The following RAI lectures have been recorded and are available online to listen to or download. Videos of other RAI events are available on our YouTube channel here.

2020 Presidential Address by Sue Black

Forensic Anthropology and the UK Criminal Justice System

Forensic anthropologists are expert witnesses who provide professional opinion to the criminal justice system to assist juries (the triers of fact) with their deliberations.  The forensic anthropologist is usually a biological anthropologist or anatomist who has a credible scientific profile and a critical understanding of the limits of their discipline.  They must also be able to communicate this knowledge base to the court through normal every day language that does not diminish the scientific integrity of the concepts under adversarial legal scrutiny.  From the moment the expert becomes involved in a forensic case they must understand the protocols, procedures and requirements of all the actors from the crime scene to the court which will include the police, other scientists, case builders and advocates.  They must adhere to the rules of their regulatory bodies and they must at all times be impartial, honest and trustworthy.  This address will attempt to construct an understanding of the complex landscape in which the forensic anthropologist must work and it will conclude with the pivotal role of the Royal Anthropological Institute as the UK's professional body for forensic anthropology.

This lecture is available here.

2020 Henry Myers Lecture by David Gellner

The Spaces of Religion: A View from South Asia

Do assaults on distinctions and deconstructions of concepts inherited from the Enlightenment make any difference? Religion, possibly the most misleading such concept, has proved highly resistant to the acid of cross-cultural comparison. Debates about the nature of religion go back to sociocultural anthropology’s beginnings as a discipline and beyond. Proposed definitions have been numerous, but none has come close to universal acceptance, mainly because of the secularized essentialism and intellectualism of Abrahamic and especially Protestant ways of thinking that underlie conventional definitions. I argue that by looking closely at the way religious phenomena are conceptualized in South Asia, and especially at how distinct types of religion are practised in characteristically different spaces, a fresh take on the subject is possible. Religion as practised is not one thing but (at least) three distinct activities and should be conceptualized as such. But, if that is so, how and why has the totalizing conventional view been so pervasive and so powerful? Seeking the answer to that question takes us back to the constitution of modernity and the relationship of religion to the nation-state. The way forward is to contest the way in which religion has become the last bastion of pure essences.

This lecture is available here.

2019 Huxley Lecture by Chris Hann

Economy and Ethics in the Cosmic Process

When, late in life, T.H. Huxley returned to the themes of evolution and religion, he did so with a focus on ethics. But his audience was puzzled (and Herbert Spencer dismissive): how could morality be explained in Darwinian terms if man’s destiny was to combat the amoral laws of the “cosmic process”? These issues are still with us. While Huxley paid little attention to political and economic institutions, this lecture will consider the historical materialism of that era and arguments for socialism (rejected by the liberal Huxley). How can human societies evolve a healthy balance between private and collective property, market and redistribution, efficiency and equity, economic maximization and ethics? The difficulties will be illustrated with reference to the rise and fall of a State Farm in the western zone of the Great Hungarian Plain (Danube-Tisza interfluve).  

This lecture is available here.

19 November 2019 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

Work, Sleep, Repeat: The Abstract Labour of German Management Consultants

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Dr Felix Stein, author of Work, Sleep, Repeat: The Abstract Labour of German Management Consultants, and Dr James Carrier, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

This book on the work regime of German management consultants provides a first-hand account of the boardroom culture of Europe's strongest economy. Analysing how knowledge and power operate in this sector, Felix Stein explores a number of paradoxes. For example, while it is the job of management consultants to analyse the activities of other employees, they actually spend most of their time in luxurious seclusion away from them. In addition, despite having a strong sense of the importance of their work, consultants often find it difficult to explain to outsiders what it is they do. The book addresses these and other paradoxes by arguing that consultants are engaged in abstract labour and by offering new ways to think about white collar work and elites in the 21st century.

This lecture is available here.

17 October 2019 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

Made in Egypt: Gendered Identity and Aspiration on the Globalised Shop Floor

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Dr Leila Zaki Chakravarti, author of Made in Egypt: Gendered Identity and Aspiration on the Globalised Shop Floor, and Dr Chihab El Khachab, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

This ground-breaking ethnography of an export-orientated garment assembly factory in Egypt examines the dynamic relationships between its managers – emergent Mubarak-bizniz (business) elites who are caught in an intensely competitive globalized supply chain – and the local daily-life realities of their young, educated, and mixed-gender labour force. Constructions of power and resistance, as well as individual aspirations and identities, are explored through articulations of class, gender and religion in both management discourses and shop floor practices. The study also moves beyond the confines of the factory, examining the interplay with the wider world around it.

