An Answer to the Why Anthropology Question

I read Didier Fassin's When Bodies Remember about AIDS in South Africa last year. Didier Fassin is a converted Anthropologist from the Insitute of Advanced Study affiliated with Princeton and was previously a doctor for Doctors Without Borders.

I read the book because someone somewhere promised that it would broach the topics of memory, bodies, and metaphors, all topics that tickle my funny bone.

So most of what I found in his book did just that for those topics. I took some notes on my twitter around September 9, 2009.

Anyhow, the dude is getting love from...drumroll please...New Jersey press.

OK, OK, some Anthropologist getting local press and love from the triple A is not really why this is important.

What's important is his explanation of why he got into Anthropology in the first place, transitioning from being a Doctor.

From via the Triple A Twitter

The question of how ethically any superpower intervenes — how it manages the politics and inequality of that relationship — is the work that absorbs Professor Didier Fassin.

The James D. Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study here, Fassin is a medical doctor turned anthropologist turned philosophical gadfly, all in the service of insisting that the right questions be asked when one country storms into another with planeloads of food or soldiers.

“This is not meant to be a critique from the outside, but really trying to get inside the logic of humanitarianism to see what is gained and what is lost when a country does this,” Fassin, 55, said during an interview at his Institute office last week. “What are the impasses or the ambivalence that you bring to that situation?

“It’s not rejecting humanitarian action, it’s bringing the voice of the people, it’s being concerned with their identity and not avoiding the question of social justice. These are not contradictory. In my work I’m not describing an ideal way of dealing with these problems but rather a more realistic way of looking at them.

“Bringing intelligibility to the world. This is really what anthropology is about.”

I wonder if he could come speak at our next Anthro grad meeting. : )

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