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Engaging anthropology for development and social change

Sten Hagberg et Fatoumata Ouattara

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  • 1  As conference conveners we would like to express our deepest thanks to all actors and institutions (...)

1The theme of the 2010 APAD conference that was organised 20-23 January 2010 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso focused on anthropological engagements and social change. In addition to the rich presentations and the lively discussions that took place during the conference days this APAD Bulletin is the first publication to come out of that important meeting.1 We have made a selection of papers representing different dimensions of the conference theme “Engaging Anthropology for Development and Social Change: Practices, Discourses and Ethics”.

2The purpose of this introduction is to reflect upon challenges in anthropological engagements in and on development. First, we reiterate the aim of the conference in order to situate the conference at the interface of research and development. Second, we discuss different forms of anthropological engagements, or – perhaps better – the different forms of engaging anthropology for social change. There are various ways by which anthropologists take on societal problems – either in their research capacity, as development experts, or as activists – and the discipline has had a longstanding debate on how and under what conditions to engage in society. Third, we focus on how anthropology is engaged with development, as a way to introduce the papers and explore the basic question of how and in what ways anthropology could be more involved in development cooperation practice.

Background and focus

3The Euro-African Association for the Anthropology of Social Change and Development (APAD), founded in the early 1990s, promotes a dialogue between researchers in the social sciences, as well as between researchers and development agents. Initially devoted to the empirical studies of interactions brought about by development, APAD’s approach has evolved towards research regarding social change on the African continent in a broad sense. The purpose of the Ouagadougou conference was to address critical issues, such as growing poverty and inequality, emerging ethno-religious tensions and political conflicts, worsening environmental hazards, and increasing social fragmentation, from anthropological perspectives. Engaging anthropology for development and social change also raises methodological, epistemological and ethical questions.

4A core concern of anthropology remains the engagement that fieldwork implies. Empirically grounded fieldwork provides anthropology with its ethnographic insights and analytical tools. Over the years, anthropologists have come to turn their attention to development as a critical anthropological subject of study. Yet the relationship between anthropology and development remains utterly ambiguous. Consultancy and short-term research on a predefined problem have increased with the demand of development institutions for anthropological knowledge, a situation which seems to have deepened the schism between a theoretically oriented anthropology and a more applied anthropology. Major challenges of engaging anthropology are therefore to reconnect theory and practical application, and to create a platform for dialogue between a theoretically oriented, empirically grounded anthropology, and an anthropology directly applied to development and social change.

5In the last decade two somewhat contradictory tendencies may be observed. On the one hand, anthropology has become increasingly marginalised in development debates, where macro-economic and political reforms rather than contextualised socially and culturally sensitive development interventions have been promoted. In budget support and sector-wide approaches anthropologists have had a hard time finding new ways of engaging in development. On the other hand, anthropological knowledge and perspectives are nowadays demanded by development agencies as, for instance, poverty- and rights-based approaches require socio-cultural analysis and policy. Today actors pay at least lip service to anthropological approaches and perspectives.

6Taken together these two tendencies reveal that, despite important works produced by scholars inside and outside of the APAD network, anthropological knowledge and analysis are often referred to, but much less practically integrated in, development interventions. Yet at a time when the boundaries between development aid and public expenses are fuzzier than ever (Bierschenk et al. 2007), anthropological analysis is badly needed to understand and, by extension, influence development and social change. While this seems to be largely accepted, today the main challenge is how and by what means anthropology may engage in development in practical and concrete ways, while respecting scientific rigor and methodological requirements.

7It was in this context of ambiguous and yet mutually interdependent relations that the APAD 2010 OUAGA conference was organised. Conference participants were invited to address the following central questions: What are the prospects for engaging anthropology in major challenges of poverty, inequality, corruption, social fragmentation, violence and ethnic tensions? How and when should anthropologists be actively involved in development efforts, and political jumbles? What are the responsibilities of anthropology in studying social change? How can anthropology engage in public debate and development policy? What are the modes and forms of dialogue to be promoted between anthropologists and development agents? And, finally, what room is there for manoeuvring for anthropological practitioners involved in development work?

8The conference programme included some 85 papers presented in plenary sessions or workshops, plus a roundtable on anthropology and development, as well as a plenary session on scientific networking. Some 250 participants attended at least parts of the conference. The profile of conference participants is worth mentioning. Many paper presenters were anthropologists and sociologists who work as lecturers-researchers at universities and research institutes in African or European countries. We also saw a large number of developers in the sense of professionals with an anthropological background working for development organisations and projects. There were also many PhD students and undergraduate students. The participants came to a large extent from the host country Burkina Faso. Other countries represented with paper presentations were Niger, Mali, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, UK, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada and the USA.