This lecture is available here.

16 May 2019 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

Josefu’s Thousand Hills

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Dr Tamara Dragadze, author of Josefu’s Thousand Hills, and Dr Olivier Nyirubugara, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Josefu Mutesa, British born of Ugandan parents, slowly recalls his experiences in Rwanda, 'land of a thousand hills' where he went as a UN official to record and report on the violent events that had just taken place. The magnitude of political treachery and human betrayal causes him to break down and he is removed to Canada where he attempts to recover with the help of friends, part owns a bookshop there and leads a quiet life. Now, six years later, He decides to drive across Canada and face his demons. Crossing the prairies accompanied by ghosts that demand their stories be heard, he takes us on a parallel journey between time and place that is both sensitive and harrowing. One that we shall not forget.

This lecture is available here.

19 March 2019 Prof David Parkin's RAI President's Lifetime Achievement Award

Reflections on experiencing sixty years of anthropology: 1959-2019

The presentation of the inaugural RAI President's Lifetime Achievement Award to Prof David Parkin.  The RAI President’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a person who, in the opinion of the judges, has made a fundamental, sustained and outstanding contribution to the discipline of anthropology over the course of their career. The award may be given to a person of any nationality, and there is no restriction on which sub-branch of anthropology from which the winner may be drawn.

"Happily exposed to anthropology from undergraduate in 1959 at SOAS and the LSE to current Oxford retirement musings, I comment on what I see as developments in and around the subject as witnessed in the course of teaching, research, writing and administration. The aim is not history but rather the tracing of personal perspectives." - Prof David Parkin

The sildes of Prof Parkin's talk can be seen here and his text can be found here.

The slides of Prof Elisabeth Hsu's tribute can be viewed here.

The recording of Dr Alex Pillen's tribute is available here.

Prof David Parkin's lecture is available here.

21 February 2019 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Prof Judith Okely, author of Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method , and Dr Anselma Gallinat, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Anthropologists are increasingly pressurised to formulate field methods for teaching. Unlike many hypothesis-driven ethnographic texts, this book is designed with the specific needs of the anthropology student and field researcher in mind, with particular emphasis on the core anthropological method: long term participant observation. Anthropological Practice explores fieldwork experiences unique to anthropology, and provides the context by which to explain and develop practice-based and open-ended methodology. It draws on dialogues with over twenty established and younger anthropologists, whose fieldwork spans the late 1960s to the present day, taking place in locations as diverse as Europe, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, North and South America.

This lecture is available here.

2018 Closing Plenary at the Art, Materiality and Representation Conference

Chair: Paul Basu

Art, Ethnology and Indigeneity
Gerald McMaster (Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies, OCAD University)

The definition of Indigenous contemporary art has evolved significantly over the past 20 years, with more artists of Indigenous ancestry gaining recognition in both public exhibitions and academic studies. The year 2017, in fact, marked a significant milestone for global Indigenous artists when many were featured at both the Venice Biennale and Documenta 14.
My presentation will take as its focus a new kind of Indigenous contemporary artist: someone whose work and practice are as comfortable in an art gallery or ethnographic museum as they are at home in an Indigenous community. Two of the main concepts I will examine are ritual and display. In this regard, I am intrigued by artists who express their indigeneity and artistic agency through the mindful production and presentation of objects and images that possess inherent ritual value. Similarly, many Indigenous artists are affirming the value of traditional knowledge sources and ways of knowing that have been passed down from generation to generation by calling upon them in their own visual and material expressions. I also intend to address the topics of settlement and migration in the context of how Indigenous artists are addressing the shared experiences of colonization and displacement, as well as relationships to place that may be transient and evolving. In my talk I will also touch on self-decolonization as it is expressed through interculturality (the exchange of ideas and forms between Indigenous peoples and settler cultures) and the healing of Indigenous communities. Related to this topic, I will conclude with thoughts on collaboration as a way for artists (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) to work together in order to reverse the colonial gaze.

