Teaching Anthropology to Artists: The Challenges of Trans-disciplinarity and Beyond

  • Elpida Rikou Athens School of Fine Arts


In this paper, complex issues of education are discussed in relation to research and activism in the humanities and contemporary art, cultural production and politics. The discussion is based on a re-examination of twenty years of teaching anthropology at Greek universities in light of a strengthening engagement in the practices situated between this discipline and art. The context, the content and the mode of this activity are considered, during an epistemologically composite and politically significant process of interchanging teaching and learning positions. The specificity of the conditions of one’s own education needed to be acknowledged in the introduction to this retrospective survey. Teaching anthropology to professionals and students of different disciplines is also described as a period of learning how to place emphasis on practice, re-evaluate anthropological knowledge, combine diverse perspectives and negotiate power relations. Teaching anthropology to artists, however, particularly when the teacher also happens to be an artist, poses these and other challenges. Transdisciplinarity is sought, but only as something to surpass, eventually considering what it might mean to be 'undisciplined'. In any case, it is by now established that when anthropologists meet with artists, common interests become evident and a great potential for the renewal of research and theory is revealed, but diverging priorities and conflicting relations must also be addressed. Teaching and learning in such a context becomes more than an academic habit. It develops as a demanding, research-cum-art making activity, as shown by a number of collective projects that bring together students and teachers, on the fringes of the academy and social life during the difficult period of the so-called 'Greek crisis'.