How can anthropology contribute to understanding and fighting inequality? The new issue of Anthropology Matters brings together articles from the first British postgraduate MA in Applied Anthropology and Community and Youth Work. Most of the students are experienced youth workers, working with underprivileged, marginalised youth in the UK.
All the papers are in some form interested in the lessons from and for anthropological theory and analysis in its engagement with applied action. The articles focus on youth, encourage youth workers to be critically aware of the policy discourses with which they operate, the structural inequalities which they veil, and promote a more reflexive praxis of working with youth in order to create spaces of critical thinking between them.
One example is Saffron Burley’s analysis of the growing trend among young people in urban areas in the UK to own fighting dog breeds such as bull terriers, and the resultant “moral panic” that this has caused among dominant groups. Burley employed participant observation by taking a young Pit Bull Terrier called “Biscuit” out for walks in the area, in order to understand these young people better.
The result, Alpa Shah writes, is “an insightful ethnographic account which explores the subtle potentials that exist in the union of the young person and the dog":
Burley’s work not only contributes to our understanding of inequality, marginalisation and animal-human relations, but concludes with some lessons for community and youth workers - rather than seeing the dogs as “problems", as external to the young person, the dog needs to be drawn into the centre of understandings of the dilemmas and tensions faced by youth.
The issue is dedicated to an engaging anthropologist and participant of the MA course at Goldsmith who was killed in a bicycle accident in January: Paul Hendrich. In his phd-project on “Charting a new course for Deptford Town Hall”, Hendrich examines his own institutional context at Goldsmiths College and the debates surrounding the history of the racism of the British slave trade that is embedded in Deptford’s former Town Hall:
As I was putting the finishing touches to this editorial, Paul Hendrich’s wife, Sasha, called with the devastating news that Paul had been run over on his bicycle by a lorry. Paul was 36 years old and had a one year old daughter, Agatha. His death is a deep loss to all of us. Paul was a very special person with some extremely rare qualities. His life was committed to engaging an everyday struggle against racism. He held a passion and belief that anthropology could and should be used for and rethought through this struggle against racism and it is this that guided his engagement with academia.