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Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Summer 2004, pp. 5-15

Service-Learning and Anthropology

Arthur S. Keene

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Sumi Colligan

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

This special journal issue is devoted to an exploration of the intersection of service-learning and anthropology. We are interested in the contributions that the field of anthropology can make to community service learning (CSL) and we are interested in how service-learning can and does inform anthropological practice. The assembled papers, 8 case studies and a commentary, illustrate that both anthropology and CSL are enhanced when incorporating the sensibilities of the other. Yet, despite strong affinities with CSL, anthropology as a profession has been surprisingly slow, if not reluctant, to explore this approach. We point out the common ground shared by anthropology and CSL and explore some ironies associated with the apparent invisibility of CSL within anthropology.

Keith Morton’s (1995) article, “The Irony of Service: Charity, Project and Social Justice in Service Learning,” has become a foundational reading in the CSL literature. Following Illich (1968), Morton pointed out that the service performed in our courses might do more harm than good. He went on to question our motivation for doing such work and to explore the gap between intended and desired consequences as well as the nature of the relationship between those serving and those served. In so doing he laid the foundation for a series of arguments (Morton, 1997; Morton & Saltmarsh, 1999) that made explicit the distinction between work grounded in an ethic of charity and work grounded in an ethic of social justice. This tension has profound implications for how we construct our relationships with those whom we serve. Are they collaborators and partners or objects of our inquiry and our largesse? Do we see ourselves as stakeholders in a mutual project on common ground or are we engaged primarily in projects of self-fulfillment? Do we see ourselves as being in the community—at best visitors or at worst intruders— or of the community—that is, aspiring to if not holding a kind of membership or at the very least being a joint stakeholder in the community’s well being (Morton & Saltmarsh, 1999)? Mary Huber, in her closing discussion to this volume, points out that this is a question that challenges nearly every anthropologist in the field. We imagine ourselves as being of the community, well integrated into the daily life of the people whom we study. We sometimes even speak of being symbol

ically adopted by our hosts. This positionality, seeing ourselves as of the community, is often a fiction that we and our collaborators necessarily maintain to facilitate our work. The truth is that we are usually somewhere in between being in and being of. The questions Morton and Saltmarsh pose share considerable kinship with those that have long preoccupied anthropologists concerning their relationships with the subjects of their studies. And these commonalities suggest that the fields of anthropology and CSL ought to have a lot to say to each other.

Anthropology is a discipline born of colonialism. Early anthropologists were trained in the service of colonial expansion, learning about colonized peoples in order to facilitate their subjugation or administration. In the Americas, the discipline was professionalized in the late 19th century at a time of great and systematic discrimination against immigrants, women, and people of color. At this time a struggle developed over the identity and direction of the field (as well as over the meaning of human diversity) (Patterson, 2001, p. 35). The legacy of that formative period is not attractive— the dominant forces in the profession served the dominant forces in society and anthropological research was framed, often quite overtly, in the service of racism and discrimination (Pierpoint, 2004). Nonetheless, there were oppositional forces within the discipline that envisioned anthropology as being able to provide a solid foundation for social justice and for fulfilling the ideals of American democracy. Sanday’s paper in this volume prefaces a narrative on her own work with a bit

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of history about Franz Boas, his students, and their role in framing anthropology as an engaged field of scholarship intimately tied to the advancement of human liberation. Sanday notes the affinity between Boas and Dewey and suggests a deep genealogy connecting service-learning and anthropology, even if that connection is not so apparent today.

A good deal of anthropology’s professional literature of the late 20th century has been devoted to coming to terms with its colonial legacy. And so the questions posed by Morton are not unlike those that are posed by anthropologists as they attempt to formulate a postcolonial anthropology. This theme of postcolonialism—the self-consciousness about the connection between the work that we do, its impacts on the people with whom we work, and its relationship to established structural inequalities in society—is prominent in the anthropology of the neoliberal era (Goode & Masskovsky, 2003; Hyatt, 2001; Hyatt & Lyon-Callo, 2003; Patterson, 2001; Tilley, 1989) and throughout this volume. We see a kinship in this conflicted history and the irony posed by Morton (see also McKnight, 1995) concerning the conundrum of whose interests get served as a result of our efforts. The adoption of CSL within anthropology may lead us to reflect critically on the gap between what anthropology professes and what it actually does.

