Budka, P. 2016. Reflections on media anthropology’s legacies and concerns (in digital times). Paper at “14th EASA Biennial Conference”, Milan: University of Milano-Bicocca, 20-23 July 2016.
1) Why anthropology matters – an EASA statement as starting point
I recently came across a statement compiled by the Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) entitled “Why anthropology matters” (Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 2015). In this text, several distinct features or key terms of anthropology as academic discipline are highlighted.
(1) Cultural relativism as “methodological tool for studying local life-worlds on their own terms”;
(2) Ethnography as important tool in anthropological research and as main form of data collection which enables anthropologists to “discover aspects of local worlds that are inaccessible to researchers who use other methods”;
(3) Comparison as method to look for sociocultural similarities and differences to develop “general insights into the nature of society and human existence”;
(4) And finally, (social) context, relationships and connections as anthropology’s main concerns.
With these “tools”, the statement’s authors argue, anthropologists are well equipped to generate knowledge that “can help to make sense of the contemporary world” (Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 2015).
Even though one doesn’t have to agree on all of that in detail, the text very briefly discusses features or markers of the discipline of anthropology and consequently its subfields, such as media anthropology. I don’t want to discuss “why media anthropology matters” – I think this question has been, for instance, answered in the course of this panel – but rather build on selected aspects of the statement which I find particularly relevant for looking into media anthropology’s relevance, legacies and concerns (also in times of increasing digitalisation). I can, of course, only scratch on the surface here, leaving much for further debates and discussions.
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