Anthropologists are best known for spending (apparently) outrageous amounts of time observing and documenting the customs and habits of (apparently) distant and strange societies. Unlike many other disciplines, which tend to study political and cultural elites, we social anthropologist are most at home with common people. Indeed, as we follow them around on a daily basis, we often realise that ordinary people lead quite extraordinary lives.
Because anthropologists are so good at understanding common folk, we are often seen as experts on how communities deal with great and powerful entities: governments, empires, religious doctrines, the NHS, multinational corporations, you name it.
In this module we explore how anthropologists apply their skills in non-academic contexts. We focus on the opportunities and hazards that come with mediating between local communities and power. For this reason, anthropologists sometimes end up being advocates for the groups they studied. These are groups that took their time to give us the information we base our careers on. We give 'voice' to these people or, as some put it, 'speak truth to power'. Sometimes, our value as mediators is fully capitalised upon by these powerful institutions and many anthropologists have ended up working for them, offering advice on how to better govern (and control?) people.