Extreme Anthropology

During my exploration of anthropology in the Directory of Open Access Journals, I came across the Journal of Extreme Anthropology. Just the title entices, but the contents are quite interesting as well.

The journal is run by the Extreme Anthropology Research Network, a group centered in Scandinavia, but with members from all over, that explores the “notion of the ‘extreme’ within contemporary cultural, political and economic environments.”

Its recent special issue on “Security and Morality: Critical Anthropological Perspectives” consists of 11 interesting articles, but one, “Why do we need your research?: The Ethics of Studying Security and the Deilemmas of the Anthropologist-Expert” by Tessa Diphoorn and Erella Grassiani, caught my eye. The authors discuss the double-binds that they face as anthropologists doing research on Israeli and South African policing and private security.

The article focuses on the ethical and methodological challenges of studying “security”—something that is taken for granted as a public good. After all, as the authors point out, who would want to argue for the value of “insecurity”? Diphoorn and Grassiani talk about the misunderstanding they face from funders and other researchers about the nature of their work, the expectations that their informants have of them and which are problematic to meet, and the methodological choices they have to make in order to gain access to situations where some level of suspicion is the norm.

In the process, they ask anthropologists to complicate how we think about “engaged” and “public” anthropology. Diphoorn and Grassiani show that anthropologists face an array of difficult methodological and ethical judgements in dealing with those who are often seen as perpetrating violence for the benefit of the “public.”

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