The “invisible” Anthropology in public

Before taking this anthropology course, it was a completely unfamiliar field to me. I’m interested in history, politics and philosophy, and I know that they are related to public affairs. To some extent, they even can influence public views and government policies. However, anthropology usually doesn’t relate to the public sphere directly. So there is an anthropologist who wants to figure out the reason. In his article, Kerim Friedman argues why anthropology is marginal to public discourse and how that reason leads to three consequences.

Friedman thinks “anthropological expertise is shaped by the ethnographic method, ” which means that anthropology is indeed useful but only in specific ethnographic aspects. This is why anthropology is constrained in public discourse. And it causes three consequences.

The first one is that anthropologists’ interventions in the public sphere are generally invisible. For instance, some are too specific and local, which makes it easy for people to miss the underlying ideas that are presented by them. The second is that anthropologists have a different understanding of the public from newspaper columnists. This brings to the third consequence, which is that anthropology is even less visible in public because the kinds of insights that anthropologists recommend, but policy makers don’t want to hear. And once anthropological standpoints are used “visibly” in public, some so-called public commentators have to change their approach, which is they are not willing to do. For example, if some columnists read ethnographies about sex workers, they probably have to think their rescue crusades in a completely different way.

Friedman utilizes a critical way to figure out why the public doesn’t see the anthropology behind interventions. He provides a view that anthropology is full of public intellectuals, however, it if wants to be visible, it needs to change some aspects internally. In addition, external circumstances would have to change. Just like he said, “keep calm and do anthropology.”