  • 2  The roundtable theme was At the Crossroads of Social Sciences Research and Development Policy:Whos (...)

9The first plenary session had papers with presentations on what kind of anthropology one may and should currently implement in development operations (Jacky Bouju), on the anthropologist as an auxiliary in development projects (Marilou Mathieu) and the anthropology in the service of combating poverty (Mohamadou Sall). In the next plenary session the issue of whether or not anthropology is inapplicable to health projects was discussed (Marc-Éric Gruénais). Hadiza Moussa discussed female organisational dynamics in relation to development rent. Another paper concerned a local development organisation and reflected upon evaluation indicators and the role of the engaged and implicated anthropologist (Patrice Toé). The last paper in this plenary session concerned engagement and politics, in that the anthropologist studying municipal politics easily becomes part of the political arena (Sten Hagberg). The first conference day was concluded by a Round Table, chaired by Philippe Lavigne Delville, at the crossroads of research and development.2 The plenary sessions introduced themes and topics in the workshops: applied anthropology and the education and training of the universities; the role of the anthropologist in action and research; public health issues and problem-oriented medical research; the anthropologist as developer her/himself; the impact of development actions on local organisations and institutions; and anthropological perspectives on poverty.

10On Day 2 and Day 3 nineteen workshops were organised with 75 papers with a wide variety of themes. The theme of engagement was indeed the federating theme during the conference, and, consequently, many papers raised the issue of ‘engagement’ itself. The second conference day ended with a networking session where actors and institutions had the possibility of presenting networks and funding opportunities to the audience. This session turned out to be an innovative achievement of the conference: students and researchers were informed about stipend opportunities, and programmes, as well as existing networks and initiatives. For instance, the association of sociology students at Ouagadougou University is a recent initiative to discuss and promote sociological and anthropological debates. The third conference day was concluded by the General Assembly of APAD.

11On the last conference day a plenary session was held with papers dealing with the anthropology of per diem (Valéry Ridde), the need for an anthropological analysis following development intervention (Laëtitia Morlat), a proposition for an ethical chart for APAD (Mathieu Hilgers), and the anthropological involvement in new information technologies (Josiane Tantchou). The concluding session was spent on reporting back from the workshops, and a discussion on key themes emerged.  The rapporteurs’ synthesis was presented by Julienne Guë-Traoré. The conference was jointly closed by the conveners Fatoumata Ouattara and Sten Hagberg.

12The conference implementation went well. It was clear that APAD and its partners had been able to create visibility for anthropology and development during these days. Reportages in Burkinabe television and broadcastings as well as articles in Le Pays and L’Événement testify to this.3

Anthropological Engagements

13Beyond the rhetorical device of engaging anthropology, it is necessary to conceptually clarify the different forms of engagement in anthropology. To start with, the anthropological endeavour is simultaneously a professional activity and a personal engagement. But the engagement of the anthropologists is also a methodological necessity of the discipline.

14At a minimal level, one finds that in the course of the research the anthropologist often tends to develop sentiments of solidarity with his/her interlocutors in the field. This is a fundamental ingredient of anthropological fieldwork with anthropology’s ambition to understand representations and practices ‘from within’, thereby interrogating ‘the apparent’, ‘the obvious’, and ‘the taken-for-granted’. The anthropologist’s prime methodological tool is him/herself, implying that it is through the interactions and experiences in the field that the anthropologist produces knowledge. Participant observation, being the central methodological tenet of anthropology, implies exactly that: by the skilful and systematic combination of participation and observation of social life and social interaction, the anthropologist is embedded in, and influences, life in the social setting s/he is studying (Bernard 2002; Robben & Sluka 2007).

15It is through such a combination of participation and observation, grounded in an emphatic involvement with his/her interlocutors, that the anthropologist has the capacity to produce the kinds of insiders’ view that is so much needed for our understanding of the social fabric of everyday life. Pierre-Joseph Laurent suggests that engagement is an obligation, and that non-engagement is a methodological error, because scientific validation in anthropology is done through the engagement to objectify one’s subjectivity in order to establish the facts of reality, according to one’s interlocutors. In other words, “l’engagement de l’anthropologue est une nécessité méthodologique, en absence de laquelle, il court le risque, souvent à son insu, de produire des données filtrées par le prisme déformant de la pensée coloniale et postcoloniale” (Laurent 2011:58).