This lecture is available here.

2018 Plenary at the Art, Materiality and Representation Conference

Knowing and speaking about objects: reflections for a new research grant programme
Chair: Lissant Bolton (Keeper of Africa Oceania and the Americas, British Museum, and Director, Endangered Material Knowledge Programme)

In June this year a new grant programme will be launched at the British Museum. It has been established to fund the ethnographic documentation of knowledge associated with objects and the built environment, with a regional focus on the global south, the documentation to be made available through an open access digital repository. The programme, the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP), is a parallel programme to the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme hosted at SOAS, and both are supported by the Arcadia Fund. In the light of this programme, this plenary considers the relationship between what people know, and what people say about objects. Three speakers will take different perspectives on this topic, reflecting on issues and opportunities raised by the programme.

Pierre Lemmonier (Directeur de Recherche Émérite CNRS, CREDO - Aix-Marseille Université)
Mandana Seyfeddinipur (Endangered Languages Documentation Programme Director, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, SOAS)
Joshua Bell (Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution)

This lecture is available here.

2018 Keynote at the Art, Materiality and Representation Conference

Art and Anthropology for a Sustainable World
Tim Ingold (Chair in Social Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen)

Chair: Deborah Swallow (Courtauld Institute of Art)

Traditionally, the disciplines of anthropology and art have faced in opposite directions: the former dedicated to understanding forms of life as we find them; the latter to the creation of forms never before encountered. This talk is founded on the premise that the traditional opposition is untenable. Not only would the work of art carry no force unless grounded in a profound understanding of the lived world; but anthropological accounts of the manifold ways along which life is lived would also be of no avail unless brought to bear on speculative inquiries into what the possibilities for human life might be. Thus art and anthropology have in common that they observe, describe and create. Their orientations are as much towards human futures as towards human pasts: these are futures, however, that are not conjured from thin air but forged in the crucible of contemporary social lives. Their aim is to join with these lives in the common task of fashioning a sustainable world – one that is fit for coming generations to inhabit. By sustainability is not meant the maintenance of human environmental relations in a steady state, but rather the possibility for life to carry on. In such a world, the fashioning of things must also be their unfinishing, so as to allow every generation to begin afresh. With examples drawn from studies of landscape, craft, building and the performing arts, the implications of this view for the principles and practice of artistic and anthropological research will be discussed.

This lecture is available here.

2018 Opening Plenary at the Art, Materiality and Representation Conference

Chair: André Singer
Welcome: David Shankland, Director of the RAI
Welcome from the RAI: André Singer, President of the RAI
Welcome from SOAS: Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Director of SOAS
Welcome from the British Museum: Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum

The Point is Moot: Disciplinary Debates in an Age of Decolonization
Ruth Phillips, (Professor of Art History, Carleton University)
Art and materiality have traditionally been the separate provinces of art history and anthropology, two disciplines that share a long history of mutuality and difference. Like sparring spouses they are unable to live either with or without each other, and their differences have proved resistant to reconciliation through interdisciplinarity projects such as visual studies and visual anthropology. Art historians continue to privilege aesthetic quality, and anthropologists their concern with social reproduction. Yet, I argue here, despite the liveliness of such debates the point must be considered moot-- “open to argument, debatable; uncertain, doubtful; unable to be firmly resolved,” as the dictionary puts it. From my vantage point in Canada, a settler society currently directing unprecedented energies to institutional projects of decolonization, a third term, Indigenous knowledge, is displacing disciplinary differences. Not definable as a discipline, this emerging formation exerts pressure on Western knowledge formations through a distinctive set of positionalities. Holistic rather than interdisciplinary, collectivist rather than individualist, oriented by place and land and by relational rather than linear time, Indigenous knowledge practitioners counter key liberal strategies of inclusion and the ontological turn, seeking to transform Western institutions under the banner of decolonization. To illustrate contemporary tensions, their difficulties and their productive potentials, I examine Anishinaabe: Art and Power, a recent exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum conceptualized by two Anishinaabe curators. I ask how it both integrated and resisted disciplinary knowledges and whether its indigenized approach to representation moves toward a genuine paradigm shift.

This lecture is available here.