In thinking about this special issue, we have been struck by the irony of anthropology’s relatively low visibility in the field of community service learning as well as the low visibility of CSL within anthropology. This invisibility strikes us as ironic because service-learning draws explicitly on many of the theories and skills developed within our profession. For example, much service-learning clearly has an ethnographic component, and non-anthropologist practitioners frequently acknowledge this ethnographic character explicitly. Anthropological concerns frequently found in CSL include (but are not limited to) participant observation, ethics and logistics of negotiating entry into a community that is not our own, preparation of students and selves for entry into the field, theory and practice in interview techniques, contending with culture shock and ethnocentrism, development of an established body of theory for problematizing difference and diversity, developing a holistic, anti-essentialist inter- or meta-disciplinary perspective on the human condition, the proper recording and reflection on our engagements in the field (field notes and reflection), and careful reflection on the ethics and mechanics of partnership between a host community and its long-term visitors. We were not surprised to find that most of the prospective contributors for this issue had been engaged in communi

ty service learning long before they realized that there was a field by that name with its own substantial literature. Because of this affinity between anthropology and CSL in both method and theory, one would expect anthropology to be the hub of the service-learning wheel. Clearly it is not.

There are currently 20 handbooks published by the American Association for Higher Education that deal with integrating community service learning in specific disciplines; there is none for anthropology. Indeed, there is very little explicit discussion of anthropology within the CSL literature. The inverse also holds true. There is little recognition of CSL in the published literature of anthropology nor is there much visibility at our professional meetings. 1 Our efforts to locate people actively involved in CSL yielded about 60 names which in turn produced nearly 30 abstracts for proposed papers for this collection. We are increasingly aware of others who are involved in forms of community-based learning that we would regard as CSL, though those practicing it are typically unfamiliar with the literature or with formal aspects of the pedagogy. All of this goes to say that within a profession that is highly community centered, the absence of CSL is striking. This is vexing for us because we who practice CSL within anthropology have discovered it to be a valuable route to melding good anthropological practice and citizen activism with effective teaching and scholarship. While the professional visibility of CSL within anthropology has been low we expect that there are many more of us out there who have been too busy with our community projects to bring our work to our profession’s national forums. This special issue of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL) affords us an opportunity to remedy that deficit.

The purpose of this special volume is twofold and to a degree, these purposes work against each other. We are faced with the difficult challenge of writing to two very different audiences. Most anthropologists who read these papers will know very little about CSL. We would like these papers to be an introduction and entry point for them. At the same time, most of the readership of MJCSL is not that familiar with anthropology and so these papers can serve as an introduction to how an anthropological sensibility can inform best practices within community service learning. We have consequently asked our authors to provide some background that might seem gratuitous to one readership or the other.

What is Anthropology?

It is no small challenge to craft a pithy definition for a profession that immodestly claims as its purview the whole of the human condition. As a

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profession anthropology is interested in documenting and understanding human variation and variability in all of its dimensions. It asks, what is it that makes us human, in what ways are we similar or different to each other, how do we account for those differences, and how can that understanding be applied to make the world better? Anthropology is traditionally divided into four subfields, each with its own agendas, factions, disciplinary debates, rituals, hierarchies, and linguistic codes. Cultural anthropology explores human social variation, both historically and in the present; archaeology focuses on the same issues almost exclusively in the past and with a heavy emphasis on material culture as both the product and the precedent of human action (Wobst, 1978, p. 307), biological or physical anthropology looks at human evolution and the biological bases of human variation; and linguistic anthropology explores human communication and the role of language in society. Three of these four subfields are represented in this collection. While linguistics is missing, we see considerable potential for integrating CSL into linguistic anthropology classes.

Working within the disciplinary framework of the social sciences (and then again within our subfields within anthropology), we become accustomed to speaking to each other in the internal argot of our field. A real value of the MJCSL, as an interdisciplinary journal, is that it invites us to learn how to speak beyond these comfortable and familiar disciplinary boundaries. The danger of pulling together an entire issue grounded within a single discipline is that the cultural peculiarities of the field may appear distorted. We must remember that disciplinary frameworks are indeed cultural and that they actively shape and constrain the ways we perceive the world and act within it. We mention this because, in spite of the apparent affinities between anthropology and CSL, non-anthropologists sometimes chafe at our practices—particularly those that may seem ill-suited to formal experimental design. One feature that sets much anthropological research apart from other kinds of work is that our research tends to be highly personalistic, and the power of the work comes from the deep and personal relationships that are established between the anthropologist and her informants and also from the stories that the relationship yields. The papers by McCabe, Shenshul and Berg, Chin, and Simonelli, Earle, and Story specifically introduce the reader to this ethnographic component of anthropological work. In such cases, the rich and textured narratives that are yielded are not incidental to the research; they are the data. McCabe’s opening paper endeavors to offer a short course