16But such an engagement may also be criticised for ‘subjectivity’ and ‘arbitrariness’ in contrast to the allegedly hard facts produced by ‘real scientists’. Therein lies a common misunderstanding of the anthropological methods, and that is why we would like to be very clear on this point. That anthropologists influence the social setting they study is nothing specific to this discipline, but is a predicament for any empirically grounded research in the social sciences and humanities. Any researcher influences the setting in which the study is carried out. To mention some obvious examples from African settings: research activities focusing on poverty assessments, household budgets, demographic censuses, workers’ employment conditions, woodcutters’ forest exploitation, all influence the social setting they study. For instance, the political effects of poverty assessments carried out in Burkina Faso in the 1990s included the explicit priorities in allocation of international aid to specific regions and sectors of society, thereby making an allegedly neutral study turn political and politicised. In other words, the political impact of classifying some regions as rich, and others as poor led to a significant channelling of aid flows (Hagberg 2001).

17Yet one difference between anthropology and most other social sciences disciplines is nevertheless that anthropologists recognise their influence on the social setting where they work as a methodological entry point. But to recognise the one’s influence, and by extension engagement, imply neither ‘arbitrariness’ and ‘subjective interpretation’, nor ‘political activism’ and ‘advocacy’, but rather requires a reflexive endeavour at the outset of the research (Bernard 2002; Jul-Larsen et al. 2011; Olivier de Sardan 2008). To put it differently, whether we focus on fundamental or applied forms of anthropological research we need to think about our relations and interactions in the field.

18The issue of applying anthropological knowledge is not new, because many anthropologists have maintained a very ambiguous relationship to various forms of applied anthropology over the years. Scholars like Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, and Evans-Pritchard were among those anthropologists during the first half of 20th century who debated whether or not anthropology should be practically involved in promoting social change (Malinowski 1929; Radcliffe-Brown 1980[1930]; Evans-Pritchard 1946). After the World War II the concept of development was coined to describe social and economic change. From basically technical, infrastructural and educational approaches where little attention was paid to social and cultural dimensions, anthropologists became increasingly involved in development aid in the basic needs approach and poverty focus of the 1970s (Escobar 1991, 1995; Mair 1984; Nolan 2002). Yet even though development anthropology became institutionalised with a new branch of professional anthropologists in aid organisations, until today anthropology has maintained its ambiguous relationship with development. While one tradition emphasises the importance of keeping anthropology as a critical science studying social and cultural processes, another tradition focuses on anthropology’s contribution to improved living conditions and life prospects for marginalised groups of people. Some even argue that there is a fundamental difference between an ‘anthropology of development’ that aims at understanding development as a set of power principles and practices to be subject to anthropological scrutiny, on the one hand, and a ‘development anthropology’ that aims at applying theoretical and methodological concepts and tools to actively promote social change, on the other (Hoben 1982; Escobar 1991). Others have taken a more nuanced stance, arguing, first, that there are different forms of anthropological involvement and, second, that the clear-cut distinction between ‘anthropology of development’ and ‘development anthropology’ is neither conceptually fruitful nor practically useful (Atlani-Duault & Vidal 2009; Bierschenk 2009; Bouju 2007; Gardner & Lewis 1996; Grillo & Stirratt 1997; Hagberg 2009, 2011; Hagberg & Widmark 2009; Lavigne Delville 2007; Olivier de Sardan 2005, 2009).

19In his overview of ideological and conceptual aspects of applied anthropology, Bennet distinguishes between applied anthropology and action anthropology. While the former refers to “the employment of anthropologists by organizations involved in inducing change or enhancing human welfare” (Bennet 1996:S25), action anthropology puts emphasis on a voluntaristic approach, and action anthropologists “were expected to help communities as volunteer scholars, using their own funds or with the help of research grants” (Bennet 1996:S34). Hence, according to Bennet, we should draw a line between the professionalised applied work of anthropologists – that is, to use theoretical, methodological and ethnographic insights in the service of an employer and hopefully to the benefit of the discipline – and the personal and activist involvement of the anthropologist to improve living conditions of often marginalised people in the social setting in which s/he works (Keppley Mahmood 2012).

