Anthropological Knowledge Production and Power Relations

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Anthropological Knowledge Production and Power Relations

TSANTSA, the journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association

Guest editors: Anne Lavanchy and Frédérique Leresche
Deadline for abstracts: 18th February 2021

The relationship between knowledge production and power has been a topic of anthropological debate and inquiry for several decades. In particular subalternised voices, for example of feminists, othered or indigenous people, have raised awareness of this very critical relationship. While these voices have contributed to epistemological reorientations, further decolonialisation remains a necessity, both with regard to anthropological knowledge and the way it is taught and produced. As underlined by Escobar and Restrepo, hegemonic anthropologies not only disqualify, in favour of disciplinary pretensions, the submissive and subordinate knowledge of the people studied by anthropologists, but they also make a series of distinctions between what is thinkable (2010, 87) and what is not. What is at stake is not only the integration of subalternised people into existing research projects, but also what (and who) is still on the menu (Bilge 2020). This calls for an in-depth transformation of the criteria assessing what is a good research topic and why.
By focusing on the articulation between knowledge production and power, it is possible to reshape the understanding of different forms of domination and reactions to power. Anthropology has constructed many of its methodological and epistemological reflections by looking at a range of knowledge produced by people in situations of subordination (Sarker, 2015), and whose knowledge for this reason tends to be ignored or is denied. However, attention to the emic dimension of domination does not automatically lead to the revaluation of ‘minority’ knowledge. Rather, in order to gain theoretical and academic dignity, knowledge must liberate itself from the stigma of militancy and must be detached from those who bore its voice in the first instance (Bentouhami-Molino, 2017, 101). One main challenge is therefore to consider the places where knowledge is produced from an epistemological perspective (Bentouhami-Molino, 2015; Grosfoguel, 2007), in order to highlight its situated character and how it is linked to specific systems of values and norms. This allows for a more detailed understanding of what constitutes the subjectivities whose narratives are discredited.
Building on Rey (2008), this special issue proposes to deepen the reflection on the links between knowledge and power by linking them to current challenges that concern both the studied topics and the ways of apprehending them. It draws on epistemologies that consider knowledge as situated, by looking at the ways in which individuals question, accept, and/or subvert power relations, as well as at the conditions of anthropological knowledge production. It aims to bring together pieces that, from a place of specific observation and enunciation, will shed light on academic knowledge production and power. It does so from an intersectional perspective that takes into consideration, among other things, the interweaving of systems of gender, class, race, ability, age. By drawing on empirical material, contributions should reflect the plurality of situations and positions of individuals as ‘subjects’.

We welcome the submission of contributions that take up, in particular, one of the following lines of questioning:

- Who speaks for whom? Who benefits from knowledge? What forms of intelligibility of the world are legitimised or invisibilised in current anthropological practice? We also propose to consider questions related to terminology and translation, in line with the reflections on the mobility of concepts, the importance of their specific context, and the stakes of their universalisation and cultural appropriation.

- What are the ethnographic practices that make collaboration with the various partners in the field visible (co-writing, participatory or collaborative research, etc.)? What are the limits of such approaches? How does power translate into tensions in the world of research and academia?

- How can we rethink the articulations between power and knowledge in the time of social networks, fake news, but also movements such as the feminist performances born in Latin America, or those of the gilets jaunes, Extinction Rebellion, or climate strikes?

- What are the value systems and norms invoked to resist, subvert, or counter the imposition of power? How are these practices invested with meaning, including moral meaning? This also involves considering ways of interpreting ordinary practices or social activities that enable negotiation with power, for example the ‘crime of solidarity’ or conscientious objection.

- How do injunctions to publish, the ranking or the precarious working conditions of researchers shape knowledge? What solutions or initiatives are proposed by academics and non-academic actors alike to rethink the interrelationships between knowledge and power?

Bentouhami-Molino, H. (2015). Race, cultures et identités. Une approche féministe postcoloniale. Puf.
Bentouhami-Molino, H. (2017). Audre Lorde, la poésie n’est pas un luxe. Lilith.
Bilge, S. (2020). We’ve joined the table but we’re still on the menu. Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Racisms, 317‑331.
Escobar, A., & Restrepo, E. (2010). Anthropologies hégémoniques et colonialité. Cahiers des Amériques latines, 62.
Grosfoguel, R. (2007). The Epistemic Decolonial Turn. Cultural Studies, 21(2‑3), 211‑223.
Rey, S. (2008). Machtverhältnisse / Rapports de pouvoir, Editorial, Tsantsa, Volume 13, pp. 18-24
Sarker, S. (2015). Subalternity In and Out of Time, In and Out of History. In D. Kreps (Éd.), Gramsci and Foucault: A Reassessment (p. 91‑110). Ashgate.

Please send paper abstracts (max. 2000 characters) to:,,

Publication timeline:
Abstracts: 18th February 2021

Full articles: June 2021

Publication: June 2022