations, but their ethnographies do not describe isolated, bounded, traditional, monocultural societies. Rather, the most exotic communities are presented as part of the wider world, the site of intellectual and political cross currents, echoing to debates and dissension. The most apparently traditional societies are not presented as unchanging, or as mysteriously, or enchantingly, ‘other’. In order to make sense of their world, even the most conservative and apparently isolated people appeal to shifting frames of reference. Nor is this all taken to be a sign of modernity, or a marker of uncomfortable and ill-comprehended change, to be blamed perhaps on a vaguely conceived Neo-Liberalism. Rather, it is the normal state of things, everywhere, at all times. As social anthropology becomes a truly cosmopolitan discipline, a new realism is abroad.
i A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, ‘The comparative method in social anthropology’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1951, p. 16.
ii E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, Oxford, 1954; E. R. Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma, London, 1954; Max Gluckman, “Analysis of a social situation in modern Zululand’, Bantu Studies, 1940, 14:1, 1-30. Ernest Gellner, Saints of the Atlas, London, 1969.
iii J. J. Arnett, ‘The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American’, American Psychologist, 2008, 63: pp. 602-614.
iv ‘The useful science?’, Economist, January 4th, 2014.
EASA AT THE BEGINNING: THE MEETING OF 1989
by Sydel Silverman
Let us begin by correcting some misconceptions. First, our association had its beginning in 1988, when the meeting of January 1989 was organized; these dates are significant because they precede by many months the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent end of the Cold War. And second, the 1989 meeting was neither an inaugural nor a General Assembly but an informal, tentative exploration of an idea, whose outcomewas by no means a foregone conclusion. The notion of an association bringing European anthropologists together seems inevitable now,but it was viewed by many at the time as unlikely and, at best, unworkable. (“You’ll never get the French and the Germans to talk to each other,” it was said,“and the British can’t—or won’t--talk to anyone who doesn’t speak English.”)
Still it was an idea that was in the air.It began to take concrete form in a conversation I had with Adam Kuper, who was then the editor of Current Anthropology, the journal sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. His interest in it dovetailed with my strategy at Wenner-Gren of fostering regional or continent-wide networks of anthropologists, rather than supporting national or international associations. It seemed to me that the regional level was broad enough to discourage parochialism and create lines of communication beyond national structures and local politics, yet limited enough to make regular interaction possible.
Adam proposed holding a meeting of a group of European social anthropologists to explore the possibility of an association, and I agreed that Wenner-Gren would fund it in full. The moment seemed right. In recent years, a time of relative prosperity, there had been increasing contact among anthropologists both within Europe and with colleagues abroad. Many European anthropologists were now bilingual, and in general, linguistic chauvinism had eased. Most significantly, the impending European Union slated for 1992 was creating optimism for a European identity, and the promise of resources with which to build it. Unspoken was a widespread sense of frustration at the hegemony of North American anthropology; joining forces in a wider, European, community could bea counterweight to the Americans.
Adam began to draw up a list of invitees, based on his own network of acquaintances and the suggestions of others whom he consulted. He sought active scholars at mid-career, not the most senior figures in their countries nor major officeholders in associations at home. His basic premise was that each person would attend as an individual, not as the representative of any national organization. He hoped to include every country in Western Europe, but did not entirely succeed in that aim. In the end, there were nineteen participants: three from the UK—along with Adam there were David Parkin and John Davis (whose good offices gained us the conference site); two from the Netherlands, Jeremy Boissevain and Jarich Osten; from France, Daniel de Coppet and Philippe Descola; from Germany, Georg Pfeffer and Rolf Husman; and from Spain, Teresa del Valle and José Luis García; and one each from Austria, Andre Gingrich; Belgium, Luc de Heusch; Denmark,Kirsten Hastrup; Norway, Eduardo Archetti; Sweden, Gudrun Dahl; Italy, Bernardo Bernardi; Greece, Akis Papataxiarchis; and Portugal, João Piña-Cabral. Two Italian colleagues attended as observers, and this was my roleas well.