17 May 2018 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land: How Christian Pilgrims Made Me Israeli

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Prof Jackie Feldman, author of A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land: How Christian Pilgrims Made Me Israeli, and Prof Tom Selwyn, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

For many Evangelical Christians, a trip to the Holy Land is an integral part of practising their faith. Arriving in groups, most of these pilgrims are guided by Jewish Israeli tour guides. For more than thirty years, Jackie Feldman—born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York, now an Israeli citizen, scholar, and licensed guide—has been leading tours, interpreting Biblical landscapes, and fielding questions about religion and current politics. In this book, he draws on pilgrimage and tourism studies, his own experiences, and interviews with other guides, Palestinian drivers and travel agents, and Christian pastors to examine the complex interactions through which guides and tourists "co-produce" the Bible Land. He uncovers the implicit politics of travel brochures and religious souvenirs. Feldman asks what it means when Jewish-Israeli guides get caught up in their own performances or participate in Christian rituals, and reflects on how his interactions with Christian tourists have changed his understanding of himself and his views of religion.

This lecture is available here.

19 April 2018 Reviewer Meets Reviewed

In Defense of Anthropology: An Investigation of the Critique of Anthropology

The British Museum’s Anthropology Library and Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Anthropological Institute, is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between Prof Herbert Lewis, author of In Defense of Anthropology: An Investigation of the Critique of Anthropology, and Dr James Carrier, who reviewed the book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

This book argues that the history and character of modern anthropology has been egregiously distorted to the detriment of this intellectual pursuit and academic discipline. The "critique of anthropology" is a product of the momentous and tormented events of the 1960s when students and some of their elders cried, "Trust no one over thirty!" The Marxist, postmodern, and postcolonial waves that followed took aim at anthropology and the result has been a serious loss of confidence; both the reputation and the practice of anthropology has suffered greatly. The time has come to move past this damaging discourse. Lewis chronicles these developments, and subjects the "critique" to a long overdue interrogation based on wide-ranging knowledge of the field and its history, as well as the application of common sense.

This lecture is available here.

2017 Huxley Memorial Lecture by Margaret Conkey

Field Walking, Walking the Field: Anthropological Archaeology as Viewed from Deep Time

Professor Margaret Conkey, University of California, Berkeley

In this talk I will begin with observations derived from a pedestrian archaeological survey project, Between the Caves, which I directed for nearly 15 years in the French Midi-Pyrénées. From walking the (plowed) fields, I move to how I came to this project as part of walking the field of anthropological archaeology for the past 50 years as a Paleolithic archaeologist engaged in the development of a feminist practice of and for archaeology. From often marginal perspectives in an ever-shifting disciplinary enterprise, I will consider several dimensions of what it means to do archaeology today especially when viewed from those of us who attempt to make sense of lives and histories from deep time.

This lecture is available here.

2017 RAI Blacking Lecture by Lucy Durán

“Actions speak louder than words” – musical children and film in the “Mali-Cuba project”

Dr Lucy Durán, SOAS

This lecture focuses on a musical encounter between children from Mali and Cuba, who took part in workshops and concerts in Havana and Matanzas, Cuba in 2012. The project, entitled ‘Mali-Cuba: music across generations’ (funded by the AHRC-UK), was meticulously documented on video camera, following the daily exchange between four Malian children who had never been out of Mali before, all from celebrated hereditary lineages of musicians, and various groups of Cuban children, mostly from rumba and batá traditions.

Illustrated with video clips from the forthcoming film “Mali-Cuba” (2017), the talk follows how with little adult intervention and no language in common the children move from tentative and shy exchanges, to a gradual discovery of shared musical features, eventually spontaneously swapping instruments and even roles.

This unprecedented and unique exploration of connections between the famed musical traditions of Cuba and Mali through the eyes of children, illuminates how the medium of film is the most effective way to document childhood musicality, in which ‘actions speak louder than words’.  

This lecture is available here.

2017 Curl Lecture by Dr Andrea Migliano

Hunter-gatherers social structure: a window into the evolution of human cumulative culture

Dr Andrea Migliano, University College of London, Department of Anthropology

What is the relationship between human cumulative culture and our unique social structure including cooperative breeding, pair-bonding, in-laws and cooperation with co-residing unrelated families? Contemporary hunter- gatherers provide a privileged window into the conditions for the emergence of human unmatched cultural abilities. Here I propose that the complex social networks of ancestral hunter-gatherers were a fundamental requirement for the evolution of human cumulative culture. The understanding of hunter-gatherers unique social structure provides new insights into cultural evolution and a new framework for comparative studies of humans and other primates.