20However, the problem is not so much whether or not anthropologists have different positions in relation to their field setting, because any anthropological field must indeed be methodologically constructed in research protocols and projects. The unfortunate division between ‘anthropology of development’ and ‘development anthropology’ obscures the importance of theory, method and ethnography in all anthropological endeavours. Although development practitioners sometimes lament that our research is “too theoretical” to be useful, or involves “too little practical social change”, theoretical and methodological assumptions and perspectives do colour anthropological practice. In this line of argument, we follow former World Bank anthropologist Michael Cernea’s contention: “The idea that applied research is atheoretical – either does not use theory or does not lead to theory – disempowers the discipline of anthropology” (Cernea 1995:348). In other words, the sharp distinction between an anthropology of development, on the one hand, and a development anthropology, on the other, constitutes a dead-end (Hagberg 2007, 2011). First, a practical anthropology must be theoretically and methodologically informed if it is to be capable of making substantial contributions to social change. Second, a practical anthropology must provide important insights to the theoretical and methodological thinking of anthropology as a whole (Hagberg & Widmark 2009; see also Bierschenk 2009).

21Yet anthropology entails an engagement with interlocutors and their life-worlds well beyond the scope of the specific research project and the thematic interests at stake. Long-term, intensive anthropological fieldwork not only produces knowledge and insights but also transforms the anthropological personae themselves. Whether voluntaristic or not, whether within an action research or as part of a more conventional academic research project, it is true that anthropologists often become deeply engaged in the lives of interlocutors. This is the essence of participant observation, combining the involvement and commitment of participation with the detachment and distance of observation. Hence, anthropologists combine an in-between position of inside/outside, theory/practice, and observation/participation, and this makes us particularly well suited for work in development contexts (Hagberg & Widmark 2009).

Current Anthropological Engagements in Development and Social Change

22The relationship between academia and applied anthropology has been debated for a long time, and the status of applied anthropology seems to vary in different national contexts. Yet instead of relegating anthropologists’ work in development cooperation to the field of business and administration far away from research carried out at universities and research institutes, we thus argue that the conventional division of labour between the ‘anthropology of development’ and ‘development anthropology’ is unfortunate. Our take on this is that the interface of anthropology and development is both an empirical phenomenon and a dynamic interplay of social change and action research. In recent works the relationship between anthropology and development has been further theorised, either in the form of typologies (Bierschenk 2009; Olivier de Sardan 2009), in the form of social sciences research more generally (Copans & Freud 2011), or as different scholarly traditions (Atlani-Duault & Dozon 2011; Bierschenk 2009; Copans 2011; Hagberg 2011; Hagberg & Widmark 2009).

23Beyond the scholarly interest, it is important to assert that development is a fact of life in many countries. Anthropologists doing research in Africa cannot properly understand social and cultural processes at work unless they also pay attention to development as discourse and practice, through actors and institutions. Many anthropologists are also deeply involved in practical development work. Even though the ‘Project’ seems outdated in current development discourse on macro-economic and macro-political processes under the umbrella of poverty reduction strategies, anthropological perspectives are badly needed for understanding the dynamics of power, wealth and meaning in people’s everyday activities. For example, while statistics may show that only 30% of children between 7 and 12 attend school in a given country, anthropologists tend to focus on why, under which conditions and on what grounds parents decide about their children’s schooling. In other words, the ethnographic description of schooling is more likely to analyse the decision-making processes and the power struggles involved in individual households’ coping with formal education.

24As already stated, there are several dimensions of engagement for anthropologists. We consider six dimensions to be particularly pertinent for understanding the interfaces of anthropology and development. The first dimension of engagement is naturally related to anthropological fieldwork. The intensive and committed work of researchers in local communities often involves the engagement and the moral commitment of the individual anthropologist. Anthropologists are involved in inter-subjective relations as part of the research process, and this begs for a continuous reflection on the relationship between the researcher and interlocutor, the objective and subjective, the outsider and insider. In this APAD Bulletin several papers articulate this dimension of fieldwork engagement. Pierre-Joseph Laurent argues that anthropology as a scientific discipline is not engaged, but that each anthropologist must be engaged to be recognised as such. The engagement is linked to a kind of power according to which the subjectivity required for fieldwork leads to knowledge production. Hence, engagement necessarily entails a type of relation to globalization. Marc-Éric Gruénais addresses the issue of how to meaningfully practise anthropology in public health research. He makes the methodological point that ethnographic inquiry does not exclude the use of statistics and quantitative data. The tendency to limit anthropology to the qualitative method is unfortunate and diminishes the power of the discipline. The engagement of the researcher in public health is inevitably related to the deconstruction of categories, as well as the questioning of actions. For instance, anthropologists approach social actors and the social context in which they find themselves instead of defining the research out of specific pathologies and illnesses. Here an interesting argument is that ‘risk hypothesis’, which could in fact compromise the prospects for a whole project to be put in place, is one fundamental basis of the discipline of anthropology, that is, the grounded theory.