The Western European composition of the group was no accident, of course. In Adam’s letter of invitation, and in the documents he put together prior to the meeting, the reference was to a “Western European Association of Social Anthropologists.” The geographical boundaries of an association’s “West” were not clearly delineated, butthe real issue was the central concern(for many in the founding group) to keep an association’s identity strictly “social anthropology”, which might readily be scuttled or swamped were it open to the large number of Eastern European ethnologists, folklorists, and functionaries of various sorts.
The very agreeable venue was the conference center of ENI (the Italian state petroleum company) in Castelgandolfo, in the shadow of the Pope’s summer residence. The meeting ran over the weekend of January 13-15, 1989, with two days of sessions (Saturday and Sunday) and dinners together on Friday and Saturday evenings.
The first session opened with a round-robin, in which each participant summarized the state of anthropology is his or her country: its historical background, institutional structure, numbers of professionals and students, professional associations, sources of funding, and problems. Rolf Husman provided relevant information on Switzerland. The overall message was upbeat; almost everywhere anthropology was alive and well, growing, and ready for engagement with other countries. The session was intended to be informational, not an endorsement of the idea of an association, but what Adam later described as starting as “a slow minuet” on that score quickly turned into a unanimous, vigorous consensus: that such an association was needed; that it should be limited to “social anthropologists”; and that membership should be on an individual basis, unmediated by any entity.
Then the tensions and problems emerged. How was social anthropology to be defined, and what doors should be opened to European traditions that used “culture” or “ethnology” rather than “social” in their self-descriptions? After much discussion, the resolution was to leave it to self-identification: anyone who considered himself/herself a social anthropologist would be considered, with eligibility for membership based on professional qualifications. In the end, the constitution defined social anthropology to include “specialists in social and cultural anthropology and ethnology.”
The same strategy of self-identification, it was suggested, would deal with the West/East issue. “Europe” would not be precisely defined. Rather, as Adam described the decision: “we will get to know the map of European social anthropology as it defines itself.” Thus, the association was born as “European”, not “Western European” as it was originally phrased. This was fortunate, because, of course, before the year was out Eastern Europe erupted, and any effort to maintain an academic boundary between East and West would have been obsolete before the association actually got under way. (A measure of how quickly things changed came during the assembly at the first conference, in Coimbra; when the floor was opento the question of where the next conference would be held, Vaclav Hubinger from Czechoslovakia, newly elected to the executive committee, proposed Prague, to vociferous acclaim.)
If the association was to define its geographical range loosely and its discipline narrowly, there remained a more general tension between inclusion and exclusion. Would the criteria for membership be strongly professional, or would they make room for students and others not fully established professionally? The solution was to have different categories of membership: regular membership would require a postgraduate degree from or a full-time position in a European institution, while a more inclusive category of associate membership would be open to students and certain others. The question of whether non-Europeans with research interests in Europe would be admitted was disposed of rapidly: members were to beEuropean, not Europeanist, anthropologists—an important distinction if the association were not to be flooded with Americans.
Inevitably, the problem of language, skirted at the beginning, could not be avoided. The initial suggestion was to follow the traditional diplomatic approach of using English and French as the official languages. Then, it was proposed to add a third language: Spanish, on the grounds that it was one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. But the idea of holding the first conference, the following year, in Coimbra had already been floated, and at that point Piña-Cabral stated that the conference could not take place there if Spanish were an official language and Portuguese were not. Someone else (not one of the British) argued that the fairest solution was to keep English as the sole language, since the more you try to include others the more you discriminate against someone. In the end, the consensus was to be silent on the question of language, official or otherwise, and leave the problem to find its own solution. The decision taken was that any European language could be used in any association context. It was predicted that most members would choose to use the language in which they thought they would be most widely understood, not the one they preferred to speak. The first conference bore that out; not surprisingly, the language used was almost always English.
There followed a discussion of what functions the association would take on, and here the critical question was the degree to which it would go beyond strictly professional activities (which everyone agreed were primary) to engage wider publics. This matter too was to be a work in progress.
With general points of agreement established, the participants then divided into four working groups focused on constitutional questions, conferences, educational initiatives, and publications. The working groups met for the remainder of the first day.
