New book: Engaged Anthropology

Stuart Kirsch’s new book, Engaged Anthropology: Politics Beyond the Text, has just been released by the University of California Press.

Does anthropology have more to offer than just its texts? In this timely and remarkable book, Stuart Kirsch shows how anthropology can—and why it should—become more engaged with the problems of the world. Engaged Anthropology draws on the author’s experiences working with indigenous peoples fighting for their environment, land rights, and political sovereignty. Including both short interventions and collaborations spanning decades, it recounts interactions with lawyers and courts, nongovernmental organizations, scientific experts, and transnational corporations. This unflinchingly honest account addresses the unexamined “backstage” of engaged anthropology. Coming at a time when some question the viability of the discipline, the message of this powerful and original work is especially welcome, as it not only promotes a new way of doing anthropology, but also compellingly articulates a new rationale for why anthropology matters.

With cover art by Donatus Moiwend, a West Papuan artist with a history of involvement in the Papuan Cultural Renaissance of the 1980s, the book includes a chapter based on his fieldwork with West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea and West Papuan political leaders. Drawing on interactions over several decades, the chapter examines the prospects and limitations of academic contributions to the West Papuan sovereignty movement.
Table of contents:

Introduction

1.  How Political Commitments Influence Research

2.  When Contributions are Elusive

3.  The Search for Alternative Outcomes

4.  When the Intervention Fails, Does the Research Still Matter?

5.  How Analysis of Local Contexts Can Have Global Significance

6.  The Risks of Intervention

7.  Dilemmas of an Expert Witness

Conclusion


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