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Department of Anthropology

Programme of Events

70/50 Celebrations and Public Lectures: People in Context: Anthropological Reflections in a 'Post Truth' World

Presented by Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Conference,

20 April 2017 09:00 in

Durham Anthropology / Royal Anthropological Institute Student Conference 2017
Durham University, 20-22 April 2017

Some say we are living in a ‘post-truth’ world, punctuated by the ‘shocks’ of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, heated debates over the ‘migrant crisis’, climate change, and vaccines, where expertise is ignored and ‘objective fact’ surrenders to emotion and belief. If so, what might ‘posttruth’ mean for anthropology? We believe it urges us to reconsider how anthropology examines people in both a socio-cultural and evolutionary context; to reflect on the evidence underpinning such ideas, and the purposes of the knowledge we generate. In light of the multi-disciplinary nature of Durham Anthropology, and the spirit of our 70/50 Anniversary celebrations, we invite undergraduate and postgraduate students from all sub-disciplines of anthropology to reflect on their work in this ‘post-truth’ world. In doing so we hope to examine the purpose, place and possible roles of anthropological knowledge and of anthropologists within it, and seek a wider exploration of the notions of ‘truth’ and ‘expertise’. By combining the diverse approaches anthropologists’ use, we seek to construct a method of speaking more clearly to one another, and in doing, speak more clearly to the wider world.

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Previous Events

Scaling the Body: an interactive workshop

Presented by Dr Liz Hallam, Dr Anna Maerker and Professor Douglas Davies

28 February 2017 10:00 in Kenworthy Hall (St Mary's College)

With recent advances in transplant medicine, there is now not much that isn’t of potential secondary use when we die. The heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines, corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and bones that functioned in one body might all now find themselves functioning in another. From an ethical perspective this is both complex and challenging. It brings within a single frame questions of biomedical need and the relief of suffering on the one hand and ideas about the body, death and what happens beyond on the other.

The workshop will consider the way the body as a resource for biomedicine is thought of at different scales and what it means when there is a shift between scales. This will entail reflection upon the body as partible and made up of entities that are physically isolatable, hierarchically ordered and yet dynamically interlinked; the re-constitution of recipient bodies as healthy and whole; and, finally, the larger scale social and moral imaginaries into which these entities pass.

The visual and participatory elements of this event will be led by the acclaimed artist, Barrie Ormsby. The day will be interspersed by reflections on questions of bodies and scale from Dr Liz Hallam [University of Oxford], Dr Anna Maerker [Kings College London and IAS visiting fellow] and Professor Douglas Davies [Professor of Theology, Durham University].
The workshop will be of particular interest to those concerned with the bioethics, policies and politics of the secondary use of bodies in biomedicine.

Are concepts experiential? Anthropological thought and the Problem of Singularity

Presented by Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology , Johns Hopkins University

5 December 2016 17:00 in Ken Wade Lecture Theatre, Calman Learning Centre

It is often assumed that concepts belong to abstract thought while experience belongs to an ongoing flow of lived reality. Despite lively debates on the way experience informs anthropological description, we might ask how the tendency to typify experience in anthropological texts addresses the question of singularity – not only that of individuals but that of events? While one cannot completely dissolve the distinction between concepts and experience, I ask how experience clings to concepts. If our conceptual language is too coarse to capture the fine grains of experience, then how is another one to be found? I build my argument through examples that I take from the ethnographic record as well as my fieldwork among the urban poor in Delhi, India.