25The second dimension of engagement has to do with the very research focus. Engaging anthropology implies that anthropologists focus on pertinent development and societal problems. For instance, anthropological research focusing on decentralisation, corruption, public services, inequalities, persons living with HIV-AIDS, environment and local livelihoods may potentially contribute to better understand the problems and societal challenges at stake. All papers in the current Bulletin are clearly inscribed in such a thematic engagement. One could even assert that a common aspect of the APAD network is the empirically grounded study of burning societal issues like corruption and impunity, and of policy relevance like decentralisation and public service provision. Valery Ridde brings up the sensitive issue of per diem in development projects. He sketches a history of per diem and argues that the system of paying allowances emerged in the late 1970s. Until then, health workers integrated development activities in their work as civil servants without any other financial compensation. It was the arrival of a massive development industry that provoked new modalities of funding, that is, the introduction of financial incentives for development workers and civil servants alike. Ridde does not limit his analysis to recipients of aid, but also scrutinises international experts and consultants benefitting from exaggerated daily allowances and advantages. He asserts that the per diem is paradoxical: topical, ordinary in the making of projects, and still very little researched and analysed scientifically. Jacky Bouju addresses the culture concept in the light of development and what he calls ‘a depoliticised anthropology’. In his reflective paper on the professional culture of development agents he takes on the important task of deconstructing common stereotypes and perceived causal relations, such as development failure due to ‘backward mentalities’ and lack of understanding. A critical culture perspective involves, Bouju argues, the paradoxical situation in which the anthropologist must either disqualify culturalist interpretations, or invoke cultural arguments neglected by development intervention. Ludovic Kibora addresses the issue of poverty by stressing the importance of grounding poverty reduction policies in people’s perceptions of poverty and wealth. There is a lack of qualitative data on poverty, exemplified in the poverty assessments purported by the World Bank and other donors. Kibora laments that these assessments rarely integrate local notions and perspectives of poverty.

26The third dimension of engagement is more down to earth and implicates practical involvement in development, where anthropologists participate either in the form of project personnel, programme officers, or as advisors at ministries or in organisations (Brandström 2009; Hagberg 2009; Lavigne Delville 2007). Many anthropologists are indeed actively involved in development organisations, and this kind of professional engagement is central, not only for development policy and practice but also for research and teaching. It is the practical engagement that provides many anthropologists with insights and, of course, also job opportunities. Several papers address anthropological engagements in development cooperation. Marilou Mathieu challenges her anthropological colleagues by deploring their strikingly shallow understanding of the development configuration itself. Contrary to what the scientific literature may communicate, she holds, few anthropologists intervene in the development field. Rarely do anthropological writings on development intervention include the perspectives of those anthropologists who act within that configuration. Ironically, Mathieu continues, the world of development seems to be one of the few where participant observation is not necessary. She advocates the ethnography of project providers in which the anthropologist working there is not independent but is hired by a consultancy firm or NGO. If Mathieu insists on the anthropologist as auxiliary to development, Andrea Reikat writes about a play with roles – or a professional mediator – in the midst of development aid. Building on her experience working for German development cooperation in Burkina Faso, Reikat reflects upon the different roles and expectations placed on the development anthropologist. Philippe Lavigne Delville describes the role of the outsider anthropologist supporting development actions in the field of microfinances in Southern Madagascar. Interestingly, he draws on the history of the microfinance institution as a site for dialogue and encounter. Lavigne Delville, who for long time worked for the Paris-based consultancy firm GRET, was monitoring the intervention in support of development workers in the country. This experience illustrates the intermediary role that anthropologists often play in development configuration. Daou V. Joiris and Patrice Bigombe Logo compare two different contexts of investigation in social sciences: the academic context and the project context. They demonstrate the extent to which knowledge in development projects, as represented in ‘grey literature’, have specific features. When toolboxes and other forms of social engineering are advocated, they are not based on development anthropology, but on an a-historical, sectorial and non-cumulative cognitive framework. This exemplifies the lack of historical perspectives in the development configuration (see Lewis 2009).  