On Sunday morning, the leaders of the working groups reported on their recommendations, which were discussed and modified by the whole body. David Parkin reported on proposals for the constitution (the association’s structure, membership, governance, elections, etc.), noting the different approaches to constitutional issues among European countries (he remarked, the farther south you go, the more complex and legalistic they become). (I intervened in the discussion only once, suggesting that it was the AAA’s experience that mail ballots are fairer than voting in a general assembly—at which point I was reprimanded: “the constitution has tobe legal here; it has nothing to do with the AAA.”)
Daniel de Coppet reported on conferences, proposing that they be held biennially in different countries. Earlier, the whole body had debated two different models: the AAA’s large, inclusive meetings, as against the British ASA format of more exclusive, leisurely presentations. Everyone agreed they were opposed to the AAA “circus”. The working group proposed a compromise: two days of plenaries, with four thematic panels each one consisting of three invited, lengthy papers (presumably by distinguished individuals); then a third day left open for volunteered papers and seminars. (I could see where this would lead. Even by the time of the first conference, there were vocal objections to this “elitist” formula and, over time, more and more demand for greater inclusiveness and more time for volunteered papers. Thus, the AAA circus model was soon reinvented.)
The working groups on publication and on education floated a number of ideas. Plans for a newsletter and directory of the membership were put into place immediately; a journal and a monograph series were recommended but thought to be far in the future (the future arrived barely three years later). The education group foresaw a number of collaborative programs, which were quite quickly implemented.
The last item of business was to elect a provisional executive committee of five. It was decided to invite open nominations and then have a vote by secret ballot. The call for nominations yielded fourteen names (two-thirds of the whole body). When the ballots were counted, Philippe Descola, Kirsten Hastrup, Rolf Husman, and Adam Kuper were elected (a fortunate but accidental national distribution). There was a tie between Terese del Valle and David Parkin, who offered to withdraw; the group, however, refused, and called for a formal vote. With the two of them out of the room, del Valle was narrowly elected. The national and gender balance of the outcome was vital to the association’s success, but it was a lucky accident of the democratic process that the founders insisted upon. (When later that year I hosted a similar meeting to create the Pan African Association of Anthropologists, I learned that our African colleagues did not leave such important matters to chance.)
So on January 15, 1989, EASA emerged. Some of the problems thrashed out at the meeting continued, even to the present: language, exclusion/inclusion, European/non-European relations. Some intensified, such as the role of students, and new ones, such as gender politics, arose. Europe has changed, and what then seemed a rosy future for a united, vigorous Europe has been supplanted by threats and crises on all sides. Long gone is the widely felt enthusiasm for a European Union that gave impetus to the creation of EASA. But the die was cast, and EASA will survive no matter the wider politics. On our 25th anniversary, we can look back at this event and marvel at how far we have come from what was a very uncertain beginning.
Continuities and innovations in European anthropology
Portuguese anthropology and EASA: from 1990 to 2014. Reflections from the south European countries in
times of crises
by Antónia Pedroso de Lima,
CRIA / ISCTE-IUL
It is a pleasure and an honour to be at this plenary celebrating the EASA’s 25th anniversary.
In 1990, the first EASA conference was held in Portugal, in Coimbra, at a time when Portuguese anthropology was
undergoing an expansion process.
In the dictatorial regime that lasted in Portugal until 1974, the place of anthropology was limited to the support of the colonial administration and the ethnographic survey of a barely modern rural country. In the post-revolutionary decade, anthropological research responded to the key challenge of freeing the conceptions of “portugality” from the ideological ties bequeathed by the dictatorship.
By the end of the 1980’s Portuguese anthropology was vibrant, but lacked the capacity to engage in international debates.
The creationof the EASA in 1989was an important turn point for Anthropology and it’s first Conference was a success. It was the beginning of a period of change in circulation, in the dialogues and in the ways of practicing anthropology, in an intense movement that ended the barriers dividing worlds, promoting the exchange of ideas and critical thinking, which is the cornerstone of social sciences and of anthropology itself.
Twenty-five years later, we witness a permanent circulation of researchers, teachers, students and ideas between European countries. There are grants, joint projects, collective publications, networks and channels that foster the circulation of knowledge, practices and theoretical developments.
