An Interview with Joy Hendry
Joy Hendry is Emeritus Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University and a Senior Member of St Antony's College, University of Oxford, UK. She is author or editor of over a dozen books, including the seminal textbook An Introduction to Social Anthropology: Sharing Our Worlds (1999, 2008) and Reclaiming Culture: Indigenous People and Self Representation (2005), a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award winner. She has done extensive fieldwork in Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and has been a frequent interviewee on BBC Radio. We talked to her about her book Science and Sustainability…
What made you pursue anthropology as a career in academia? Why does this area particularly interest you?
I had never heard of anthropology until I had completed my first degree and spent some time living abroad. In Mexico I came across this field which seeks to understand all peoples, whatever their origins, and I have never looked back! To share my knowledge that cultural differences only provide a fascinating mask for our common humanity has become my life’s work, and although I am supposed to be “retired”, I don’t think I will ever give up!.
How do you see the future of research in your field? Has the discipline changed considerably since you started out?
Yes, the discipline has changed a lot. It used to be practised by scholars in a few societies that had sent their members out to settle elsewhere, and it set out to understand the peoples they encountered in those other parts of the world. Some of the descendants of those people feel demeaned to have been the object of study, especially where their lands were colonised. Now the subject is available to anyone who has access to the internet, and the study has become much more collaborative. Ideally we should be working together to understand each other.
How would you sum up your book in a few words?
My book is an attempt to follow up this ideal of working with people of a different scientific heritage to gain an understanding of some of the valuable sustainable knowledge that the wider world has missed.
Tell us a bit about the writing process.
Regular times to be set aside, in my case in a place where I can escape other commitments, but slots every day!
What advice would you offer early career researchers/new authors?
To have confidence in their ideas, to collect their materials carefully and meticulously follow up questions that may arise, to keep copious notes that may not seem useful at the time, but could be valuable later; to remember, if they are anthropologists, to keep in touch with the people they have worked with, and to check that they have properly understood what they were told (I send paragraphs back to people for checking).