We have been motivated to write this project for two reasons. Firstly, we want to help anthropologists work through ideas in more informal ways and to familiarise a wider audience with uncommon, and often estranging, knowledge of anthropology. Secondly, we want to assert anthropological thinking styles in light of current far-reaching social and political uncertainties.
This is a social engagement project. We are looking to create an opportunity for anthropologists and other social scientists to engage more openly with critical questions of the anthropological concern, including those that can be at times confronting. We want to make anthropological theory, practice, activism, and also space for personal reflection more accessible.
We want to encourage ways of knowing that are based on the experiences of listening, looking, trying out, and being with – you know, ethnography – rather than knowing from “convictions,” or reasoning from first principles. We wish to engage theory in a manner that is more relatable to a non-academic audience, to help both anthropologists and non-anthropologists alike to support anthropology’s relevance. As the frontiers of anthropology have moved significantly from its’ non-reflexive beginnings, we would like to capture some of the experiences of anthropologists today and the impact that their field sites have on them.
Our second aim responds to the critical political events of 2016 – explicitly the rise of potent anti-intellectual movements on the fringes of politics that now appears to be moving into the mainstream. We hope that The Familiar Strange can be part of the intellectual push to keep these movements accountable, to explore, expose and examine their positions. We acknowledge that within the leftist and liberal position there are many contradictions.
We want to grapple with these contradictions, just as we similarly take to task slippages of cultural relativism into ‘moral relativism’, and conservative ethnocentrism. We want to form a community of practice and thought to interrogate hard questions beyond our field sites, and invite you to be a part of this community.
We have both blogs and podcasts to give the thoughts and lives of anthropologists some more critical – but informal – exposure. We particularly encourage early-career anthropologists to blog with us, while we run the podcasts to tap into more refined thinking from more established anthropologists, to facilitate our learning of anthropology and improve dialogue.
In sum, we want to broaden understanding of, and engagement with, anthropology among students and the wider community. We want to unpack the familiar and the strange in ways that are inclusive rather than divisive. We hope to also provide our colleagues and teachers with an attractive and accessible platform for their ‘unpolished’ ideas, to provide stepping stones for good debate or personal reflection.
– The Familiar Strangers (Julia, Ian, Simon & Jodie)
[Image by Julia Brown]