into the cultural anthropologist’s conceptual toolkit. She gives us a substantial account of the detailed process by which she prepares her marketing students to work in a community that is not their own. In so doing she gives us not only a model for how students ought to be prepared but also a concise lesson in how cultural anthropologists work and an introduction to the key conceptual tools that guide their inquiry.

What Anthropology Can Teach CSL


It is said that there are four core elements to service- learning: preparation, reflection, action and evaluation. A substantial literature exists for the latter three. But preparation, deemed essential to good CSL practice, receives a relative gloss in the CSL literature. CSL takes people from the isolation of the classroom and places them in community settings that are often new and unfamiliar (or sometimes, overly familiar), leading students to encounter, perhaps for the first time, people who are unlike themselves or too similar to themselves to recognize prior affinities, assumptions, and biases (Colligan, 2000). Anticipating the complexities of such encounters, as well as establishing the groundwork for disentangling these complexities, are at the core of anthropological scholarly practice and pedagogy. Hence, anthropology has much to say about preparing for the field.

The papers by McCabe, Camacho, and Simonelli, Earle, and Story take on this question directly: what do students (or faculty) need to know before they enter the field? Each author details student preparation for entry as well as for partnership. We devote considerable time to preparation for the field in our own classes. For us, it is not something that competes with teaching content - it is the content. Novice CSL practitioners may chafe at devoting considerable time to preparation for the field. Experienced practitioners often seek ways to better prepare their students for these cross-cultural encounters. The authors give us some important guidance. We comment here on just two features of their approach. First, the authors show that proper preparation requires considerable investment. For these anthropologists, preparation is deeply embedded in all aspects of the curriculum. The papers point out that, in addition to students needing to learn about cultural difference, power, alterity, positionality, ethnocentrism, and their own deeply-held assumptions about difference, they also need to learn a lot about themselves before they can use the tools they are given. We also learn that these things are not learned well didactically.

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They demand real world experience. The tools of preparation are tools for being in the world, and so the students must enter the real world to try them out.

Simonelli, Earle, and Story’s description of their students’ cultural gaffes among the Zapatistas and the students retreat into the ethnocentric will resonate with every service-learning practitioner who has gone into the field with their students. The lesson these authors teach is not that their students’ preparation was insufficient but that the students needed an opportunity to practice what they had learned and test it against the world and against their deeply-held assumptions. The considerable preparation undertaken by these authors, grounded in well-established anthropological practice, sets the stage for students to learn well from the inevitable mistakes they make in the field. But the preparation is sufficient so that mistakes do not result in harm to the hosts, visitors, or long-term interests of the program.

Reflexivity and Positionality

Beginning in the 1980s anthropology went through a period of intensive self -interrogation in which it explored its relationship to colonial projects. This concern with creating a postcolonial anthropology (Harrison, 1991; Huber, this volume; Patterson, 2001) led anthropologists to explore with great depth the connection between their work and the dynamics of power. During the same period, feminist anthropologists (with antecedents in the 70s) were exploring issues of female subordination, asking themselves whether there truly could be a feminist ethnography (one that avoided expert knowledge and scientific detachment). While disagreements concerning the possibility of such work occurred amongst white feminists, as well as between white feminist anthropologists and Third World scholars and scholars of color (Mascia-Lees & Johnson Black, 2000; Moore, 1994; Salzman, 2001), feminist ethnographers went to great lengths to anticipate power distinctions between the researcher and her participants and to take strides to mitigate the consequences of these differences (Birns, 1997). Nonetheless, di Leonardo (1991) reminds us that we must be vigilant about continually re-evaluating our relationship to others lest we elevate our participants to “ennobled sufferers” (p. 150) without regard for their own agency or act as agents of social control through a partially-informed or over-determined activist agenda. Gordon (1995) concludes that feminist ethnography can achieve its most radical potential only if it accepts “challenges to its own authority,” “keeps open the question of what the politics of representation means,” asks “what kind of a change

makes what kind of a difference to whom,” and avoids “reifying politics” (p. 386). These debates remind us that a sensitivity to local knowledge, and diverse and often competing systems and sources of expertise, must be recognized and acknowledged before genuine claims to a desired collaboration can be asserted. A concern for the power inequities between the West and the “Rest,” as well as between ethnographer and informant, in both post-colonial and feminist anthropology, contributed to an emphasis placed on reflexivity.

