Acting anthropologically Notes on Anthropology as Practice

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Andrea Cornwall


In this article, I explore the role of anthropology and anthropologists in
unsettling orthodoxies and provoking disquiet with taken for granted ways of
thinking and doing. Set against the backdrop of the debates about engaged
anthropology, my interest is in exploring an approach to anthropology that takes
anthropological practice seriously and with it the role of the anthropologist as
activist and agent of change. I argue that the work of the anthropologist is not
just to do fieldwork and produce texts, but that “engagement” has a more interactive
dimension. By acting anthropologically, I suggest, anthropologists can be activists
in ways and in settings that are distinct from the kinds of engagement envisaged in
contemporary debates on “engaged”, “activist” and “public” anthropology, as well as
the modes of practice characteristic of “applied” anthropology. I draw on fragments
of auto-ethnography to explore what the idea of acting anthropologically might offer
within as well as outside the academy.

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How to Cite
CORNWALL, Andrea. Acting anthropologically. Antropologia Pubblica, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 2, p. 3 - 20, apr. 2019. ISSN 2531-8799. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 03 july 2022. doi: