This new Section of VIBRANT focuses on anthropology around the world and is scheduled to be a regular section of VIBRANT. Co-edited by Carmen Rial (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil) and Virginia R. Dominguez (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), it takes on the work of the WCAA (World Council of Anthropological Associations) and aims to make it visible to all, both in Brazil and elsewhere. While many anthropologists in Brazil and around the world have heard the phrase "world anthropologies," we do not know exactly what meaning people attribute to it.Wetake it as more than a comment about diversity, multiplicity, and geographic distribution. Many of us consider it a question of change and power in the distribution of knowledge around the world, and we want to participate in the articulation of such a vision.
In fact, we take "world anthropologies" to be something to discover, to promote, and to embrace. This Section in many ways aims to know --and to show--much more about the practice of anthropology outside the metropolitan settings where it was developed originally, where it thrived, and where it was frequently privileged since the mid-nineteenth century. There are bigger countries, like Brazil, China, Russia, and Canada, and they are obviously important to Anthropology and to the many readers of VIBRANT, but there are also smaller countries in the mix, countries with extensive research and teaching practices (like Serbia, New Zealand, Kenya, Portugal, South Korea, and Cuba) that we also choose to highlight because they are part of the practice of anthropology around the world and we can learn from them as well.
This first "issue" of this Section of VIBRANT features some wonderful examples of that mix. Under the leadership of Vesna Vucinic and Chandanna Mathur, as heads of the WCAA, colleagues in Australia who proposed such a thing were given approval to carry out a Global Survey of Anthropological Practice. There was much consultation in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, and a report was officially submitted to the Wenner-Gren Foundation (which contributed generously to the project) once the data-gathering was completed and helped to finance the travelling of a number of collegueas to present their results in Florianopolis, Brazil, in 2018. That report appears in full on the WCAA website1 1 At https://www.waunet.org/downloads/wcaa/mtgrpts/WCAA_biennial_2018_Reports.pdf , but we include here an essay that summarizes the results and reflects on the limitations and successes of the survey. We also include several other essays that shed light on the survey in a different way, putting the survey in historical and geographic perspective. In some cases, like the essay by Lia Ferrero on anthropology in Argentina, the GSAP looks less useful or insightful than other surveys done in Argentina itself. In some cases, like the essay by Fang Ke on anthropology in the People's Republic of China, the GSAP is not even the basis for the discussion, though it was an important impetus for it. In the cases of Uruguay and Hong Kong (with essays by Lydia de Souza and Gordon Matthews), we see two very different pictures of anthropology in small settings. And in the case of Brazil, as depicted by Carmen Rial and Lia Zanotta Machado, the GSAP was useful and insightful, but still warranted analysis and explanation. The weight of the GSAP data in each essay depended on the representativeness of the participants - in some countries we had many responses, in others few. It also depended on the potential capacity of the categories employed in the survey - that were necessarily very broad categories - to reflect the realities of local practices.
We have also chosen to include two other items because they add to the mix in important ways. One is a substantive interview on anthropology in South Korea (done via email with Virginia Dominguez asking the questions and Hyang-Jin Jung responding). The other is an essay on precarity by two of the leaders of the WCAA's Task Force on precarity - Vinicius Kaue Ferreira (Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro) and Georgeta Stoica (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Mayotte)
Altogether some questions emerged from the GSAP and are worth listing here:
Why is so much of the profession of anthropology around the world made up of women? Where are the men? This was not always the case, but it is now.
Why is so much of the profession of anthropology around the world centered on university teaching? What is the impact of this on anthropology itself, and on society at large?
Why is so much of the profession of anthropology around the world experiencing challenges in employment? European anthropologists are very concerned about precarity in employment but they are clearly not alone.
Why do so many anthropologists in the world publish in English or believe that they are expected to publish in English? And,
Do ideological differences exist in the practice of anthropology, and do they matter to us? Virginia remembers that one Editor in Chief ofAmerican Anthropologistwith whom she worked wanted her Section ofAAto be titledWorld Anthropology,but the subsequent Editors in Chief preferred to call itWorld Anthropologies. The difference may seem minute but really is not. Are we really talking aboutaprofession of anthropology around the world, or what Ludwig Wittgenstein (2001) WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig. 2001. . Philosophical Investigations. New York: Blackwell Publishing. called "family resemblances" in the conception of anthropology and the practice of anthropology? Like the example cited by the philosopher, can’t we see in anthropology “similarities crop up and disappear”. And “a complicated network of similarities overlapping and cross-crossing: sometimes overall similarities”? .
- WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig. 2001. . Philosophical Investigations New York: Blackwell Publishing.
Publication in this collection
08 Feb 2023
Date of issue