My boyfriend is taking a class in applied anthropology this semester (a class I took a couple of years ago). Part of the course structure is working on practicum exercises as the class progresses, culminating in a professional portfolio meant to help students connect their non-academic interests with their education and training in anthropology. One of the practicum exercises is meant to get students thinking about the politics of applying anthropology.
There’s a real tension in anthropology between those who actively advocate for social justice on behalf of their informants and those who let that be a by-product of their work (but not something they actively attempt to bring about). It seems to me that this tension also exists in the skeptical and scientific communities.
The common wisdom in these communities seems to be that being political or advocating for social justice is somehow non-scientific and biased, and that any science that is used for these means is inherently subjective and prejudicial. I beg to differ because I think that science can be really useful in getting at the real (and not perceived) causes of social injustice.
How do you define activism? Social justice? What do these things mean to you? Do you feel science and skepticism has a place in social justice movements? What about the role of social justice in science and skepticism?
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