Making Anthropology Matter in the Academy: Application, Activism, and Community Engagement with Students in the Trump-Era United States

In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott asked if the state needed anymore anthropologists, answering his own question by saying “I don’t think so.” Scott’s comments demonstrated a growing assault on liberal arts education and highlighted how neoliberal ideals of economic responsibility have shaped expectations about what majors and career paths are deemed appropriate for undergraduates. More recently, the confirmation of Betsey DeVos as United States Secretary of Education has raised questions about the future of public education in the US and its role in perpetuating inequalities and serving corporate interests. Furthermore, the new federal administration in the US, with the election of Donald Trump as President, has resulted in numerous community-based organizations fearing future policies that could impact their constituents, such as undocumented immigrants and religious, racial, and sexual minorities.

In this panel, we seek papers that consider how applied, activist, and engaged anthropologists working in academic settings respond to the needs of community-based organizations while simultaneously resisting the growing neoliberalization of the academy. Considering the ways in which anthropologists can work “beyond the ivory tower” while simultaneously working within it, we seek papers that consider how to conduct applied, activist, and or engaged anthropology with students and consider the challenges and rewards of collaborating with community-based groups and student populations. We specifically seek papers that respond to the following or similar questions:

  • How can applied, activist, and engaged anthropology shape student experiences, and how do these experiences advance the goals of anthropologists’ community partners or collaborators?
  • How might anthropologists working in academic settings apply the discipline with undergraduate students, and how can it transform student learning?
  • How do pedagogical techniques such as service learning fit into applied, activist, and engaged anthropology perspectives? Can student engagement impact policy decisions?
  • How are community-based relationships impacted through student engagement, and what are the challenges of applying anthropology with undergraduates?

Please send abstracts to Nolan Kline ( and Rachel Newcomb ( by March 31, 2017.