Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Cosponsored by: Society for the Anthropology of North America
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Policy
Secondary Theme: Inequality
This panel highlights the importance of an engaged anthropological approach by interrogating post neoliberal urban processes in the United States (Brash) and comparing them to neoliberal and racialized development trajectories currently employed in cities in Vietnam (Harms), China (Smart), Korea (Looser), South Africa (Teppo) and New Zealand (Durr). Through this comparison the presenters explore the multiple, and sometimes contradictory and conflicting, theories and methods used to tackle urban problems vital to diverse publics. The session attempts to lay out the logic and labor of what constitutes this kind of engagement and what is necessary to move this agenda to the center of the discipline.
The papers describe the environmental, political, economic and social crises facing cities as well as the opportunities urban life holds for creativity, resistance, imagination and generativity. Each offers a social critique of urban programs, processes and policies or involvement in advocacy, collaboration and activism as part of an ethnographic endeavor. These ethnographic field studies undertaken at both global and local scales elucidate how urban anthropologists can investigate, make sense of, confront and translate these problems and opportunities for a variety of audiences.
The presentations briefly trace the contours of current practice and methodology to highlight how ethnography can uncover power dynamics and forms of resistance that exist in an effort to better articulate and transform them. The means by which this is accomplished varies: some contributors prefer a personal voice to elaborate the process of discovery or narrate as activists collaboratively solve local problems. Others employ cultural criticism and critical analysis to achieve their ends. Regardless, the point of each contribution is to illuminate the intellectual and historical context of the problem and explicate the theoretical and methodological approach with ethnographic examples drawn from fieldwork. Each reports the research findings and conclusions presented in such a way that other anthropologists as well as a concerned public can come away with a more sophisticated understanding of the issues and the motivation to engage them. The papers cover topics such as displacement and refugees, urban sustainability, housing and homelessness, heritage preservation, security and insecurity, urban markets and music, and popular culture.