This is the original panel description for the “DC Area Up the Anthropologist Research Collective” from the Public Anthropology Conference at American University in the Fall of 2013. You can find a follow up to that panel here, as well as some reflections on the idea of “revolutionary espionage.”
UP the Anthropologist Research Collective
We are anthropologists living in one of the most concentrated centers of power in the US, and perhaps the world, as such we have an obligation to concentrate and pool research on the ways in which power manifests. Here in D.C, decisions are made that radiate outwards through networks of power affecting the lives of people around the world. Our placement amongst these sites of power provides us with the perfect opportunity to engage in what Laura Nader referred to as “studying up”, yet many of us still focus our attention on the problems faced by marginal groups in extant communities far from, but still affected by, these sites of power. There are many reasons for this: such research is important and necessary, and there are numerous challenges to “studying up” including: access to the sites of and people in power; when we do gain access, there is often a risk of bias; and, in a world where those in power are constantly looking out for and attempting to seal up any leaks, “studying up” involves great risk to career, family, and even life. Nevertheless, there could be no better time to undertake such a project. This panel will explore the possibilities and challenges for creating a research collective oriented towards the practice of “studying up” in the DC Metro area (and beyond). Panelists will share brief experiences and thoughts about the idea of “studying up” after which everyone in attendance will be invited to discuss the creation of the research collective, share their own experiences, and contribute ideas, methods, skills, and tools to advancing the “study up” agenda.