Typecast! Some lessons from Norwegian public anthropology
After many years of slumber, a string of disturbing political developments and setbacks in many parts of the world have convinced the anthropological community to recommit to its public role. As one of a mere handful of nations where anthropology has had a longstanding presence in public debates, Norway serves as an example for others to follow. In this essay, I use my experiences from years of varied media engagements to make the case for a public anthropology that is not merely a one-way enlightenment project but a tool for reflexivity and disciplinary critique. The didactic reformulation required when reaching out to new audiences can defamiliarise the things we know well and help us see things anew. In addition, the feedback, and occasionally outright resistance, often harvested by such outreach can provide a fresh take on established patterns of thinking and identify thematic and analytic blind spots. In Norway, anthropologists have gradually become collectively branded as belonging to the political left, which has blunted the potential impact of an anthropological critique. Showing that this branding is not entirely without substance, I argue that, by using media engagements as a two-way source of reflexivity, public anthropology can be a vital part of the discipline’s epistemological agility.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Thorgeir Kolshus
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