Reflexivity is the practice of turning our gaze back on ourselves. It includes an ongoing awareness that we do not stand outside of the work that we do and that our presence in a community is not without consequence. Reflexivity pushes us to monitor and assess the nature of our relationships and work, to consider the impacts of such work and on whom, and to consider how all of these issues intersect with the exercise of power. This leads us to consider our own positionality within the community— that is, where do we stand when we observe and in whose voice do we write? How do we position ourselves in relationship to the community? (see McCabe and Camacho in this volume for further discussion.) A fundamental element here is the recognition that we all bring a set of cultures to our work—at the very least both our own indigenous culture and the culture of the academy. We work with community-based organizations that have institutional culture(s) that may or may not stand in contrast to the local cultures that are engaged with that organization. Often, as Chin points out (in this volume), the institutional culture of service providers (in her case doctors) is in conflict with those being served (patients). This insight is neither new nor necessarily anthropological (see McKnight, 1995; Morton, 1997), but it is an insight that is common to anthropological practice. And one thing that we have noticed as anthropologists is that institutional culture is under-examined in the CSL literature.

It strikes us that anthropology’s self-consciousness about positionality (as one aspect of reflexivity) really gets to the heart of one of the things that we are trying to do with reflection in CSL. It is allied with Morton’s question about whether we are in or of the community and it is about interrogating our own motivations. To think about our angle of observation, the voice we adopt when we speak— to be self conscious about these things—is second nature to the practice of anthropology and something we build into the way we teach our students about how to do ethnography or field work. This kind of practice is essential for the kinds of partnership and alliances to which Morton aspires. The

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irony here is while we, as a profession, are exemplary in our reflections about power and voice, we have been far less so in turning that contemplation into a different kind of praxis. We take this point further below.

Finally, anthropology helps students make sense of the real complexity of the insider/outsider status which, if they are at all reflective, they necessarily struggle with when they enter the field. Frequently, novices at community-based work assume that they are bridging totally separate worlds when in fact they are not (see papers in this volume by Sanday and Jannowitz, McCabe, Camacho, and Simonelli, Earle, and Story). Part of preparation for the field aims to give students the tools to see commonalities as well as differences and gives them a framework for making sense of them. Anthropology, with its emphasis on cultural dynamics, helps students grasp that community is neither fixed nor monolithic, but rather in constant state of formation, and that we all change as a result of our engagement.


In the past, both anthropology and CSL have been critiqued for a lack of sensitivity to the needs of their subjects/partners. Anthropology has a rich and well-developed literature on ethics that is relevant to the practice of CSL (see, for example, American Anthropological Association, 2004; Fluer-Loban, 2001). There is not a substantial literature in CSL on the ethics of entry or engagement, but with Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements tightening around the country, CSL practitioners are being forced into a murky region where they must consider what they have to do (to be in compliance) as well as what they ought to do (in order to act ethically).

The American Anthropological Association’s Code of Ethics specifies, “Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities” (American Anthropological Association, 2004). This statement prefaces a comprehensive document that offers guidelines for all aspects of professional conduct. These guidelines are constantly revised in response to ongoing reflection on specific ethical case studies that are regularly submitted to the Association and reviewed by its ethics committee.

Over the past two years, we have heard growing concern at CSL conferences about the potential and actual need for CSL courses to comply with increasingly stringent IRB requirements. As each campus formulates its own IRB policies regarding

CSL, many practitioners find themselves squeezed into a bio-medical model of institutional review that does not fit well with the work that they are doing. Anthropologists have been working actively to formulate IRB protocols that protect the safety and the rights of those with whom we work, but that are appropriate to our particular professional practice and for our particular constituents (Clark & Kingsolver, nd; Lamphere, 2001; McGough, 2004; Plattner, 2004). Participant-observation is not amenable to the same kind of experimental design review that is conventionally required of lab science or survey work. Questions cannot be submitted in advance because conditions of engagement cannot be fully anticipated. Indeed, spontaneity is a key component of our work. Anthropologists share deeply and personally in the lives of their informants on a day-to-day basis and can’t necessarily predict what will happen next. The timeline of their research is not always clear-cut. Certainly, anthropologists are deeply committed to the well-being of the people with whom they work and to the intent of IRB review. But the process of safeguarding that wellbeing is ongoing; it is a process of constant assessment, negotiation, and revision in the field.

