I am slowly recovering from the emotions of realizing a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and noted reality TV star will be the U.S. president for four long years. The onslaught of articles, op-ed pieces, and commentary trying to explain the cherry on top of a year filled with unprecedented global changes did little to ease the anxiety of seeing the product of dominant economic and political ideologies. Anthropologists are no stranger to the public with articles coming out in force such as:
The American Anthropological Society pushed for anthropology to be protected in a time where higher education is in peril
The Geek Anthropologist positions public anthropology as expanding conversations outside of academia.
Kristina Killgrove on Powered by Osteons details the experience of teaching students that subscribe to the ideology of Trump.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly would advocate the importance of anthropology in a globalizing world, but we need more than theory and discussion. Public anthropology that only exists in university classrooms and op-eds does not actually engage the public. What does anthropology do for the student who cannot afford college to attend lectures? Working adults trying to survive in growing economic disparity? How will a new ethnography prevent violence being done to the people we study? What do neologisms that are unintelligible for someone without a humanities degree do for the public? The life of articles in the era of click-bait saturating the social media landscape are days at best. Many Trump supporters have college degrees and had ample opportunity to study the world-shaking discipline of anthropology, what does anthropology do for those who do not want to understand cultural relativism?
Obviously, I see the importance of higher education and anthropological representation in press, but when will conversations lead to action? How does a public anthropology manifest in concrete and material change for the people we engage with? How public anthropology manifests with increasing violence in the U.S. and around the world is still in debate, but it is clear that conversation alone is not enough. Anthropology does not have the luxury of existing solely in print; to do so is to accept irrelevance.