This lecture is available here.

2017 Mary Douglas Lecture by Prof Pat Caplan

Gifts, entitlements, benefits and surplus: interrogating food poverty and food aid in the UK

Prof Pat Caplan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London

What constitutes the good society? Is it one in which the state takes primary responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, or one in which the duty of care is handed over largely to the private and/or third or voluntary sectors? How can anthropologists contribute to the debates surrounding such questions? In this lecture I will examine the case of food poverty in the UK and the solutions presently on offer. As Douglas noted, food is never just feed, and in order to comprehend some aspects of the contemporary situation we must attempt to grasp how a range of institutions such as food banks, the food industry and the state ‘think’ about food poverty, what they do about it and why, and how these actors are inter-related.

This lecture is available here.

2016 Huxley Memorial Lecture by Margaret Lock

Mutable Environments and Permeable Human Bodies

Professor Margaret Lock, McGill University

Mapping the human genome produced unexpected findings that paved the way for recognition of the contribution of environments external and internal, to health and illness in the human body. We live now with a ‘reactive genome’ in which environments – nurture, or its lack - account overwhelmingly for the human condition. In this lecture, focusing on debates about the anthropocene, epigenetics, and the metagenomic human body, I will highlight how environments are contestable and moveable, and with what effects.

This lecture is available here.

2016 Keynote at the Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change Conference

The Cultural Functions of Climate

Mike Hulme (Professor of Climate and Culture, Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London)

The idea of climate should be understood as performing important psychological and cultural functions.  Climate offers a way of navigating between the human experience of a constantly changing atmosphere and its attendant insecurities, and the need to live with a sense of stability and regularity.  This is what Nico Stehr refers to as ‘trust in climate’.  People look to the idea of climate to offer an ordered container-a sensory, imaginative, linguistic or numerical repertoire-through which to tame and interpret the unsettling arbitrariness of the restless weather.  This container creates Lorraine Daston’s ‘well-ordered foundations without which the world of causes and promises falls apart’.  Climate may be defined according to the aggregated statistics of weather in places or as a scientific description of an interacting physical system. Climate may also be apprehended more intuitively, as a tacit idea held in the human mind or in social memory of what the weather of a place ‘should be’ at a certain time of year.  But however defined, formally or tacitly, it is the human sense of climate that establishes certain expectations about the atmosphere’s performance. The idea of climate cultivates the possibility of a stable psychological life and of meaningful human action in the world.  Put simply, climate allows humans to live culturally with their weather.  In this talk I will offer evidence for this argument, drawing upon anthropological, historical and geographical work from around the world.  I will also reflect briefly on what the unsettling phenomenon and discourse of climate-change means for the future cultural value of the idea of climate.

This lecture is available here.

2016 AAA Plenary at the Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change Conference

Next Steps beyond 'Changing the Atmosphere': Strategies for Action on the AAA Statement on Humanity and Climate Change

Convenors: Sarah Strauss (University of Wyoming); Edward Liebow (American Anthropological Association)
In this roundtable, members of the AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, with a range of interlocutors from inside and outside the academy, discuss strategies for using anthropological research to mitigate the impacts of climate change at scales from local to global, through policy and practice.

Anthropologists Take On Climate Change
Shirley Fiske (Research Professor, U. Maryland; Chair, AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change)
This presentation will introduce the work of the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Task Force on Global Climate Change, resulting in a final report and Statement on Humanity and Climate Change. It is clear that the Kyoto Protocol, continuing through COP-21, has led us down a road that focuses increasingly on mitigation of carbon and GHGs, intensifying the role of carbon trading and carbon markets in an apparently futile effort to stem the growth of GHGs. We suggest instead a ‘bottoms up’ approach that allows us to focus on the foundational assumptions of climate change governance (e.g. adaptation and carbon offsets), the complexity of engagement and agency, and the drivers and effects on the most vulnerable pastoralists, indigenous and forest dwelling “producers” of carbon. All of these challenges must be met to advance on avenues forward.