27The fourth dimension of engagement is action anthropology, where the anthropologist turns into an advocate or a developer as part of commitment to justice or politics. Steven Polgar, a collaborator of the action anthropologist Sol Tax, identified some distinguishing features of action anthropology in contrast to applied anthropology in general, such as the fact that in action anthropology new knowledge emerges in the course of intervention, and that action anthropologists are reluctant to become employees of government and/or companies (Polgar 1979:262). In the same vein, a recent reflection claims that the engaged anthropology should no longer be seen as a hobby (Keppley Mahmood 2012). A somewhat overlapping engagement is that of advocacy anthropology where the anthropologist provides expertise and support to marginalised groups of people (e.g. Amerindian, indigenous groups). Although inherently problematic as a scientific endeavour, it is indeed interesting to analyse the experiences and insights offered by engagement in action anthropology (Robben & Sluka 2008).

28The issue of action research constitutes a fifth dimension of engagement. The difference between action anthropology and action research is that while the first entails a personal commitment, the second is a more professionalised endeavour. Several papers narrated experiences of action research in various contexts and countries, very much in the tradition of Robert Chambers and others (Chambers 1983, 1993). In action research, anthropologists are employed by a development organisation, a government agency, or a private consultancy company to conduct an assignment defined by Terms of Reference. While there is still an element of engagement involved in this work, it is also a contractual relationship through which the work is to be done. In his study of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, Hans Hedlund analyses how an action-oriented organisation with the mission of promoting grass-roots development turned into a more professional development organisation inscribed in the dominant development discourse (Hedlund 2009). In this APAD Bulletin the paper of Philippe Lavigne Delville on microfinances very much addresses the issue of action research. The same applies to Marilou Mathieu’s concern with the anthropology of dirty hands. The paper on decentralisation in Burkina Faso by Pamphile Sebahara pinpoints the perspective of the technical assistant – a typical development worker profession – when he looks into how different institutions with different sources of legitimacy coexist in urban municipalities. Sebahara demonstrates that relations of complementarity, collaboration and competition are outweighed by local political actors. According to him, anthropology may play a triple role in the construction of public institutions: first, to offer analytical tools for better understanding of economic, social and political processes; second, to highlight the stakes, constraints and potentials of actions and actors; and, third, to submit research results to decision-makers and other social actors as to participate in public debate as any other citizen.

29This last point bridges to a final dimension of anthropological engagement, namely the participation in public debate. Anthropologists take part in public debate far too rarely in most countries. Yet there is scope for increasing such engagement, not the least in many African countries where the public debate badly needs well-informed and alternative positions to dominant discourses and narratives. Given anthropologists’ empirically grounded insights and observations, the public debate would be enriched by a stronger and more present anthropological engagement. The paper of Jacky Bouju touches upon this form of engagement by highlighting the ethical dilemmas in practising anthropology. Yet a flipside of such a public engagement is that today many anthropologists in West African countries have opted for political careers (Olivier de Sardan 2011).


30The engagements that bring anthropologists and developers from all horizons to explore common entry points also raise questions about the roles and responsibilities of the researcher. The very reconciliation of the different roles of researcher and social actor, and ultimately citizen, poses, in a concrete and practical way, problems to the individual. The engagement that we address in this APAD Bulletin derives from the combination of personal and professional roles so typical of anthropological practitioners. It is our hope that the papers collected in the present APAD Bulletin trigger further reflection and debate on the important question of how researchers, development workers, and activists engage with development and social change.

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1  As conference conveners we would like to express our deepest thanks to all actors and institutions that supported the organisation of the APAD 2010 OUAGA conference: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad (VLIR), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Bobo-Dioulasso Polytechnical University, Ouagadougou University, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST), Uppsala University, Université de Montréal, African Studies Centre Leiden and Katolieke Universiteit Leuven. We also acknowledge the contribution of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Burkina Faso. And, last but not least, we would like to extend our acknowledgements to the entire organisation committee.

2  The roundtable theme was At the Crossroads of Social Sciences Research and Development Policy:Whose interests? What Knowledge? Which Perspectives?, with the following participants: Demba Diack, Marilou Mathieu, Laëtitia Morlat, Jacques Nanema, Charlotta Widmark, Saïdou Sanou, and Antoine Raogo Sawadogo.

3  Le Pays: and L’Événement:

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Sten Hagberg et Fatoumata Ouattara, « Engaging anthropology for development and social change », Bulletin de l'APAD [En ligne], 34-36 | 2012, mis en ligne le 18 juillet 2013, consulté le 26 février 2017. URL :

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