Elena Liber and Yathukulan Yogarajah
This project emerged out of a conversation questioning how anthropologists can contribute to wider discussions taking place in the world that extend beyond the narrow confines of the seminar, lecture hall and academia. Anthropologists work across multiple contexts, on many different issues and we wanted to invite our colleagues to offer their perspectives, both personal and professional, on current events and moments of disruption which are taking place around the world. We see our project as engaging with the decolonial project in two ways. Firstly, by attempting to make anthropological knowledge more accessible, and secondly by addressing contemporary issues that highlight the unequal world we inhabit.
Our first conversation was with Adom Philogene Heron, a colleague from Goldsmiths and a resident of Bristol, about the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on the 7th June 2020. Filmed in June, 2020, we walked with Adom around Bristol as he talked about the colonial history inscribed in the urban space of the city, his own experience growing up in the city and as he reflected on the historical moment in which the statue was toppled. What was the significance of this event? What colonial historical issues were brought to the surface by the toppling of the statue? How might a minor discipline such as anthropology be useful here?
We named the project Conversations with Anthropologists with the purpose of offering as broad a space as possible for conversations, stories and reflections to flow, unincumbered by a formal academic setting. We consider the process of making anthropological knowledge open and accessible to be part of the process of decolonising anthropology and academia and in filming the conversations for our YouTube channel we hope to make these discussions free and available to any and all who would like to engage with or reflect on the themes discussed. The conversation with Adom and the project more broadly is part of our attempt, as students, teachers and scholars, to think through the process of decolonising anthropology. We have been asking ourselves questions about how we do anthropology. Who we are speaking to, and for, when we produce anthropological work? How might we move beyond more rigid notions of anthropology and academia to produce work that is creative, thoughtful and accessible? These are some of the questions which we are grappling with in the development of this project.
For more information about the project, a more detailed post about the conversation with Adom and a list of references for the images, music and quotes in the video please visit our website: https://conversationswithanthropologists.com