Driving Change: Culture, Consumption, and Equity
Sarah Strauss, Professor, U. Wyoming (with Richard Wilk, Distinguished Professor, Indiana U.)
Human consumption and accumulation of goods and services is a fundamental cause of GHG emissions; historical increases in efficiency and productivity have not kept up with increasing living standards. Inequality has proven to be one of the basic drivers of consumer culture, as well as of energy use for less tangible purposes, ensuring that demand always outstrips supply. Anthropology’s holistic and systems-based approach compares different cultural/economic systems over thousands of years, projecting the trajectories necessary for a transition to a post consumer culture where demand and supply are balanced.

Future Solutions from the Past
Robert L. Kelly, Professor, U. Wyoming (with Lisa Lucero, Professor, U. Illinois; President-Elect, AAA- Archaeology Division, and Carole Crumley Research Director, IHOPE; Visiting Professor, Uppsala U; Professor Emerita, U North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
The intersection between archaeology and climate change provides two roads for action. First, through increased rates of site destruction, climate change will lessen our ability to use archaeological and paleoecological data to contribute to solutions to the effects of climate change on modern human populations. Second, prehistory is a long-term record of human trial-and-error that helps formulate responses to the anticipated effects of climate change. We briefly review efforts needed to meet the first challenge, and lessons learned from the second.

Adaptation for whom and to what?
Heather Lazrus (Research Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research)
(with Anthony Oliver-Smith (Professor Emeritus, U. Florida)
Existing top-down adaptation programs do not treat the social and economic variables that underpin vulnerability to climate change—poverty, marginalization, lack of education and information, and loss of control over resources. Unless these factors are taken into consideration, efforts to build resilience and decrease vulnerability globally are likely to fall short. Anthropologists examine the uneven landscape of adaptation planning, identifying who is affected, in what ways, and towards what outcomes; and also suggest possible solutions based on community-centered approaches.

Community Agency and Climate Justice: Place-Based and Path-Dependent
Susie Crate, Associate Professor, George Mason U (with Shirley Fiske)
Although climate change is a global problem, its effects are place-based and path-dependent and so requires local and regional solutions. The task force called for greater attention to the unequal impacts of climate change distributed across the communities of the world; and recognized the need to re-focus on local and regional agency and solutions in dealing with climate change and environmental degradation.  To these ends, this commentary overviews community-centered approaches and the critical role that anthropology can/ does play.

Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization and Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Oxford University.

Frontiers/Next Steps
Ed Liebow, Executive Director, American Anthropological Association
Having commissioned the Task Force, what is the proper role for scholarly and professional groups like AAA in implementing its actionable recommendations? This brief commentary highlights the available tools and resources required of an Association of anthropologists, targeting relevant mitigation, adaptation, and points of attack for reducing the social determinants of vulnerability.

This lecture is available here.

2016 Closing Plenary at the Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change Conference

Pacific Anthropology and Engagements at the Frontline of Climate Change

Convenor: Edvard Hviding (University of Bergen)
Chair: Paul Sillitoe

The small island states of the tropical Pacific are often mentioned as the part of the word that contributes the least to global warming, but that is set to suffer the most from its effects. Throughout the islands of Oceania, rising sea levels caused mainly by anthropogenic climate change threaten not only coastlines, villages and towns, but even the sovereign land of entire nations. Moana Nui, the Great Ocean that has for thousands of years supported human existence and mobility throughout the island world of the Pacific, is now turning its might against the island peoples, becoming a destructive force that in due course will make it impossible to live on coral atolls where the highest terrain is less than a couple of metres above sea level. In the larger and higher islands of the Pacific, coastal zones and agricultural land are engulfed and eroded by rising seas, while coral reefs are threatened by the warming and acidification of the ocean. The future is bleak, and a multitude of human crises seem bound to develop when the foundations for food production, human settlement, social life and even national sovereignty gradually disappear, leaving migration and relocation as possibly the only long-term outcomes. For those Pacific Islanders hardest hit by the already present effects of climate change, the future is today.

