In the past six years I have had the enormous privilege of welcoming 250 undergraduate students to anthropology. Central to the first lecture that I give are three interrelated points about how to become a good anthropologist: seek to be curious rather than clever; question everything; and pursue the art of reflective insolence. One side effect of these guidelines is an inclination to step on toes. I try to live as I teach, so when I give my view on what is the best path forward for anthropology as a discipline and for future practitioners of anthropology, it will be with tough love. Some might even see it as turf-guarding, as I am the middle-aged, white, European, cisgender male who stands in for the run-of-the-mill academic. A few sentences from now, some will add privilege-blind to that roster. And that might be justified. Still, after having spent most of my meandering career as an entrepreneur, freelance anthropologist, and newspaper columnist and then gained a permanent academic position at the not-so-tender age of forty-six, I have learned a few lessons that might hold wider validity.
Two decades of accommodating both the reward structures of the academic world and the knowledge sought after by the world outside of academia have convinced me of one thing. The fate of anthropologists working within academia is not just closely related to that of those working outside of it; the two are one and the same (see Kolshus 2017). If the attitudes surrounding applied anthropology and non-academic jobs, as uncovered in one recent inquiry, are widely held, then the future of our discipline is bleak. I believe we are better off than that, because we have one particular skill that sets anthropology apart from all other disciplines. In order to ensure the effective passing on of this skill, which John Comaroff (2010) calls anthropology’s “in/discipline,” three measures are required.
This publication can be found at this link: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1528-still-naughty-after-all-these-years