A Social Scientist’s Duty

I recently read a paper, “Representing the ‘European refugee crisis’ in Germany and beyond: Deservingness and difference, life and death”. The authors of this article, Seth Holmes and Heidi Castañeda explore the Syrian refugee crisis as framed in German society.

Although the article explores the framing and consequential understanding of the Syrian migrant crisis well, I believe it addresses an even bigger topic.

Holmes and Castañeda state that the role of the anthropologist is changing, that anthropologists can no longer be just strictly objective observers. Anthropologists have a duty to engage in current events through their ethnographic methods and social theory. Anthropologists are those individuals that help communities and people understand what is happening, and the best way to respond to crises.

The position that Holmes and Castaneda hold in regard to the role of the anthropologists coincides greatly with my own. I believe that all social scientists must act critically; critically and subjectively do not coincide. I believe that political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists and the like all have a duty to provide their objective observations and understandings, and critical suggestions as how to best address a situation. Social scientists should not sit leisurely once their work has been published. It is only then that their work has started! They should participate in conferences, speak to the public, write columns in newspaper and contribute to educating the public! The social scientist is not a passive observer. The social scientist should act to influence change.

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