Norwegian Academic Anthropologists in Public Spaces
There is a long-standing tradition among social anthropologists in Norwegian universities of participation in debates about current social, cultural, and political issues. I shall examine some of the background to why anthropologists have chosen to play this role and consider some of the practical, professional, and ethical aspects of “engaged anthropology.” I shall also consider why the Norwegian public is so open to anthropological comments. A few topics have tended to attract the most anthropological contributions. These are issues to do with development aid, politics regarding the minority population of the Sámi, and questions pertaining to “multicultural society.” These topics are all controversial and highly sensitive or have been so at various times, and they all challenge a Norwegian sense of identity as well as a strong feeling of the moral responsibility of ethnic Norwegians to others less fortunate than themselves. My findings are based on interviews with some of the most actively engaged anthropologists in recent years in order to get their point of view about their experiences. It transpired that they are motivated by a desire to communicate a nuanced perspective. However, not only is the role personally challenging, it can also be fraught with contradictory demands.