New article by Ruben Andersson explores pitfalls of academic outreach

08 December, 2017

In a new article, Ruben Andersson draws on his personal experience as a migration researcher during the 'refugee crisis' to reflect on the pitfalls and complexities of academic outreach.

Ever since the ‘refugee crisis’ hit European shores, policy-makers, journalists and politicians have sought out knowledge on ‘unwanted’ migration and ‘what to do about it’. As influential people knock on academic doors, Dr Andersson asks, how should academics engage, and under what conditions?

The seemingly endless rounds of panel debates, conferences and other policy-focused outreach pull academics towards ‘high-level’ engagements, while short-term or politically driven ‘emergency’ funding pushes them towards narrowly defined research objectives. Meanwhile, the ‘impact’ agenda – most developed in the UK, yet increasingly encroaching on other academic ecosystems – is shifting institutional incentives towards specific forms of scholarly activity.

This article builds an ‘auto-ethnographic’ account of Dr Andersson's own experiences of crossing the borders of anthropology at a time of perceived migratory crisis and increasing impact calls. Delineating the pitfalls and risks of ‘capture’ by policy agendas, the article argues for active navigation of the borderlands between academia and its various publics. For anthropologists to wrest some control, he suggests, they must be willing to take risks and get their hands dirty; strategically deploy their ethnographic sensibilities to the full; and stand ready to apply their analytical skills to powerful systems – including, not least, to the impact agenda itself.

Ruben Andersson (2017) 'The price of impact: reflections on academic outreach amid the "refugee crisis"'. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, DOI: 10.1111/1469-8676.12478