Course description

Public anthropology, social engagement and activism

Course description:

Comparative Study of Ideas and Cultures (3rd cycle)

Anthropology: Understanding Worldmaking Practices

Course principal:
Assoc. Prof. Ana Hofman, Ph.D.


Course code: 64

Year of study: Not specified

Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminars 30 hours

Course type: general elective

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminars


Course Syllabus



None required.


Content (Syllabus outline)

1. The history of epistemology of applied/public anthropology in the world-wide contexts:

  • Pure vs. applied scholarship;
  • Public anthropology vs. anthropology of public interest.


2. The (engaged) anthropologist, what is that?

  • Concept of ethical anthropology;
  • (Self) reflexive approach.


3. Colonial, postcolonial and decolonial approach in anthropology.


4. Collaborative ethnography method and anthropological praxis:

  • “Participatory Action Research” by Paulo Freira (PAR);
  • Methods of “emancipatory ethnography”.


5. Anthropology of conflict, violence and human rights.


6. Anthropology of social movements.


7. Public anthropology, professionalization and institutionalization:

  • engaged anthropology in the global academic market;
  • neoliberalization of academic subject.



  • Bennett, John W. 1996. Applied and Action Anthropology: Ideological and Conceptual Aspects. Current Anthropology 37: 23–53.
  • Field Les W. in Richard Fox G. (ed.). 2007. Anthropology Put to Work. Oxford, NY: Berg.
  • Hemment, J. 2007. Public Anthropology and the Paradoxes of Participation: Participatory Action Research and Critical Ethnography in Provincial Russia. Applied Anthropology.
  • Ingold, Tim. 2014. That’s Enough about Ethnography! HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4(1): 383–395.
  • Lassiter, Luke E. 2005. The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lyon-Callo, Vincent in Susan Brin Hyatt. 2003. The Neoliberal State and The Depoliticization of Poverty: Activist Anthropology and ‘Ethnography from Below’. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 32(2): 175–204.
  • Lousie Lamphere. 2004. The Convergence of Applied, Practicing, and Public Anthropology in the 21st Century. Human Organization 63(4): 431–443.
  • Low Setha M. in Sally Engle Merry. 2010. Engaged Anthropology: Diversity and Dilemmas; An Introduction to Supplement 2. Current Anthropology 51(2): 203–226.
  • Marcus, George E. in Michael M. J. Fischer. 1986. Anthropology as Cultural Critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Moya, Marian. 2015. Dossier antropología aplicada. Etnografías contemporáneas 1 (1).
  • Nolan, Riall. 2017. Using Anthropology in the World: A Guide to Becoming an Anthropologist Practitioner. London: Routledge.
  • Pink, Sarah (ed.). 2006. Application in Anthropology: Professional Anthropology in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Berghahn Books.
  • Sanford, Victoria in Angel-Ajani, Asale. 2006. Engaged Observer: Anthropology, Advocacy, and Activism. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Smith, Gavin. 1999. Confronting the Present: Towards a Politically Engaged Anthropology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Willigen, John van (eds). 2005. Applied Anthropology: Domains of Application. Praeger.


Objectives and competences

How can anthropological knowledge be used for solving social problems or fostering transformative social actions? What are the implications of an idea about public anthropological engagement? How to think and practice public anthropology in the 21st century? The growing interest in advocacy, consultancy and the use of anthropological knowledge in the public, political and commercial sector reveals and confirms significant shifts in the discipline’s most fundamental concepts. The course provides students with a sustained opportunity for critical reflection on the cultural, economic and political implications of contemporary anthropology. Students get acquainted with the dominant approaches of the so-called “applied” anthropology and related concepts – e.g. “public,” “engaged,” “critical,” “participatory action,” “collaborative” – emphasizing renegotiated relationships between academically trained experts and the social partners in the research. The course deals with the latest developments in these fields not just in Western anthropology, but also in Latin American and African theories and practices. Moreover, it provides a critical perspective on activist-alike scholarly position and “ethical” anthropology today.


Students will:

  • examine the scholar’s role in advocacy and social justice;
  • learn about collaborative anthropology through theory and practice;
  • explore the connection between anthropology and social movements.


This is a highly participatory course. It requires not just active participation at the lectures, by engaging in discussion about the assigned literature, but also development and realization of collaborative research project individually or in collaboration with other students


Intended learning outcomes:

The course equips students with the requisite knowledge of epistemological, theoretical, methodological, ethnographic areas of anthropology as a praxis-oriented discipline. It aims to develop competency in the discipline, while critically addressing the specific aspects of application of anthropological knowledge beyond academia.


Learning and teaching methods:

Types of learning/teaching:

  • Frontal teaching
  • Independent students work
  • e-learning


Teaching methods:

  • Explanation
  • Conversation/discussion/debate
  • Work with texts
  • Case studies



  • Short written assignment (20 %),
  • presentations (20 %),
  • final examination (written/oral) (60 %)


Anthropology of consciousness and practices of awareness

Asst. Prof. Maja Petrović Šteger, Ph. D.,


Anthropology of Fertility

Assoc. Prof. Duška Kneževič Hočevar, Ph.D.,


Cosmology of Mesoamerican Societies

Prof. Ivan Šprajc, Ph.D.,


Epistemological pluralism and “decolonizing” methods in ethnographic research

Assoc. Prof. Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Ph.D.,


Laughing politically: toward the anthropology of humor

Prof. Tanja Petrović, Ph.D.,


Public anthropology, social engagement and activism

Assoc. Prof. Ana Hofman, Ph.D.,


Research Methodology in Anthropological Linguistics

Prof. Borut Telban, Ph.D.,

Karmen Kenda-Jež, Ph.D.,


Space and movement: towards anthropology of locations and migrations

Asst. Prof. Nataša Gregorič Bon, Ph.D.,