Public anthropology

Public Anthropology’s Community Action Website Project helps to provide students with key skills they need to be successful in their future careers: critical thinking, effective communication, and active citizenship. The Project encourages (1) critical thinking regarding a social issue of concern, (2) a sharing of ideas among students with different perspectives, and (3) improved writing skills.

THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL CHALLENGE:
FACILITATING CIVIL CONVERSATIONS
REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE

Given the frequent polarization between “us” and “them” in many countries, the anthropological effort to communicate across differences is more vital today than ever. Rather than trying to obliterate differences, anthropology, at its best, allows communities to flourish – not because everyone in the community thinks of behaves alike, but because they appreciate their differences with one another and have learned to work together on projects of shared interest despite their differences. (For additional information on civil conversations, readers might refer to this link.)

Students are challenged to apply this anthropological skill to the heated disputes today surrounding climate change. This involves:

1. CONDUCTING FIELDWORK: Just as you might do if you were an anthropologist studying a group half a world away from living a different way of life, this project encourages you to understand the perspectives of those who disagree with you about climate change.

a. Can you understand why they disagree with you? Can you find common ground with those who hold different views than you?

2. UNDERSTANDING THE CULTURAL CONTEXTS THAT SHAPE PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOR: The data on opinion formation (see below) suggest that people’s opinions are often formed within groups, not by themselves as individuals. It is not necessarily a rational process.

a. Try to understand why people, in a group possessing different views than you regarding climate change, hold the views they do? To what degree do these views reflect certain group values?

3. A CONTINUING ANTHROPOLOGICAL TRADITION STRESSES HUMAN CONFLICT CAN OFTEN BE SOFTENED BY APPRECIATING THE CONTEXTS THAT SHAPE DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES:

a. Frame your paper as a letter to a set of people who disagree with you on climate change in a way that will, hopefully, draw them toward a shared understanding on certain issues that will allow you to collectively work together on a shared project regarding climate change.

b. It is critical to recognize that your letter cannot simply be a rational, intellectual argument defending your own position. As the background readings make clear, you need to consider the other group’s perspectives emotionally as well as intellectually in framing your letter.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. READ the background material below.

2. TAKE A POSITION on climate change. Which one is up to you?

3. SELECT A GROUP’S POSITION THAT SIGNIFICANTLY DISAGREES WITH YOURS

4. WRITE A 400-800-WORD LETTER to people in this group:

a. At the top of your letter list two specific ways the people you are addressing differ from your own position on climate change.

b. In writing your letter, ask yourself:

i. How might you frame your letter to draw those who differ from you on climate change to move toward a position that you both might share?

ii. Might you find a common goal to collaborate on with respect to climate change?

5. YOUR LETTER WILL BE GRADED ON THE FOLLOWING STANDARDS:

(For More Specific Details See the Bottom of the Page)

a. How specific has the author been in listing at least two ways that the people she or he is addressing differ from the author’s own view on climate change? Are the differences real and substantial?

b. The clarity of the author’s letter: Is it simple and easily understood.

c. Does the author convey her or his message in an emotional, as well as rational way – such as through telling a brief personal story or through a few anecdotes – that, would likely hold the attention of those who disagree with the author. Does the author make use of some of the ideas in the background readings that discuss how to talk effectively with people who disagree with you?

d. Critically, how effectively does the author’s letter seem? Do you think it will draw people with whom the author disagrees on the topic to find common ground with the author so that the author and those that disagree with her or him can collectively work together on a climate change project that benefits the broader community? For more information on  Public anthropology read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_anthropology

What Is Ethical Judgment?

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