Front and back cover caption, volume 29 issue 6
A satirical political activist known as ‘Ivy League Legacy’ strides across the Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park carrying a ‘Corporations are people too!’ placard, on her way to a ‘Billionaire Croquet Party’. Spending the day on satirical protests with companions such as Phil T. Rich and Iona Bigga Yacht, she would eventually join up with hundreds of thousands of other protesters in a massive march through Manhattan.
Ivy League Legacy and fellow satirical protesters – attired in tuxedos and top hats or elegant gowns, tiaras, and satin gloves – waved signs such as ‘Leave no billionaire behind!’. They are part of a national network of satirical street theater protesters who call themselves Billionaires—Billionaires for Bush in 2004, Billionaires for Bailouts during the 2008 financial meltdown, and so on. These ‘billionaires’ aim to disrupt dominant discursive frames by deploying irony and satire. As they simultaneously mimic and mock the ultra-rich, they spotlight questions about democracy and economic fairness: they are tricksters who call attention to what is shadowy or hidden, taunting the powerful and exposing power's fault lines and contingencies.
In this special issue on public anthropology, Angelique Haugerud and Thomas Hylland Eriksen argue that public anthropologists can learn from the spirit of the trickster. They and the other contributors probe the challenges of reaching wider publics without sacrificing informed critique and ethnographic nuance.
PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY & THE LEGACY OF DICTATORSHIPS
Anthropologist Francisco Ferrándiz carries a plastic box with the remains of one of seven peasants executed by one of Franco's military squads in 1941 in the village of Fontanosas, Ciudad Real, Spain, for allegedly cooperating with the maquis anti-Franco guerrillas. Exhumed in 2006, these were returned to their community that same year.
The remains, once analyzed and identified, were taken from a forensic laboratory in the Basque Country to the village's cultural center for a public memorial ceremony before being reinterred in a communal pantheon within the cemetery. Scientists in charge of the exhumation and the ethnographic and historical research had a major role in this ceremony.
In the background, three Civil Guards are on duty to protect the authorities at the civic memorial, to which the Church was not invited. During the Civil War up to Franco's death, the Civil Guard had been complicit and were themselves involved in executions at the time. The local lieutenant initially tried to boycott this particular exhumation.
Public anthropology has a role to play in addressing the longstanding legacies of cruel dictatorships and to explore avenues for distributing justice. Vigilant and critical academic analysis plays a crucial part in prising open secrecy. In this case, a public anthropologist is involved in all of the following: in news and policy making, writing judicial expert reports, cooperating with NGOs, facilitating a public voice for victims, lending institutional legitimacy to civic memorial acts and physically presenting boxes of the remains of the disappeared to a remote village of 200 citizens.
All these activities can be, and often are, the duties of a public anthropologist. In his article in this issue, Francisco Ferrándiz refers to this work as ‘rapid response ethnography’.