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‘An Anthropology for Troubled Times: Redressing critical anthropology’

Conference in memory of Prof. Paul Clough
University of Malta 14th-15th November 2019

‘May you live in interesting times’ was reputedly an ancient Chinese curse made famous in the late 1930s by British MP Sir Austen Chamberlain. A few years before Bronislaw Malinowski died Chamberlain referenced the supposed curse when faced with the growing threat of Nazi Germany. The premise is that ‘interesting times’ are times of upheaval, conflict and insecurity- troubled times. In the post-war period the ‘curse’ was again popularized by Robert Kennedy who in a speech in Cape Town in June 1966 noted that ‘we are living in times of danger and uncertainty’. While we no longer live in the shadow of World War or a Cold War interestingly enough the ‘curse’ was chosen as the theme for the 58th Venice Biennale of 2019. Discussing the premise behind the choice of theme for the curator Ralph Rugoff writes how it sounds ‘uncannily familiar today as the news cycle spins from crisis to crisis’. With the rise of right-wing nationalism from Brazil to Rome, the growing numbers of displaced populations across the globe, the alarming rate of environmental degradation and climate change, the spread of religious violence and intolerance and the overall rise in the politics of fear and hate we are facing challenges not only as ‘social-beings’ but challenges to our very ‘species-being’. 

What role does anthropology play within the context of these troubled times? Anthropology has a long history of -at times tortuous- self-reflection. The premise of this conference is that these troubled times pose a new challenge for anthropology. Critical Anthropology for a long time remained locked in the debate between political economy and postmodernism. What can a ‘critical anthropology’ contribute to these challenges? These challenges are at once methodological but also ultimately a matter of values. Values not in the sense of ‘moral goods’ whose traffic and exchange have long simulated an ethical discourse. But rather ‘values’ in terms of the epistemologies by which we, as anthropologists, orient ourselves in relation to the praxis that forms us. Such means of evaluation are not divorced form the historical and material conditions which produce them but are developed in a direct relationship to them. How do we as anthropologists ‘inhabit’ our time- a time which as Fabian once noted we share with that of our informants? Is the concept of ‘critique’ a sufficient enough standard by which to evaluate our contributions to our times?

Contributors to this conference are asked to address the theme of the conference either by looking at the way anthropology can contribute to the re-evaluation of one or more crises of our time (environmental, political-economic, moral-religious) or to re-evaluate the praxis of an anthropology ‘post-critique’. Such papers can either be built upon individual case studies or adopt a broader theoretical approach.

Conference and keynote address will be held on the 14th November to be followed by more personal tributes to Prof. Clough on the 15th November 2019.

For queries follow up with an email by clicking here

Please find here the Conference Programme here 

This conference is dedicated to the memory of Paul Clough (1948-2019). Prof. Clough joined the Department of Anthropology at the University of Malta in 1992 and headed the department for over a decade. His work -and his life- was devoted to his anthropological work. This work however was not limited to the community of scholars. Paul’s work was his life, a life committed to the betterment of the world around him. Employing the tools of his anthropological training Paul developed a lifetime of research addressing issues of political economy in Nigeria, inequality, morality and over the last years immigration and tolerance. It is in his spirit -an anthropologist for our times- that we would like to host this conference at the University of Malta.




Anthroplogy Study-Exchanges in the EU
The Department of Anthropological Sciences has a number of active Erasmus links to various Anthropology Departments in the EU (see list below).  This results in a two-way exchange. We have hosted students from various universities who normally spend one term/semester with us. This enhances student-learning experiences.  University of Malta students of Anthropology can also take advantage of these exchange links to pursue their studies abroad.
Last Updated: 30 October 2019

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