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Anthropology for social and economic development

Published : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017 at 12:00 AM  Count : 876
Mohin Uddin Mizan

Mohin Uddin Mizan talks to Marcus Banks, Professor of Visual Anthropology at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on the developments of media, culture, and Anthropological Studies in South Asia at a conference titled 'Visual South Asia: Anthropological Explorations of Media and Culture' held at University of Dhaka on May 10-11, 2017 
Anthropology for social and economic development

Anthropology for social and economic development

Visualness of a region juxtaposes culture, politics, media and performances. There has been an exceedingly tangible realization amongst scholars of media and performance that culture and politics have assumed performative significance in the contemporary world.
Bridging the divide between real and unreal performativity is the mantra of the new age culture industry and political machineries. The mediated nature of performative culture and politics manifests every now and then, in electoral fanfare, political campaigns, diplomatic discourses, and various sites of exhibitionism.
Bangladesh is going through a wave of digitalization; many people are getting access to internet to know the world, and it gives a new topic to the academia to conduct research and to develop professional need in the job market.
Professor Marcus shared his views on alternative culture, and community, which are also part of the history and culture that are often unheard. He emphasizes on the role of media and society from an anthropological perspective.
Anthropological thinking in South Asia--
Over the last half century, since Indian independence, there have been major developments in Anthropological thinking and theory in South Asia, especially in India. It is independent, and no longer is an extension of British or American Anthropology, and focuses particularly on issues of social justice, and presents understandings of the visual and other political aspects of culture from a non-colonial perspective.
Opportunities for anthropologists--
Marcus Banks conducted ethnographic research in India and the UK on the social organization of the Jain community for his PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK, and later wrote about anthropological theories of ethnicity and nationalism. Since then, he has spent the last few years conducting research in the area of visual anthropology. His recent research has included studies of cinematographic practice in Colonial India, the history of ethnographic film, and the development of robust visual research methodologies. His current research is on the practice of forensic science, with a particular focus on the production and consumption of images in forensic contexts. He is the author of several books, including two on the use of visual methods in social research, and many scientific papers.

Marcus Banks conducted ethnographic research in India and the UK on the social organization of the Jain community for his PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK, and later wrote about anthropological theories of ethnicity and nationalism. Since then, he has spent the last few years conducting research in the area of visual anthropology. His recent research has included studies of cinematographic practice in Colonial India, the history of ethnographic film, and the development of robust visual research methodologies. His current research is on the practice of forensic science, with a particular focus on the production and consumption of images in forensic contexts. He is the author of several books, including two on the use of visual methods in social research, and many scientific papers.

There are many opportunities for students of Anthropology. For example, the idea of cultural translation or cultural brokering is -- you and I are communicating; we need to know each other's cultures. If you are about to enter into a business partnership with a different country -- you need an anthropologist. If you have an anthropologist acting as a cultural translator, you can learn a lot more about each other.
Many big corporations in United States and elsewhere employ anthropologists for such purposes. For example, if they want to start a new market in China, they employ an Anthropologist to help them think through not just the Chinese economy, but the Chinese approach to business. The anthropologists themselves may or may not have expertise in the Chinese economy, but they have expertise in cultural translation.
Anthropology and critical thinking--
Anthropologists also learn to be very critical. We, anthropologists, are very used to checking out sources, just like journalists, of course. We explore it, ask other people, and try to get the whole picture of the context. For example, if you may tell me that journalism is a good career. As you are a journalist, you could be biased. So, I should talk to somebody else whose life has been badly affected by journalism, or by journalistic approach, etc. We know the technique how to perceive both sides of the coin, and how to study different perspectives and put them all together to get the whole picture.
About the job market of anthropologists--  
Anthropology teaches you the other ways of thinking about life, the other ways of thinking about world, the other ways of thinking about gender, sexuality and class. Anthropology broadens your mind. I think they help you to be a better human being.
If you see from the instrumental view, the task is to convince the market, it needs anthropologists. There are huge employment opportunities in Anthropology like in social and economic development sectors. You can work as an entrepreneur. If you want to move into a new market, market research is another big sector where anthropologists work, helping companies to place new products to new places.
Insights on South Asian cultures and media--
South Asian culture and media are very diverse; there is no single culture. I think across South Asia there are very rich cultural traditions, many of which are represented in the media and some of which are not. To me, it would be interesting for media to explore more diverse cultural traditions.
In most of the South Asian countries, the dominant voice of the media is that of the dominant socio-political or ethnic group. Therefore, it is important for the media to represent other voices, particularly minority voices.
The writer is working with
The Daily Observer










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