[URBANTH-L]temp jobs vs. "the anthropologist as hero"

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Fri May 4 15:08:27 EDT 2007

In the below message, Dani emphasizes a wonderful point - that the nomadic 
"temp-job" market pulls people away from what drew them into  anthropology 
in the first place -- a desire to have a positive social impact. In the past 
two years, I've been doing research and advocacy work with prisoners, and 
funding it out of pocket (www.prisonersolidarity.org).  When I lose this job 
and leave the region, my advocacy work unfortunately also ends. What do 
senior faculty who are activist-anthropologists think about the trend that 
Dani describes below?

From: Dani Kranz <moewe at gmx.li>

I was really, really touched by your mail. And I was not surprised by 
Dimitra's response.

I am myself in the last steps of finishing up my PhD in St Andrews, and have 
been self-financing throughout, as most of my friends who entered PhD 
programs in the UK. On that matter, Susan is right that the matter of 
finances needs to be appreciated much more. Being on the brink of bankruptcy 
throughout is nerve wrecking, fear inducing and frustrating.

I have been asking myself especially on the last few months why I'm pursuing 
this degree - taking all of the risks to maybe never get into academia, or 
on one or two year contracts, at the same time being forced to work outside 
academia as market analyst to make ends meet (one could say as an applied 
anthropologist, though I shy away from this).. But the risk is not what 
actually bothers me - besides a lucky two of my friends, all of us work in 
jobs we were either not trained for or just do in order to make ends meet 
(that goes alike for my friends in Germany, Britain, Israel, the US and 
various other countries). What bothers me much more is that I am not sure if 
what I am doing will ever have any effect on any social policy as I'd hoped 
for. As you, I have been working with a group of people I do care about a 
lot and for very personal reasons, Jews in Germany. I gave a paper last week 
which looks at what happens when a dual citizen (Germany and Israel) enters 
Germany, where he is then just counted as a German, with all connotations 
that carries. That as a descendant of German Jews who fled Germany his 
family history and thus the passing on of any tradition or German language 
is notably different from millions of 'other'  Germans is not appreciated in 
the legal framework, besides the reinstatement of the citizenship that is 
part of the constitution. During my fieldwork, I managed to get him on a 
German language course, and left all papers that could help people like him 
with one my participants - if I was not to have an impact on social policy, 
I wanted at least to give back, and help as much as I could. It is these 
moments I realized that make me do what I'm doing, and pursue this degree. 
It's the hope that maybe I will manage to change things and make this world, 
idealistic as it might sound, a better place. Not going into grad school and 
giving into the 'forces of the market' I know I would have regretted, it 
would have made me feel dead. Margaret Mead I think it was once mentioned 
that it takes a small group of determined individuals to make changes if 
there are supposed to be any.


More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list