European Directory of Social Anthropologists

15th EASA Biennial Conference
Staying, Moving, Settling
14th – 17th August 2018, University of Stockholm, Sweden

Facilitating Anthropological Outreach:

A Database?


This event invites participants to discuss the theoretical, logistical, and ethical viability of a ‘European Directory of Social Anthropologists’, an outreach platform being developed by the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (MPI).

In its current form, the directory is envisioned as an online database (see screenshots below) where users can list their areas of intellectual interest and expertise. Accordingly, the database would make it easier for academics, both within and outside anthropology, to find which colleagues are teaching, publishing and conducting research in specific sub-fields of anthropology. The database moreover means to facilitate communication between anthropologists and the broader public. The database will help journalists, policy makers, regional experts, legal and medical consultants, NGOs, humanitarian organisations, civil society networks, documentary makers, and media channels learn about - and seek - the knowledge, services and advice anthropologists are well-positioned to offer.

For logistical reasons, the database will be initially co-managed by the EASA and MPI and restricted to anthropologists with doctoral degree and affiliated to European universities or research institutes. It is however hoped that, if successful, the database could quickly grow to incorporate universities across the globe.

Preliminary internal discussions about such instrument uncovered a number of theoretical, ethical and logistical obstacles. Some of these could be partially overcome by expanding the database’s target group. Other issues cut deep into the heart of what anthropology is and should be, and should therefore be critically addressed in wider debate. How, for example, do we define Europe, identifying thus the institutions and professionals to be included in the directory’s early life? Would the database constitute another instance of intellectual neo-colonialism, shifting the spotlight onto Europe-based expertise in a way that obscures and marginalises non-European researchers? By extension, would this database render invisible and quash the livelihoods of anthropologists who, despite having plenty of experience engaging with the public, are not affiliated to a European university? What are the hazards of hosting a database that urges uses to upload information that could place them or their interlocutors in danger, now or in the future? Would the database - which requires users to select their expertise from a range of sub-specialities – be slow to recognise and incorporate emerging fields and categories in anthropological thought? How do we ensure that anthropology is not financially exploited or politically hijacked? Which languages should the database include, and why do we need a new database when many other networks and platforms (e.g.; LinkedIn; Open Anthropology Cooperative) exist already?

Employing a “world-café” format and including presentations from three discussants with extensive public engagement experience, this session privileges discussion around the risks of going public. Emphasis will be placed on finding out whether the instrument to be set up can go beyond issues that, if not properly navigated, could see the database becoming a disservice to anthropology. The session is finally intended as an invitation for those interested in the project to become involved in its development.

Organisers and Convenors:

Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen (Department of Social Anthropology, Blindern, Norway)
Prof. Marie-Claire Foblets (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)


Dr. Brian Campbell (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Dr. Des. Timm Sureau (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Maria Kartveit (Department of Social Anthropology, Blindern, Norway)

Confirmed discussants:

Professor Anthony Good (The University of Edinburgh)
Professor Sylvie Fainzang (French Institute of Health and Medical Research – INSERM)
Dr. Guma Kunda Komey (University of Bahri, Sudan)


Wednesday, 15th of August 2018


17.00 – 18.45


15th EASA Biennial Conference
Staying, Moving, Settling
Södra Huset, Hörsal 4-B4
Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden