2015 – Anthropology of the future
People have always been fascinated by ‘the future’. Visions of the future have been depicted in popular culture, for example in George Orwell’s 1984 and Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, in politics, through the theories of Marx and Ghandi, and also in science, through studies like Future Planet Studies. It is important to think about the future, especially as students, because we are the future. This is why, in 2015, we decided to use our congress to take a closer look into the future of our discipline: Anthropology. Because ‘the future’ is a very broad topic, our programme consisted of six different sessions, each focussing on a different factor concerning the future of anthropology.
The first session focused on the topic of ‘crisis’. Here, two Anthropology students, Rowan Podzimek and Loes Ansems, talked about their own travel experiences in Nagorno-Karabach and Jordan, regions effected by conflict. Dr. Martijn de Koning closed the session by presenting a theoretical framework concerning the experiences of the students.
The second session focused on activism within Anthropology. Dr. Anne de Jong, Drs. Frank van As and Dr. Martijn Dekker discussed the value of activism within Anthropology, and the opportunity to expand its scope in the future.
The third session focused on development. Development aid was viewed from two perspectives. Dr. Laurens Bakker spoke about development aid from a theoretical anthropological perspective, and Drs. Tamara Mohr, who began working for the Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Both ENDS after studying anthropology, discussed the practical side of anthropology and development.
The fourth session consisted of a discussion regarding Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Here, a lot of emphasis was placed on the move to Roeterseiland, and co-determination within this decision. Xandra Hoek, former president of Kwakiutl, discussed her perspective as a student, president and part of the action group ‘REC de Verhuizing’. Ir. Andres Switzer, a PhD student in urban planning and a part of the housing committee for UvA employees, offered his perspective on the co-determination for employees. Dr. Oskar Verkaaik ended the session by talking about the ‘Antroprotest’ group, who were involved in the protests during the occupation of ‘het Maagdenhuis’.
The fifth session included an interactive conversation between prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen and prof. Annelies Moors. In response to the publication of Elementaire deeltjes: sociale en culturele antropologie, they discussed the fundamentals of anthropological science. With these fundamental principles in mind, different topics were discussed, such as the role of cultural politics in everyday life. The session was guided by drs. Apostolos Andrikopoulos.
The sixth session concerned anthropology in unexpected places. Anthropology is a very broad subject, and graduates can end up working in a variety of different, sometimes unexpected places. Merlijn Michon and Sinan Çinkaya, UvA Alumni, discussed their career choices, explaining the role of their studies in Anthropology in this. Merlijn Michon is co-founder of ‘Wijkwiskunde’, a company that conducted research to improve different neighbourhoods. Sinan Çinkaya is researcher and advisor, focussing on the police force and security.
The day was brought to a close by none other than Thomas Hylland Eriksen. He combined the content of the day’s sessions in a speech about the importance of anthropological research, and the opportunities it can create in the future.
‘I will emphasise the need to get out of the cocoon and engage seriously with other disciplines. There are a few core questions that anthropologists have always raised, and if I were to distill them into just one question, it would be: “What is the meaning of the word ‘we’”? Today, it has to be raised within the context of global crises, climate change, overheated identities and new forms of vulnerability, and the issues are too complex for anthropologists to take them on alone. However, we have unique insights to offer, and we should find a way to make the world listen.’
All in all, it was a very successful day of informative lectures delivered by fascinating speakers, attracting many enthusiastic visitors!