Summer Seminar 2017

Wednesday April 26th

Prof Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen, UK
Time: 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Location: 2.19, Brooks Building, MMU

Anthropology and/as Education


Anthropology is a generous, open-ended, comparative and yet critical inquiry into the conditions and possibilities of life in the one world we all inhabit. But these principles – of generosity, open-endedness, comparison and criticality – are also cornerstones of education. Thus I go beyond an exploration of the interface between the disciplines of anthropology and education to argue for their more fundamental identity. This argument, however, calls for a reassessment on both sides. On the side of anthropology, we have to depart from the established view that it is about making studies of different peoples and their worlds, and recognise that it is about going to study with them: it is, in that sense, to undergo an education. And it is to acknowledge that this education carries the responsibility, on the part of its recipients, to become educators themselves. Teaching is thus as essential to the practice of anthropology as is the learning that takes place through participant observation. On the side of education, it is necessary to overturn the traditional view of teaching and learning as the transmission of authorised knowledge from one generation to the next. I argue instead for a view of education as a ‘leading out’ (from the Latin, ex-ducere) of novices into the world that opens up paths of intellectual growth and discovery, without predetermined outcomes or fixed end-points. It is about attending to things, rather than acquiring the knowledge that absolves us of the need to do so; about exposure rather than self-defence. As with the anthropologists’ participant observation, the paths of education are often difficult to follow and entail considerable existential risk. The ‘school’ for the educator, like the ‘field’ for the anthropologist, is a place where people gather to follow such paths together. The task of the teacher, then, is not to explicate knowledge for the benefit of those who are assumed, by default, to be ignorant, but to provide inspiration, guidance and criticism in the exemplary pursuit of truth. I conclude that by joining forces, and by recognising their common purpose, anthropology and education have the power to transform the world.


Tim Ingold is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, and a Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Following 25 years at the University of Manchester, where he was appointed Max Gluckman Professor of Social Anthropology in 1995, Ingold moved in 1999 to Aberdeen, where he went on to establish the UK’s newest Department of Anthropology. Ingold has carried out ethnographic fieldwork among Saami and Finnish people in Lapland, and has written on comparative questions of environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, as well as on the role of animals in human society, on issues in human ecology, and on evolutionary theory in anthropology, biology and history. In his more recent work, he went on to explore the links between environmental perception and skilled practice. Ingold’s latest research pursues three lines of inquiry that emerged from his earlier work, concerning the dynamics of pedestrian movement, the creativity of practice, and the linearity of writing. He is currently writing and teaching on issues on the interface between anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. Ingold is the author of many books, including The Perception of the Environment (2000), Lines (2007), Being Alive (2011), Making (2013) and The Life of Lines (2015).