The American Anthropological Association has been actively engaged in preparing language that is appropriate for this kind of work—work that has a strong affinity with CSL. And the Association has been advocating for such language with federal regulatory bodies such as the National Bioethics Advisory Commission as well as with campus review boards. As this issue is still nascent within CSL—particularly for those working in disciplines not associated with experimental sciences—practitioners would do well to draw from and build on anthropology’s experience. Simonelli, Earle, and Story (in this volume) posit the concept of “informed permission” as an avenue for envisioning an anthropologically-informed approach to safeguards for research and service. This practice offers potential for addressing issues raised by the IRB conundrum and could serve as a guide for anthropologists and CSL practitioners alike.

What CSL Can Teach Anthropology

Morton (1995) demonstrated how the practice of service may interfere with its professed aims. We find parallel ironies in anthropology. In exploring these ironies we point out how our own work and the work of the assembled authors has benefited from incorporating lessons from CSL into our practice.

Reassessing Anthropological Platitudes

Those who have taught introductory anthropology courses know that excursions into cultural dif

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ference have some impact on the way people think about the world. But we also know that ethnocentric beliefs about others are deeply rooted. Hills (2002) suggests that anthropologists are quite uncritical of their own mythology and about the claims they make as the designated arbiters of cultural and biological difference. She suggests that many of our professional platitudes are more asserted than demonstrated, and challenges us to think about exploring how we can better put some of these claims into action. The articles in this volume suggest (and this meshes with our own personal experience) that we can teach multiculturalism quite effectively and transformatively when our students go into the field (and even more so when we accompany them). But if anthropology teaches us how to prepare for the field, and has set out the ethical guidelines for doing so, CSL gives us a model for turning this into effective praxis.

Contemporary textbooks in cultural anthropology (e.g., Schultz & Lavenda, 1995) describe the encounter between the ethnographer and her “informants” as one in which an understanding of a particular culture is co-created through mutual challenge and reflection (p. 49). Yet, with the exception of some feminist anthropologists (see Birns, 1997; Hoff, 1991) and action anthropologists (e.g., Farmer, 1999; 2003), few anthropologists establish the conditions necessary for true collaboration— ensuring that participants both want the anthropologist’s involvement in their communities and have direct input into the questions asked and the uses to which the information is applied.

CSL has a well developed vocabulary for partnership and its own set of best practices (Honnet & Poulsen, 1989) that suggest communities should have control in setting the agenda in their university collaborations. Such language is approximated in the ethos of participatory action research (PAR; see Shenshul & Berg in this volume), but the hub of the anthropological wheel is still very much research-driven with the primary mandate coming from inside the ivory tower. Often, our students enter the field and engage people as subjects of research rather than as meaningful partners. Such irony is predicted by the simple logistics of short-term class projects which work against the kind of sincere relationshipbuilding that would allow us to be more of than in the community doing our work. And such projects do not foster the kinds of deep collaboration engendered by professional, long-term ethnography—though even ethnography may be imbued with an unsatisfying researcher/subject opposition. The language of partnership that governs ideal CSL work exemplifies engagement as part of a larger project of social empowerment for all, rather than as an instrument for

completing an assignment or a research project. Certainly there is much work in CSL that pays lip service to the ideals of partnership. And there is good work in anthropology, especially within PAR and applied frameworks, that models mutuality. But CSL has been active in pushing the academy to rethink its civic mission and be a meaningful and responsible partner in doing that work (e.g., Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003; Morton, 1997). We believe that anthropology has something to learn from the engagement promoted by CSL. The partnerships evident in this volume’s articles reflect the resulting synergy when these two sensibilities come together. The partnership model of CSL fosters a different kind of engagement. Simonelli, Earle, and Story’s paper documents their students’ struggles when they engage their Zapatista hosts on their own turf and terms. The students cling to what they have brought with them, worry about their own research projects and academic obligations, and all the preparation in the world cannot mitigate this struggle. But in the end they learn to question their own privilege, priorities, and colonial baggage, and hence, are able to engage in a truly shared endeavor.

