Call for papers: Immigrants as Reverse Anthropologists - Observing the Centre from the Margins


Immigrants as Reverse Anthropologists:

Observing the Centre from the Margins


Call for papers

Anthropology in Action, Special Issue


The public debate on immigration to Europe and North America is ongoing. Large parts of the population in these regions are eager to stop the arrival of immigrants, especially low-skilled workers from poorer countries. Much of the academic literature in this area focuses on the characteristics of different immigrating groups, their trajectories of immigration, their process of integration as well as the barriers they face. The possible impact of the culture of the immigrant group on its ability to integrate is often a source for concern. Immigrants are regularly portrayed by the media and in public and political discussions as a social problem (the “migration crisis”) and are linked with poverty and abuse of the welfare system or with danger. Media representations of immigrants in Europe, especially since 2015, portray them either as vulnerable or dangerous ‘others’ (Chouliaraki, Georgiou and Zaborowski, 2017). Unintentionally, much of the academic research attempting to explore these issues further enhances the characterisation of immigrant groups as ‘different’ and ‘other’.


The proposed special issue of the journal Anthropology in Action will aim to challenge this division of power and suggest an alternative methodological perspective for the study of immigration. Using the concept of Reverse Anthropology (Wagner 1981), it will reverse attention from the immigrants to the host society and examine the way the former perceives and understands the latter. It will also aim to shift the focus, when possible, from low-skilled immigrants and those struggling to integrate, to skilled immigrants who were able to integrate into the host society’s ‘strongholds of power’ (Lavie & Swedenburg, 1996). Such strongholds of power transmit some of society’s essential, deeply ingrained core values and cultural assumptions. They include the legal and political systems, finance, business, industry, higher education, the art world and more. Switching the focus from the immigrant to the host society, as immigrants see it, might confound traditional hierarchies and change social perspectives. In addition to allowing us to learn about immigrants’ perceptions, interpretations, and worldviews, reverse anthropology offers the hosts an opportunity to look at themselves from a fresh perspective, notice the unnoticed, and question the unspoken.

Through adopting this approach, we will explore the following questions:

- How are specific institutions and symbols of power in contemporary Europe or North America perceived and interpreted by different groups of immigrants?

- What tensions and/or alignment exist between the cultural assumptions, values, and perceptions at the base of these institutions and symbols of power, and the cultural assumptions and values held by immigrant groups?

- Are these institutions and symbols met with approval or criticism, and on what grounds (religious, spiritual, ethical, social, or economic)?

- In what wider worldviews such criticism or approval are embedded?

- What alternatives exist within the immigrants’ original culture to the norms, codes, behaviours, or mechanisms criticised?


Submissions engaging these issues through the study of specific groups of immigrants arriving to specific countries in Europe or North America would be welcome.

· Please submit an abstract of 300-400 words by 1st of Feb 2022.

· Selected submissions will be notified by the 1st of March 2022.

· Final drafts will be submitted by the 1st of June 2022.

· All selected articles and the special issue as a collection will go through double-blind peer review


Please help us spread the word by sharing this with relevant colleagues.

For questions and initial discussions, please contact Dr. Yohai Hakak or Prof. Gad Yair


Dr. Yohai Hakak

The Division of Social Work,

Brunel University London

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Prof. Gad Yair

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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