Public Lecture by Prof. Mary Racelis on "Objectivity? Advocacy? Or Both? The Case for an Engaged Anthropology"

The 2015 Institute of Philippine Culture International Summer School for Doctoral Researchers on the Philippines


with the theme
Historical and Ethnographic Approaches to Philippine Culture
cordially invites you to
Objectivity? Advocacy? Or Both? The Case for an Engaged Anthropology
a public lecture by 
Mary Racelis
Research Scientist, Institute of Philippine Culture
Professorial Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
School of Social Sciences
Ateneo de Manila University
Wednesday, 29 July 2015
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Faber Hall 101
Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
In keeping with its identity as a science, anthropology has honored the principle of objectivity or neutrality in the course of data gathering and analysis. Early anthropological field research emanating mainly from Europe or the United States portrayed the people studied as different, even exotic, but having a cultural validity and logic of their own when viewed from the emic perspective. Bronislaw Malinowski put the challenge of fieldwork this way: “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world.” In this way did new theories reshape those already in existence.
By the second half of the 20th century, however, the massive effects of global incursions on ordinary people pushed many anthropologists to query professional detachment from their subjects. All too glaring were the negative effects of decolonization, displacement, forced migration, externally generated development programs, unrelenting market forces, warfare, even genocide on families and communities. More and more anthropologists felt they had to speak up to defend “my people” and denounce the powerful groups, social structures and global systems that were bringing poverty, misery, sickness, death, and the destruction of culture to thousands of often defenseless victims. When the latter actively resisted these incursions into their lives, they would find themselves classified as rebels by the state and dealt with accordingly. Some resident anthropologists thus began to move away from their once “neutral” or “detached” roles in favor of activist and advocacy stances derived from a social justice and human rights framework.
Engaged or public anthropology is a product of this ferment, bringing forth scholar-practitioners actively committed to helping and taking sides with their subject populations. Discussed in detail in this presentation are evolving trends in the new roles, difficulties and breakthroughs encountered, and the particular constraints posed by detached academic institutions. Examples of engaged anthropology in the Philippines are brought out, together with practical and ethical issues, implications for theory development and knowledge management “from below” as the subjects of research become partners in the study of their societies. Significant are the political ramifications affecting anthropologists engaging with vulnerable subgroups in their own societies versus those studying societies other than their own. The presentation concludes with the speaker’s own experiences as an engaged or public anthropologist and her proposed strategies for sustaining activist scholarship with and for people.
About the IPC International Summer School
The IPC International Summer School for Doctoral Researchers on the Philippines is an annual IPC program (from 2013 to 2015) where promising PhD students in the social sciences or interdisciplinary programs from around the world are invited for an intensive series of workshops, seminars, and lectures. Organized by Lisandro E. Claudio, PhD and Marita Concepcion Castro Guevara, PhD, this year's Summer School will be held from July 26 to 29, 2015 at the Ateneo de Manila University. With the theme "Historical and Ethnographic Approaches to Philippine Culture," the Summer School addresses questions about how historical and ethnographic approaches contribute to a closer understanding of Philippine social realities, what principles inform their conceptual and methodological orientations, and whether these approaches can be extended to other aspects of Philippine studies. As in previous years, the 2015 IPC Summer School fellows were selected based on their submission of a never-published paper appropriate to the theme of the Summer School.
The four-day Summer School will include presentations by the eleven doctoral researchers on their own work and subsequent discussion by the group of participants. Two leading scholars in Philippine Studies, Caroline S. Hau, PhD, and Mary Racelis, PhD (honoris causa), will moderate the discussion, provide feedback on the work of the Summer School fellows, and deliver public lectures on their own research.
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