The Pacific Islands region is of course also a classic and enduring locality for ethnographic fieldwork and for the long-term growth of anthropology, and the discipline holds a wealth of detailed information about past and present human life across Oceania. Through a series of contributions from the EU-funded project ECOPAS (European Consortium for Pacific Studies), in which European and Pacific institutions of research and higher learning collaborate, this plenary session exemplifies and discusses how long-term research in Pacific anthropology and in the multidisciplinary field of Pacific studies is involved in the politics of climate change on local, regional and global scales. The session also connects anthropology, Pacific studies and art by following up the screening earlier in the day of Moana Rua: the Rising of the Sea, the film version of an ECOPAS-produced live stage drama written, produced and performed by Pacific Islanders, in which the islanders take ownership of the climate change debate, and assume the role of ‘climate change warriors’ whose artistic expressions mediate their own perspectives on what is happening. Some proposals for deepened European-Pacific collaboration in scholarship and art are presented for the challenges posed by our era of accelerating climate change, and some comparison is made with the anthropology of other regions.

Camilla Borrevik (PhD candidate, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen)
Tony Crook (Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies, University of St. Andrews)
Vilsoni Hereniko (Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa)
Edvard Hviding (Director of Pacific Research, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen)
Astrid Bredholt Stensrud (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo)

To see a clip from Moana Rua: The Rising of the Sea please click here and use the password Tausie. 

This lecture is available here.

2015 RAI Blacking Lecture by Martin Stokes

Music and Citizenship

On Tuesday, 10 November 2015, the School of History and Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast hosted the prestigious Royal Anthropological Institute’s John Blacking Lecture given by Professor Martin Stokes (King’s College London) on ‘Music and Citizenship’ to a packed audience in the Council Chamber. The event celebrated the 45th anniversary of the founding of Social Anthropology and Ethnomusicology at Queen’s as Professor Blacking was the first departmental Chair.

The event was preceded by reflections on Blacking’s life and career given by distinguished ethnomusicologists Professor John Baily, Veronica Doubleday and Professor Suzel Reily. The day concluded with a superb ethnomusicology concert organised by Dr. Ioannis Tsioulakis featuring Afghan music from John Baily and Veronica Doubleday, a Greek band directed by Dr. Ioannis Tsioulakis, and a world-fusion trio led by the extraordinary violinist Claudia Schwab.

The lecture is available here.

2015 Huxley Memorial Lecture by Robin Dunbar

Dunbar’s Number: How Constrained Is Your Social World?

The Social Brain Hypothesis, first proposed in the 1980s, predicted a natural grouping size for modern humans of about 150, now known as Dunbar’s Number. Since then, a plethora of comparative and neuroimaging research has confirmed both the Social Brain Hypothesis and the predicted size of human social groups, and shown that Dunbar’s Number applies also to personal social networks. More importantly, we have in the process learned a great deal more about the nature of the social relationships that underpin the Social Brain Hypothesis. I will explore the cognitive and ecological reasons why social groups are limited in size, why they have the peculiar layered structure that they do, and how modern humans have broken through the constraints on social group size that these impose.

The lecture is available here.

Visiting Lecture by the 2013 Huxley Lecturer Howard Morphy


National Museums have always been both global and local, collecting widely and holding locally. Ethnographic collections provide a prime example, bringing together in a single institution collections representing different cultures from around the world. The recent globalization of museum discourse and practice has resulted in an inversion of this situation. Indigenous communities, the local cultures of original production, are regaining a degree of agency over the collections of their material culture that have been distributed globally. This has often been framed as a counter movement to the colonial processes that were entangled in the building of the collections. Such a perspective, however, can mask the agency and motivations of the builders of collections in the past and fail to recognize the transformational role that museums have played in ideational change. The lecture will focus on the motivations of Yolngu, Aboriginal Australians from Northern Australia, in collaborating with researchers and others in building collections over the past three-quarters of a century. This perspective from active engagement in the present provides a very different light on the past than one that subordinates the development of collections to the enterprise of a ‘colonial science’.

The lecture is available here.

2013 Presidential Address by Clive Gamble

The anthropology of deep-history

The history of anthropology reveals a discipline driven by fission and fusion. One moment of fusion occurred in 1871 with the formation of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. This year marks the centenary of the death of our first President, Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. Lubbock was closely involved with the promotion of Darwinian evolution as a science and his wide interests encompassed natural history as well as archaeology. His centenary provides a moment to ask if the fragmentation of the constituent parts of anthropology that has occurred in the last century is irreversible. Does the strength of the discipline lie in its myriad interests or is it better served by reaffirming a unified approach to the science of humanity?