Multiple Publics

One of the most important insights suggested by anthropological practice is that there is no community in community service learning. Rather, each “community” is made up of arrays of multiple, intersecting, and overlapping interests. There are multiple publics to be engaged and the students do not stand separate from these publics. This is noted especially in this volume’s articles by Sanday and Jannowitz, McCabe, Nassaney, and Johnston et al. The papers by Nassaney and Johnston et al. are of special interest in this regard because the authors work in subfields that often represent themselves as disengaged from “the public.”

Nassaney describes an evolving collaboration in western Michigan between the students in his archaeological field school and various publics— local historic societies, historic re-enactors, Adventists, and African Americans seeking to preserve aspects of a particular community’s history, and who are competing in the present, for recognition, respect, and influence. It seems to us that this kind of archaeology requires the student to explore in a meaningful way what it means to be of service and to rethink the platitudes of the profession— preserving history is good and historic remains are non-renewable resources. Archeologists use such justifications to legitimate their projects. But Nassaney’s students are not just studying history— they are there in the community, working among multiple publics, working with/for people who care

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about what they are doing (or rather care about a particular version of history) and sometimes with competing interests. The students are motivated to ask—why do these people care? What does this mean to them? How can I reconcile their competing interests? And this must lead them to the realization that history is not just good, not just a resource to be conserved, but a foundation of ongoing and competing discourses among different publics. These students must confront the fact that history and the way it is written has consequence. Perhaps CSL forces students to confront the idea of multiple publics in a way that conventional archaeological training does not. Perhaps these archaeology students, because they become agents for making meaning in an arena of contested meaning, come to think about meanings and consequences in a different way than those who do archaeology outside of the service context, and for that matter, in a different way from those whose service experiences are centered on more conventional acts of helping.

Johnston and his colleagues offer a description of the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a partnership of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and a number of schools in west Philadelphia. Starting as a single anthropology course, in a decade the program has grown into an enterprise involving a number of schools, thousands of people engaged in health education, health assessment, and urban gardening projects that, in combination, have considerable impacts on diverse stakeholders representing multiple and overlapping publics (see also Sanday & Jannowitz, this volume). In this case, CSL reinforces a particular kind of physical anthropology, one that pushes all involved to reflect on the interaction of citizenship and science, and how future scientists ought to be trained to consider scientists as citizens too, and their work as not standing outside of a social context nor without social consequence.

Decolonizing the Profession

Anthropologists have participated in a long struggle over the definition of the profession and its relationship to those we study. Calls for political relevance and political engagement go back to American anthropology’s earliest days (Patterson, 2001; Pierpoint, 2001). As previously stated, the development of feminist and postcolonial anthropology during the 80s and 90s introduced concerns for reflexivity and positionality into anthropological discourse and practice. Many of these preoccupations were echoed in the work of postmodernists who struggled to find creative venues for incorporating the voices of the oppressed and the subaltern into their texts rather than assuming the sole autho

rial voice by which the “Other” was represented (Clifford, 1986; Marcus & Fischer, 1986). For some, this trepidation over “the politics of representation” and the processes by which knowledge is created, as well as the increasing focus on the way in which excursions into the “Other” generate previously unexamined insights into ourselves, moved anthropology quite purposefully away from political engagement, prioritizing excursions into hyper-relativism and highly-theorized, overly-reflexive approaches (see Huber, this volume; Patterson, 2001). Nonetheless, there were anthropologists who continued to work in opposition to these trends, producing work that highlighted the profession’s capacity for and moral mandate to intervene in the world and to become actively engaged in the work of change and justice (e.g., Goode & Masskovksy, 2001; Harrison, 1991; Hyatt & Lyon Callo, 2003; Hymes, 1974). Calls from activist anthropologists have challenged anthropology’s excursion into the reflexive and the prioritizing of the exploration of self that came with postmodern approaches (see Huber, this volume). Hyatt and Lyon-Callo (2003) and Farmer (1999; 2003) remind us that a concern for social justice requires expanding our focus from the poor to structural conditions, mechanisms of structural violence, and the global forces that create poverty. They call for an interrogation of power within our pedagogy and within our research. They challenge us to think about the role that the pedagogy itself plays in the production of structural inequality (see also Shenshul & Berg, this volume; also Addes & Keene, 2004).

