"Rather than always studying poor, peripheral peasants, pastoralists, and fishermen, let’s turn the critical gaze of our discipline, which we do so well, let’s pivot it round like a telescope lens and focus upwards at, [Laura Nader] coined the phrase, ‘the hidden hierarchies of power.’"
Cris Shore, professor of social anthropology at the University of Auckland, talked to our own Jodie-Lee Trembath about what today's politics are doing to public institutions like universities, how to break down monolithic, shorthand concepts like "neoliberalism," and the challenges of "studying up:" how to do research when your subjects understand your methods, dispute your goals, and even hold institutional power over you.
This interview was recorded at the 2017 AAS "Shifting States" conference at the University of Adelaide, which stands on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people. Here is the university’s acknowledgement and reconciliation statement. Jodie recorded the intro and outro in Stockholm, Sweden, while temporarily based at the Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research.
"It’s very hard to disagree with or challenge the idea that accountability is a bad thing. It’s one of those weasel words; no reasonable, self respecting, rational person could possibly be opposed to accountability or transparency, or quality. It’d be like saying, ‘I’m against community’ or ‘I think the family is a bad thing.’"
"Anthropology’s a way of thinking, a way of seeing... You get sensitive to the, in a sense, just the conditionality and the fluidity of your own culture, and the arbitrariness of your own culture becomes blatantly apparent to you."
"I think that anthropology producing lots of PhD students who are not just going to go back into universities or colleges is a great thing, because actually, the world needs more anthropologists! We need them in diplomacy. We need them in government. We need them in planning departments. Anything. Any area where people interface with other people, the anthropological skill set is brilliantly useful."
"Policy enunciates, and creates, it doesn’t simply describe."
"The phrase ‘faculty land’ summed up the sense of disdain, and contempt and distance that these senior administrators were having for academics."
"I do sometimes feel I’m sticking my neck out [by researching universities], but then, on the other hand, as someone said to me once, if the professoriate can’t do it, and don’t do it, then who the hell can, and will?"
Wright, S., & Shore, C., 2017. Death of the public university? Uncertain futures for higher education in the knowledge economy. Berghahn Books. New York.
Pickett, K. and Wilkinson, R., 2010. The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin UK.
Hannerz, U., 1998. Other transnationals: Perspectives gained from studying sideways. Paideuma, pp.109-123.
Nader, L., 1969. ‘Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives gained from ‘studying up’’ pp. 284–311 in D. Hyms (ed) Reinventing Anthropology. Random House. New York.
Marcus, George E., 1995 Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95-117.
Shore, C., & Wright, S., 1997. Anthropology of policy: critical perspectives on governance and power. Routledge. New York.
This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the schools of Culture, History, and Language and Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.
Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com