In this address I will use the framework of deep-history as an example of what might be achieved if anthropology resolved to travel the road of fusion rather than continue with atomisation. I will illustrate the pathway by examining the fusion of interdisciplinary endeavour that is encapsulated in the concept of a social brain. By placing social life at the heart of the historical process we find common ground for all the fields of anthropology, and beyond to other disciplines. Here anthropologists have the opportunity to set the agenda. The social brain works in deep as well as shallow-history. It unites experimental and historical science. And it marks a return to those core principles which Lubbock and the founders of our Institution established.

The lecture is available here.

2012 Huxley Memorial Lectute by Alan MacFarlane

Anthropology, Empire and Modernity

Anthropology has developed within three theoretical frameworks over the last three hundred years. The Enlightenment world view dominated from the early eighteenth to the mid nineteenth century; Evolutionary models triumphed from Darwin and Marx through to the late 1980's; a Global vision is the one we now inhabit. Investigating the reasons for these paradigm changes, the lecture will consider the relative power of nations (imperialism and industrialism) as one factor. Another has been the growth of 'modernity', defined as the separation of institutional spheres (Wealth, Power, Society, Ideology). Recent shifts in world power and the re-shaping of 'modernity' through technological change are redefining the task of anthropology in the twenty-first century.

The lecture is available here.

2012 Henry Myers Lecture by Ian Hacking

The Anthropology (and Archaeology) of numbers

We are, among many other things, the mathematical animal. That is a fact about human nature, a fitting subject for anthropology to address. How did mathematics become possible for a species like ours, in a world like this one? That is a question in ecological history, and prehistory, to which many disciplines are now offering fragmentary answers—cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, neurology, and developmental psychology, for example, but also the history of science. I shall discuss how ethnography and ‘the archaeology of mind’ can contribute to understanding this aspect of being human.

The lecture is available here.

2011 Curl Lecture by Dr Graeme Were

On the Materials of Mats: thinking through design in a Pacific society

This paper examines the selective use of plant materials in design in the Pacific. It explores – through an analysis of pandanus leaf mats in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea – how makers select fibres on the basis of their capacity to articulate social relations to varying temporalities before their natural decay. J. J. Gibson’s theory of affordance and Donald Norman’s concept of mapping are critically applied for this purpose. This approach emphasizes how social and temporal relations are condensed into objects, refocusing anthropological attention towards the design process as the dynamic locus of agency [entangled in both cultural and natural processes], rather than on objects as stable entities.

The lecture is available here.

2010 Huxley Memorial Lecture by Prof Johannes Fabian

Cultural Anthropology and the Question of Knowledge

Although it helps to be aware of what philosophers think about knowledge anthropologists can neither simply relegate their epistemological problems to, nor find solutions in, philosophy. In anthropology knowing what and how we know is a practical, not just a theoretical problem, one we face in all phases of our work, from field research to writing (and teaching). Historical recollections of debates since the nineteen-sixties are followed by giving attention to two aspects of the knowledge-question in our discipline: Knowledge of what? and Whose knowledge? Guided by reflections on knowledge and survival, the lecture will end with an attempt to assess the present and future state of the question.

The lecture is available here.

2010 Henry Myers Lecture by Sir Geoffrey Lloyd

Humanity between gods and beasts? Ontologies in question

Wherein lies the humanity of human beings?  Many conflicting answers have been attempted in ancient and in modern times, with many focussing on the triadic relationship between humans, gods and beasts.  This lecture will review a wide range of suggestions, from those of ancient Greeks and Chinese, to recent anthropological proposals (by Viveiros de Castro and Descola in particular) of alternative ontologies.  We have every reason to take rival human understandings seriously, but that should not be thought to lead to radical relativism, let alone to a breakdown of mutual intelligibility.  Rather, they offer resources for exploring the substantive questions and for reflecting on the propensity of human beings to entertain or presuppose strong views on, precisely, what makes humans human.  While evolutionary biology, ethology, cognitive science and anthropology itself have all contributed to an increased recognition of the complexities of the question, we need the input not just of those disciplines, but also of philosophy and of history, to evaluate potential answers.  In that spirit the lecture offers an interdisciplinary commentary on the problems.

The lecture is available here.