These activists argue that anthropology has a particular responsibility “to engage the subjects of our study as partners, collaborators, and even coactivists toward the goal of change and social justice. As noted above, we are, of course, foremost researchers, and it is hard not to construct the people whom we study as subjects rather than coagents of change. While such calls for activism seem to come about nearly every decade, the programmatic statements far outnumber their application. There is, with some exception, a failure of praxis within the field. We believe CSL shifts the gravity of the relationship toward the community. Anthropology may have the skills of entry, but CSL has honed the theory of collaboration that can facilitate bringing together students, faculty, and members of different publics to bring theories about power and structural inequality into action. CSL is one way to open the door to transforming the way we think about the work that we do—it is an opportunity to decolonize our work. We see this potential for reconceptualization of the anthropological project in all the articles in this volume.

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The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The relative invisibility of CSL (and political engagement) within anthropology is partly a symptom of the profession’s colonial legacy. CSL is about sharing power with community partners and overtly challenging the dynamics of power, including those of the ivory tower. Anthropology, we suggest, is still mired in an institutional culture that defends the separation of scholars from the people with whom they work.

The retreat from engagement is also a symptom of anthropology’s historical, relative disinterest in pedagogy. Pedagogy, as a field of inquiry, is underexamined in anthropology compared with any of the other social sciences2 (see Huber, this volume). CSL, with its well-developed literature on assessment and the scholarship of teaching, invites us to apply our anthropological expertise to the intersection of learning, teaching, and social change, and provides us with the tools for doing so. We see the potential for expansion of such inquiry—of turning the gaze back on ourselves, our students and our mutual projects—in all this volume’s articles. It is ironic that a field with such powerful claims of authority in educating about different cultures has failed to produce a well developed method and theory for assessing its own teaching practice.

The exploration of the teaching and learning intersection promoted by CSL also may help establish a context for “contact zones” (see Camacho, this volume, or Huber, this volume, on “trading zones”) within anthropology. These zones are tension sites in which hierarchy, authority, and difference are exposed and re-evaluated and ideas exchanged. As noted earlier, an examination of CSL practices in the four major subfields of anthropology may facilitate a dialogue that opens up collaboration opportunities. Thoughtful attention to this intersection may contribute to the erosion of the historically entrenched divide between research and applied work that continues to haunt anthropology and undermine its full potential (see Johnston et al., this volume). Such a focus may address an inequity that pervades the structure of the profession as a whole—valuing work performed at well-funded private colleges and universities and large state-funded research universities more so than at four-year state schools and community colleges. Those in the latter higher education institutions, who face the greatest teaching demands, often have given considerable attention to pedagogy, where evaluation for promotion and tenure weigh more heavily in the direction of curricular development and college and community service rather than research. Further, critical reflec

tion and analysis of teaching and learning are not encouraged nor rewarded by the American Anthropological Association. To shift these sites of exclusion and generate permanent fissures in their hegemony, we need to incorporate a view of our discipline as composed of multiple, overlapping interests (as described by Sanday & Jannowitz, in this volume) and allow processes to improve “cultural translation” (see McCabe, in this volume) across interests and divides. We hope this volume will launch creative engagement between all segments of our discipline-to redistribute rewards, revalue practice, reconceptualize the “center,” and foster scholarship on pedagogy by those who occupy “margin” and “center.”

What’s Missing in These Articles

Colleges and universities rarely think of themselves as embodiments of organizational culture; they perceive themselves as purveyors of culture, which is not the same thing. While Johnston et al. touch upon the lack of support for real world engagement at the University of Pennsylvania outside of the CSL program, and McCabe explicates her use of power diagrams and network grids as pedagogical tools for revealing the power lines between community organizations, there is little explicit discussion of applying the concept of culture to one’s own institution. Yet to build effective and long-lasting partnerships between the college and varied and competing community constituencies, it is essential to keep in mind that one’s own institution and the subcultures within it have their own histories and institutional memories, norms and performative expectations, modes of thought and action, and styles of decision-making and conflict resolution, all embedded in larger hierarchies and communication and interactive structures. These facets of institutional culture, taken together, may have a considerable impact on the conceptualization, delivery, and reception of CSL by institutional and community stakeholders, and offers an area of research in which both anthropologists and CSL practitioners should have much to contribute.3


Both authors were engaged in community-based teaching long before we were aware of CSL as a formal field of pedagogy and research. We embraced grafting the wisdom of CSL and anthropology as each speaks well to the other, and we discovered that our pedagogy, our research, and our citizenship were enhanced by the combination. Service-learning has enabled us to take concepts and practices foundational to anthropology, e.g.,

Page  13 Service-Learning and Anthropology

holism, the comparative method, global processes, and postcolonialism, and creatively apply them. In so doing, our experiences with teaching, relationships with students, and perceptions of and connections to the local community have been significantly enriched and enlivened. So it is with the other contributors to this volume. Most began with an effort to teach non-anthropologists about what our profession has to offer CSL. We believe that they have done so, but in the process they have revealed a synergy in their anthropology work.

