Anthropology and Social Change

About the Department

About the Department in Anthropology and Social Change

When we speak of activist ethnography we refer to a specific research methodology, which rests on the notion of activist research--a reflective and transformative practice that integrates the community of practice at every step of the research process. Activist research is a practice of intellectual production that does not accept conventional distinctions 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."

Food sovereignty in California, environmental/climate justice models in Latin America, worker cooperatives in Oakland, social centers in Italy, autonomous systems of justice in Guerrero, community gardens in Detroit, self-managed factories in Argentina, "good government" of the Zapatistas, buen vivir (good life) and plurinationalism in indigenous Bolivia, participatory democracy in Kerala, solidarity economics of Mondragon, participatory economics in Winnipeg, pedagogy of the block in African-American communities, alternative environmentalism in Afro-Colombian river regions, marginalized medical practices in South Asia, solidarity unionism in New York City, communal agriculture in Malawi, shack dweller democracy in South Africa, biodiversity in Brazil, restorative justice in Ohio, digital commons, independent media, and autonomous food systems in Japan--these are only some of the examples of the areas where our students do their scholarly and activist work.

We welcome students interested in becoming activists and scholars. Anthropology and Social Change offers an opportunity to develop both theoretical and practical knowledge relevant to careers in education and social justice work. Our graduate students will work with some of the most prominent activist scholars and progressive organizations in San Francisco Bay Area, as well as with core faculty from the department and the Institute. In this process of encounter and co-learning, students and faculty are expected to share scholarly ideas, debates, and practices, as well as practical skills in research, organizing, grant writing, policy analysis, legal and environmental work, and media. We offer media skills (strategic filmmaking, writing and publishing, Internet skills, radical radio), and organizing skills (legal skills, policy analysis, environmental skills, campaigning, art-making, and organizing skills).

Photo by Beatriz Aurora