Applied anthropology – How to cope with current social and societal challenges? / Aplikovaná antropológia - Ako sa vysporiadať so súčasnými sociálnymi a spoločenskými výzvami?

This panel will deal with the practical use of application/engagement oriented ethnological research in addressing the problems of contemporary societies. In this context, we will focus on the use of the approaches of engaged/applied anthropology/ethnology in different areas of the urban environment: human rights, health, social inequality, education, inter-cultural communication, etc. This panel will also discuss the possibilities of engagement of researchers and conscious influencing of processes (participatory research) and the ethical aspects of applied research.
Main topics: minorities, public space in a city, volunteering, care for elderly people, migration and integration of migrants, inter-cultural communication and ethical dilemmas in applied research. 

Chaired by

Miroslava Hlinčíková

Panel moderator

Soňa G. Lutherová (Institute of Ethnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Joana Breidenbach: Civic Tech and the European refugee crisis (betterplace lab, Berlin, Germany) 

The number of people fleeing war, violence and persecution is higher today than at any point since the 1940s. 60 million refugees worldwide have fled their home country or are internally displaced. Digital technology is playing a big role in the experiences of refugees. Smartphones are an essential piece of kit for millions as they travel. And this dimension of technology has not gone unnoticed: a refugee tapping on a smartphone, taking a selfie, the generator-powered phone-charging stations within refugee camps – these are among the iconic images of the present crisis.
This opens the way for digital initiatives to support refugees, and these are proliferating. A new eco-system is emerging internationally with unprecedented speed, intensity and diversity. With partners, Betterplace lab undertook field research in February-March 2016 to investigate this emerging phenomenon. We carried out qualitative interviews in Jordan, Greece and Turkey with two different groups: (1) various civil society actors, both established and "disruptive", using digital approaches in their work with refugees; (2) refugees themselves. We wanted to understand the kinds of initiatives that are being tried, and the way that different actors work and interact – and also assess whether these initiatives are based on sound assumptions about the refugees' needs and the way they use technology.

Panel speakers

Petra Ezzeddine: We are welcoming our expert on migration!: personal reflection on the “expert” positionality in the engaged anthropology projects for (with) migrants and refugees (Department of general Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)

In this presentation I will focus on the tension between "fidelity" to our discipline, the communication of current issues related to migration processes in the public media and the professional challenges of migrant advocacy in the anthropological practice. Are Czech (Slovak) anthropologists prepared to enter a public and political debate over the current increased mobility of refugees? I will try to critically reflect my own personal experience with the effects of engaged anthropology projects in the social environment of Czech NGOs and international organizations working with migrants and refugees. What kinds of expectations are placed on us by our donors, media, academic colleagues, but also migrants themselves?

Miroslava Hlinčíková: Who has the right for research? Reflection on mutual relationships with informants in applied research projects in Slovakia (Institute of Ethnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Social researchers who practice engaged research often face different dilemmas and challenges in their approach to the research process. One of the most important and ambivalent issues is their partnership with informants and the degree of participation of the people (research subjects) on the research itself. As Arjun Appadurai argues research is recognised as a right of a special kind and should be regarded as a more universal and elementary ability. I will explore the ways of partnership, nexus between the action and research and the suggested right as part of democratization process of research. In my presentation I will reflect on my experience with different applied projects in the field of migration and integration in the context of Slovakia and will think how citizenship, knowledge and research are interconnected.

Mgr. Kateřina Sidiropulu Janků, Ph.D.: Margita Lázoková. A person in game (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University Brno)

The applied and participative/action research practices come into the center of interest among qualitative researchers in Europe as new forms and intensities of inequality emerge in contemporary world.  Alongside, the applied research outcomes serve as a legitimization means of humanities facing the intensification of concentration of resources to the high-tech science areas. Looking at the four-year career of applied research relationship with Madame Margita Lázoková, the witness of events of post-1945 Slovak Roma work migration to the Czech lands I will discuss both dimensions. How far do we succeed to eliminate the contemporary inequalities using the participative/action research methods? Do we manage to contribute to the societal good with our applied research projects outcomes in a way that legitimizes our research industry in the eyes of donors?

Myrto Tsilimpounidi: Containers As Social Landscapes (Institute of Sociology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia)

A dockyard full of shipping containers forms a kind of visual short-cut to imagining the successful mechanisms of globalisation through the flows and distribution of products and goods around the world. On the other hand, containers used as detention centres in the urban peripheries become the exemplar of the untold stories of the much less celebrated consequences of globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth. In this case, containers signify the narratives of containment and contagion that are exemplar of the logic of Fortress Europe. In the era of financial austerity, material deprivation and dispossession the division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ along nationalist and ethnic lines is particularly accentuated. Such divisions serve as fertile breeding ground for vulnerability, uncertainty and fear resulting in new patterns of prejudice.
In this project, containers have been identified as forming different functions that intersect with human rights and humanitarianism: from the containers of goods and products arriving in Greece celebrating the new era of European trade and patterns of consumption, to the migrants arriving in metal boxes and being detained in containers announcing a new era of containment for the unwanted ‘Others’. The project is based on the premises of visual research and is accompanied by a photographic exhibition (on ppt).

Ľubica Voľanská,  Helena Tužinská: Intercultural communication courses: business with education (Institute of Ethnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia; Department of Ethnology and Museology, Faculty of Arts of the Comenius University, Bratislava

Anthropology since its beginnings has focused on the role of transmission of cultural knowledge. Through its history various theories aimed to explain the complexity of mutual understanding of persons with various backgrounds. On the basis of experience with teaching and doing research in an intercultural environment in Slovakia the authors ask several questions:
(1) How are symbolic classifications West/East, North/South related to the actors' country of origin? We would like to focus on the versatility of concepts heavily used in the work of Gert Hofstede et al.
(2) What are the differences in the ways how emic and etic perspectives were used in interpretation of ethnographic material in an interdisciplinary team?
The authors conclude with questions on the possibilities of transmission of anthropological standards. We discuss the ways in which cultural traits are selected and simplified for justifications used in intercultural context.