In our peripheral condition, Portuguese anthropologists were very successful in addressing the challenges of contemporary science. We managed to create a distinctive voice through the articulation of the networks in Europe and the Atlantic world, namely with vibrant anthropologies from the Portuguese speaking world such as Brazilian anthropology. These bridges for collaboration are one of the most important outcomes of EASA.
Given the economic and bureaucratic constraints that emerged by the end of the decade of 2010, as well as the new ideologies in the research policies coming from the European Union funding programs, EASA has now a new challenge: we must keep alive what we have built together, preserving our way of doing anthropology as a place of creativity and cognitive adventure avoiding the quantitative and policy driven turn in researchfunding.
This is no small challenge! The next coming years will certainly be bleak, due to another long and paralysing period of recession in southern Europe with tragic results for social sciences and anthropology in particular.
As is well known, one of themost devastating consequencesof the “crisis” in Southern European
countries werethe applied “structural adjustment policies”, which focusing on reducing public
deficit, savagely attacked the areas of education andhealthcare. By punishing these countries for having “wasted”
resources to pursue the reaching of European developmental standards, the goal of convergence with central and
northern Europe is definitely over. The crisis and its subsequent adjustments will place southern Europe
permanently on the peripheryconsequently ending the basis of the European project
In Spain, Greece and Portugal cuts made in Education were severely applied in research funding, particularly affecting the amounts available for the social sciences (which were already smaller than those of northern Europe).With the quasi disappearance of public funding, a whole new generation of young, and not so young, anthropologists is facing an uncertain future, as a consequence of the abrupt changes brought about by the economic crisis in the European project. The remarkable work done in the previous decades is thus at risk. Many had to seek abroad the means to continue their careers. Likewise, anthropologists from around the world who had found in Portugal or in Spain creative environments for their research – and who were an important contribution to the dynamism of the local anthropological projects during the 1900’ and the 2000’s – were forced to move on once again.
Nevertheless, one must bear in mindthatthe marginalisation of the social sciences and humanities is not just the result of cuts in funding. It is mainly the result of political and ideological orientations whichdefine that research should be in line with economic and technological development. We are talking about politics of knowledge. Funding policies all over Europe are giving preference to research with an entrepreneurial scope, aiming to address societal challenges that support the development of public policies. In this context, the threats to anthropology are increasing.
However, apart from the concreteproblems that the crisis brought to the development of anthropology, it is necessary to draw attention to the fact that the crisis in itself is an extraordinary terrain for research and reflection, in pair with the increasing theorizations on inequality in the contemporary world. Ironically, the effects of austerity resulting from the crisis, which are threatening the discipline in several countries, became a relevant field of reflection to many anthropologists who seek to understand the new social contexts created by the growth of poverty, inequality, social polarization, and the reactions to traditional political systems and their connection to the global capitalist system.
Anthropology is particularly well placed to describe and understandthese changes in the everyday life of people in social contexts of crisis, deprivation and austerity. By approaching life experiences and the subjectivity, ethnography rends visible frameworks of interpersonal relations, andanalysesthe ways in which the crisis affects people and their livelihoods, transforming them, transforming their social networks and, building on their experienced viewpoints, constructs a critical perspective that overcomes the simplistic dichotomy between particular livelihoods and contemporary global capitalism.
This is why EASA is of central importance to the challenges that anthropology is facing in these times of crises. In times of an economic crisis, it is urgent that EASA become a voice in the funding agencies all over Europe, not only in the central European Research Council. It is also imperative that EASA is heard by the agencies that define funding policies for research and science development. In times of a philosophical crisis of the importance of anthropological knowledge for a better understanding of the complexity of social life, it is crucial that EASA develops creative ways to show the relevance of the knowledge that we produce to re-humanize economics, identifying the complexity of lived experiences as shared knowledge.
To conclude let’s go back to the title of this 13thEASA’sbiannual conference:Collaboration, Intimacy and Revolution. We have collaborated; in doing so we have become intimate. Now we must think if we have to make a revolution to guarantee that we have the kind of Anthropology that we stand for the next 25 years.