Repositioning Engaged Anthropology

Critical Reflexivity and Overcoming Dichotomies

Keywords: engaged anthropology, dichotomies, critical reflexivity, Switzerland


This special issue aims to shed light on and recognize the full potential of engaged anthropology and its place in academia and beyond. It argues for an inclusive approach to be both theoretically enriching and methodologically grounded in diverse practices and forms. The introduction addresses common confusions and obstacles distracting engaged anthropology from its core premises and potentials. As the Interface Commission of the Swiss Anthropological Association (SEG), we seek to deepen the conversation about how engagement bolsters the discipline to stay relevant and robust, and embark on new paths of theoretical reflection. By “repositioning” engaged anthropology at the heart of contemporary anthropology, we seek to overcome unproductive dichotomies on engagements and practices by embracing critical reflexivity in the process of knowledge production and social action.

Author Biographies

Peter Larsen, University of Zurich, University of Geneva

Peter Bille Larsen is a senior lecturer and researcher at the Universities of Zurich and Geneva as well as visiting fellow at the College of Humanities, EPFL in Lausanne. His work addresses the governance intersection between heritage, sustainable development, and social equity issues at both local and global levels through both practice and research. Key publications include Post-frontier Resource Governance (Palgrave, 2015), The Anthropology of Conservation NGOs (Palgrave, 2018), World Heritage and Human Rights (Routledge, 2018), and World Heritage and Sustainable Development (Routledge, 2018) as well as recent publications on indigenous rights and environmental defenders. He engages extensively with NGOs, UN bodies, and international networks and is currently member of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO.

Doris Bacalzo, University of Lucerne

Doris Bacalzo is an associate researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Lucerne. Her research focuses on the political economy of social relations and inequalities, and processes of social differentiation, marginalization, exclusion, and social transformation as they obtain in local settings and populations with entanglements with larger social and economic forces. She has extensive field research in Papua New Guinea, both for her PhD and post-doctoral studies, and in the Philippines for her MA, where she first gained critical insights on engaged anthropology, especially while doing research with groups of indigenous women and on issues of women’s reproductive health.

Patrick Naef, University of Geneva

Patrick Naef is a geographer and anthropologist at the University of Geneva. He works on violence and resilience; illegal governance; tourism and crime; collective memory and trauma. He is also collaborating with several community organizations active in cultural and urban development in Geneva and Medellin, Colombia.

Eda Elif Tibet, University of Bern

Eda Elif Tibet holds an SNSF funded PhD from the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Geography (UniBern) working at the intersections of visual, multimodal anthropologies on mobility justice and the commons. She looks into the new sustainability narratives and regenerative practices through performance ethnographies. She is the co-founder of KarmaMotion, an award-winning documentary filmmaking collective. She is the visual anthropology lead at the Global Diversity Foundation where she works towards the documentation of the High Atlas cultural landscapes in Morocco and a core faculty at its Global Environments Network (GEN) where she mentors emerging environmental change makers throughout their GEN fellowship and actual summer academy taking place each year at the University of Oxford.

Leïla Baracchini

Leïla Baracchini holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and Art Theory from the University of Neuchâtel and the EHESS, Paris. Her researches focus on the politics of representation in a context of globalisation and on the processes of commodification of culture and identity. Her doctoral thesis was rewarded with the thesis prize of the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac 2019. Since 2010, she works in Southern Africa on the cultural transfers involved in the making of contemporary San art.

Susie Riva, Creighton University

Susie Riva received her doctorate in the Social Sciences from the University of Tilburg in conjunction with the Taos Institute after defending her thesis “Conflict Narratives: Mediation Case Studies in an Intercultural Context.” Her postdoctoral work in public health research focuses on mental health, immigrant health, and healthy aging within the Senior Living Lab. She uses autoethnography to generate transformative processes. She teaches mediation at the University of Geneva’s Valais Campus, social psychology at the Valais College for Alternative Medicine, and medical anthropology in the Department of Cultural and Social Studies at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.


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How to Cite
Larsen, Peter, Doris Bacalzo, Patrick Naef, Eda Elif Tibet, Leïla Baracchini, and Susie Riva. 2022. “Repositioning Engaged Anthropology: Critical Reflexivity and Overcoming Dichotomies”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 27 (April):4-15.