My role as co-chair of the Active Anthropology society!
Written by Ruby Goodley, a 4th year Social Anthropology student.
During 2020-21 I was co-chair on the committee for the Active Anthropology Society. Part of the role included coming up with interesting and engaging social events that would bring staff and students of the Social Anthropology department closer together. On the 8th March 2021, the committee organised an online gathering for International Women’s Day. The event included an informal chat with women-identifying staff members and students. The talk was open to any gender-identifying people and we encouraged lots of people to attend through our instagram and social media accounts. We had around five to six female staff attend this evening event. The gathering was led by one of the members of the committee through a series of queries and questions, aimed at staff, that were collected by students via our instagram account. The fruitful conversation prompted discussions on what it is like to be a woman engaging in anthropological research. For example how to conduct fieldwork, which typically involves spending a year and immersing oneself in a cultural setting, whilst also juggling childcare and marital/ long-term relationships. One staff member talked of a change in anthropological methods which tried to tackle this very issue – which normally had not been an issue for male anthropologists. We also touched on intersectional aspects of being a woman of colour in a discipline which has typically been dominated by white scholars. Allowing space to talk of the colonial aspects of classical anthropological research. The event allowed a chance to talk candidly about women’s feelings in a society that is still very much male-dominated and patriarchal. Therefore, it was a very feminist conversation, which prompted us to talk about how women bring different viewpoints and life experiences on conducting anthropological research and living in the world. It was quite a powerful and brutally honest talk from all of our attendees.
Moreover, due to this event taking place during the pandemic, we hosted this online. This brought more positives than negatives, as we got a lot more students chiming in their responses, who clearly felt more comfortable without their camera on. The anonymity of the online event allowed us to have an even more engaging conversation with staff and students. In addition, getting people to come to events is difficult given everyone’s busy schedules, so the online aspect of the event allowed some staff members on maternity leave or sabbatical the chance to join. Therefore, the committee was impressed with the turnout and honesty of all the attendees. I was proud of our ability to draw so many people to the event and the maturity of dialogue that was produced.
If you want to get involved with the many opportunities on offer in Manchester, you have to join a committee society. It is a powerful thing to create inclusive, engaging and safe spaces where people can feel comfortable enough to share their experiences. It is also a dedication to social responsibility that Manchester continually tries to achieve and bolster. International women’s day is an important day given the ongoing patriarchy in our society, having the chance to provide a platform for women to share their experiences is something I will always have a sense of pride for.