The process puts us in a potentially dissonant place in relationship to the rest of the profession, which is still struggling with the traditional prioritizing of theoretical over applied work. Yet Patterson (2001) reminds us that from its inception American anthropologists have been involved in struggle for the moral authority of the profession—some serving the interests of the state, capital and empire, and others working in opposition to those interests. As Hyatt and Lyon-Callo (2003) remind us, such struggles have even greater immediacy in the political climate of post-911, hegemonic neo-liberalism, and the current overt assault on democracy. We see CSL as inherently political and inherently politicizing, and its affinity with anthropology (and anthropology’s Boasian genealogy of engagement for social justice) as providing considerable grounds for common cause and mutual support.

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst has been involved in a year-long seminar on anthropology and CSL that included 9 (of 16 total) faculty and 7 graduate students to explore the relationship between CSL and anthropology as a foundation for considering the questions: What does it mean to be an engaged department and what role are we to play as scholars and citizens in the increasingly troubling political landscape? We used drafts of some of this volume’s articles as catalysts for our exploration. They filled our year with active debate and reflection, and helped to provoke five new service-learning courses in anthropology (bringing the department total to thirteen). They also served as a basis for reconvening our seminar for a second year. We hope this volume will stimulate elsewhere a growing conversation leading to a shared practice among anthropologists and CSL practitioners in other fields.


The authors wish to thank Elizabeth Chilton, Vin Lyon-Callo, and Jeff Howard for comments on a previous draft of this article. We are especially grateful to Jeff for readily embracing the idea of a special issue on service- learning and anthropology and his enthusiastic support throughout the project.

Since 1998 there has been at least one session on

CSL at each annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology and Colligan organized a session at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in 2000. There have been roundtables on CSL at the American Anthropological Association (the primary association for professional anthropologists) annual meetings in 2003 and 2004. The Society for North American Anthropology has recently undertaken a project to collect course materials on CSL in anthropology. And a recent special issue of Urban Anthropology [2003, 32(2)] was devoted to a series of case studies in studentbased action anthropology, that, while not explicitly identified as CSL, are quite clearly grounded in that approach.

2 The few published compendia on teaching in anthropology, such as Angrosino (2002), Kottak (1997), Rice & McCurdy, (2002), and Morgen, (1989), are more directed at classroom technique and curriculum development applied to effective communication of key anthropological concepts and methods than a systematic research approach to the scholarship of teaching.

3 In spring 2003, two of Colligan’s students, Kathleen

C. and Felicia M., embarked on a service-learning project designed to improve campus-community relations by examining the college’s perceptions of the community and the community’s perceptions of the college and its service-learning projects. This endeavor yielded a student presentation to interested parties from the college and the community, a short report with recommendations presented to the Center for Service and Citizenship, and the formation of a committee comprised of various community and college stakeholders to foster deeper and more genuine community-college ties. (see also Kares, 2003, on a similar effort at Mt. Holyoke College.) References

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309. Authors

ARTHUR KEENE is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, where he has taught for the last 25 years. He is founder and faculty advisor of the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation (UACT) and cofounder and co-director of the UMass Citizen Scholars Program—a two year, scholarship sup

ported, service-based program designed to foster leadership among students who want to combine academics, service, and activism. He was awarded the UMass Chancellor’s and the UMass President’s Awards for Distinguished Faculty Outreach in 2002. In his free time he coaches women’s cross country at Amherst Regional High School.

SUMI COLLIGAN is Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Department at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where she has taught for the last 20 years. Last year she and the director of the Northern Berkshire Health and Human Services Coalition acted as catalysts (along with two of Sumi’s service-learning students) for the formation of a committee focused on strengthening college-community relations. Colligan organized a session at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings in 2000 entitled, “Bridging Classroom and Community through Service-Learning: Critical Reflections.” She is on the Board of the Society for Disability Studies, an interdisciplinary scholarly and activist organization.