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Social Anthropology: Scottish Training in Anthropological Research

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2013 - STAR 2

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The seventh annual Scottish Training in Anthropological Research (STAR) post-fieldwork retreat ran from the 13th to the 17th of May, 2013 at The Burn in Glen Esk, Brechin. Twenty-four students from the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrew’s and Aberdeen participated, with staff leadership from each institution provided by Janet Carsten, Mark Harris and Adam Reed. As in years past, STAR 2 was a unique and challenging event, a gathering together of writing-up students and established academics from across the diverse field of anthropological research.  Through collaboration with peers, and under the guidance of academic ‘stars’, STAR 2 was both informative and practically useful to students attempting to structure their thesis and move on in their personal career paths.

The enduring focus for STAR 2 is a series of ‘masterclasses’ led by distinguished figures in the field of academic anthropology. These key events are interspaced with academic-led presentations concerning wider topics relating to the writing-up process, academic publication and future careers in both academic and relevant non-academic employment.

Masterclasses were led by three guest scholars: Dr Fenella Cannell, Reader in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics; Professor Peter Geschiere, Professor of African Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam; and Professor Joåo de Pina-Cabral, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. In each masterclass, students presented their research, and discussed challenges; explored the theoretical frameworks they might adopt; and identified links among their research interests. These activities lay the foundation for a challenging and enjoyable exercise in conceptualizing, preparing and presenting a panel proposal. At each stage students benefitted from each other’s novel perspectives, and from the guidance and insight of their masterclass leaders. The intellectual and inspirational contribution of these guest scholars was rounded off with evening talks by each, describing their own current research and theoretical innovations.

There were also presentations on a range of practical issues relating to both early career research and alternative career paths after the PhD. Matei Candea, incoming editor for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, offered tips on writing and submitting articles for publication, as well as providing a useful insight into the selection process for academic journal articles. Lotte Hoek, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, offered valuable advice on facing and overcoming the challenges of applying for grants, particularly in the early stages of career research. The group also enjoyed a dynamic and interactive presentation from Gill Clark, a senior representative from the Scottish Government, which encouraged students to think about what it is that anthropology might offer employers outside of academia and ways in which interactions and introductions might be pursued.

The week also involved time to relax and for participants to get to know one another. Highlights included hard fought croquet games on the front lawn, strolls along the nearby river, and impromptu choirs around the piano in the evenings. In the free afternoon on Wednesday, participants took in nearby Edzell Castle and village, walked to a  local distillery, or curled up in the spacious sitting room with a good book. Throughout, all enjoyed the conscientious care of The Burn staff and the copious amounts of delicious food they provided.

As ever the STAR event provided an excellent opportunity for students to share their research interests, gain inspiration and build new connections with peers and mentors. Ultimately, participants deeply valued the event for its ability to reveal the wider horizons of personal research journeys – both theoretical and practical.

STAR would like to thank all who contributed to the event, including - Fenella Cannell, Peter Geschiere, Joåo de Pina-Cabral, Adam Reed, Matei Candea, Gill Clark, Lotte Hoek and Alison Brown. Special thanks to all of the hard work from the organizing academic staff - Janet Carsten and Mark Harris.

Koreen Reece and Laura Major

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