This presentation draws from a draft chapter in an edited volume, which combines the personal and the professional in arguing for an ‘engaged anthropology’ (Kirsch 2018) which is not limited to its practice within academe, but renders our truths and insights accessible to others as well as to ourselves, most importantly to those who are the subjects of our practice. I have argued elsewhere that there is a false binary between on the one hand anthropology as social critique and analysis conducted within academe, and as socially and politically engaged practice on the other. In this chapter I extend these ideas, in arguing for an anthropology in which there is engagement across diverse themes with varied audiences, most particularly the subjects of our research and practice. This necessarily entails the possibility of a range of responses in terms of the languages, mediums, and strategies we adopt and the contexts in which we utilise them. These factors then can be seen as establishing a continuum along which both public or ‘applied’ anthropology, and that practised within academe—anthropology taught to and largely written for anthropologists—lie. I illustrate these contentions by means of three case studies drawn from my own practice and career; not to offer them as exemplars of good practice, but as illustrations of attempts to engage those outside our discipline with anthropological insights on issues of significance to them. Each case study centres on a distinctive set of issues, and is drawn from a specific stage in my career as an anthropologist. I suggest that while my own career has been focused on Aboriginal Australia, more generally we should not allow any failure of our anthropological imaginations to limit the possibilities for establishing careers outside academe, whether specifically as anthropologists or drawing on our anthropological methodologies and insights.

About the Presenter

Originally a Chemical Engineer graduate from UQ, David Martin is an anthropologist by training, with a Masters in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University. He works through his own small company, Anthropos Consulting. David has over 40 years of experience in living and working with Aboriginal people across many regions of Australia, which began well before he studied anthropology. This included 8 years working on outstation support for Wik people in the remote community of Aurukun in western Cape York. He was a senior public servant in the Queensland Aboriginal affairs department from 1991-1994, a part time Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the ANU between 1995-2006, and since 1995 has worked as an independent consultant across a wide range of matters in Aboriginal affairs. He has published on a range of topics including governance of Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal affairs policy frameworks, and in more recent years on Aboriginal self-determination, cultural resilience, and identity, as well as in the native title arena.

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


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