Community Engagement

How Anthropologists Engage

The critical questions anthropologists ask and the participatory methods we use bring us into engagement with a wide range of publics, other disciplines, and contemporary issues. Tufts faculty and students have an impressive record of pursuing projects and partnerships that reflect our discipline's commitment to many forms of rigorous, ethical engagement as well as Tufts' own embrace of active citizenship and service.

Engagement comes in many forms:

  • Intellectual engagements. At Tufts and well beyond, our faculty engage widely across disciplines and actively participate in intellectual and academic communities and conversations. On campus, we bring our critical, theoretically-informed perspectives to important discussions about power and society; technology, science and medicine; and changing understandings of humans and their environments. We play a part in the Center for the HumanitiesEnvironmental StudiesWomen's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the Science, Technology & Society major, studies of food and nutrition, and other programs around the university.
  • Engagement through teaching has been a hallmark of Tufts Anthropology even before we became a stand-alone department in 2005. Then termed "public anthropology," our initiatives have included service learning classes and partnerships with community organizations in Medford, Somerville, and beyond. Learn more about our courses, projects, and student research from our archives. More recent community partnerships in our classes have included the Boston Public Market and Union Square Main Streets.
  • Public and civic engagements Anthropologists often become involved in issues relating to the social and political worlds we are part of, whether "at home" or "in the field" (two categories that are increasingly blurred for many of us). Along a continuum from collaborative knowledge-production to advocacy to activism, anthropologists frequently contribute to processes and discussions relating to the topics and places we study. This mode of engagement usually involves long-term field relationships and commitments and may be connected with public and civic projects of many kinds.
  • Commissioned research and services Anthropologists also perform a wide variety of commissioned or contracted studies or services for clients and partners. Tufts anthropologists have served as expert witnesses in political asylum cases, advisors to the International Criminal Court, translators for anthropological and ethnographic ideas and texts, and researchers for the US National Park Service as it seeks to know more about park-associated cultural groups.