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How can anthropological analyses help us understand development and humanitarian work better?


Anthropologists have excelled at offering critiques of development and humanitarian aid, revealing its power inequalities and unintendended consequences. But students of anthropology often express frustration at this approach: how useful are these critiques for the everyday concerns of aid practitioners? Who has time to worry about dehistoricizing refugees, for example, when you need to provide them with emergency food??


This project aims to help students articulate for themselves how anthropological critiques can speak to the issues, identities and hopes of aid practitioners, and vice versa.

Some of the conclusions might be pessimistic–that anthropological critiques don’t have much to offer to ‘practical’ questions. But others could find promise in anthropology’s ability to alert us to our interdependent engagements and positionality in various worlds. There is no right or wrong answer here. Let’s explore the potentials and limits of anthropology today, specifically in understanding professions of ‘doing good’.