Anthropology and Social Change MA and PhD Programs
About the Department
Founded in 1981, the Anthropology program offers a critical, advocacy approach to education. In 1997, the program expanded to include a doctoral track. In 1999, the program was re-envisioned to prioritize issues of social and ecological justice in the context of a multicultural, postcolonial world. In 2012, the program was again re-envisioned to support and develop the knowledge generated by contemporary social movements, with a particular emphasis on struggles that engage critically with capitalist globalization and that prefigure alternative practices.
Our understanding of the integral mission of the Institute is distinctive in several key aspects. First, we attempt to integrate worlds of academic and grassroots knowledge. Taking our inspiration for the Popular University of Social Movements (PUSM) we believe that universities and social sciences are, for the most part, isolated from new practices and new movements, as they keep insisting on concepts and theories that are not adequate to new realities of creation and resistance. On the other side of this gap, activists are in serious need of new theories: theoretical knowledge(s) that can assist them in reflecting analytically on their practices, methods, and strategies for social change. The most important part of this process, we believe, is a construction of situations and contexts of translation and creative dialogue between academic knowledge and the knowledge held outside of higher education. It is only through the process of mutual learning and reciprocal exchange that we can hope to approximate another possible knowledge: one that is integral, relevant, and useful.
Second, our program reflects an integration of social, political, economic, and environmental themes and issues. Instead of analyzing them separately, we treat these themes as interconnected.
Third, our understanding of integral relates to a specific research methodology, an activist ethnography that rests on the notion of activist research— a reflective and transformative practice that integrates the community of struggle at every step of the research process. Activist research is a practice of intellectual production that does not accept conventional distinction between researcher and research subjects. Rather, the aim of activist research is an integral relationship that transforms both the researcher and the community into active participants in producing knowledge and in transforming themselves. As contributors to the book Constituent Imagination suggest, research is an uncertain process wherein the researcher knows "how to start but not how to end," an “open process that discovers new possibilities within the present, a collective wondering and wandering that is always difficult and never resolved in easy answers.”
Finally, our vision of the social sciences is not simply interdisciplinary: instead of antagonistic epistemologies and disconnected disciplines, predicated on a split between "two cultures" (separation of science and philosophy/humanities), and the division of human experience into spheres of state, market, and society, together with our colleagues from the Fernand Braudel Center we support a project of an integral epistemology and integrated social science.