So one of the questions we need to reflect on as anthropologists interested in engaging the public is: Who is our audience, and how can we best reach them? Is blogging the key? If so, what platform, what format, what language do we use? …de Koning notes that it’s somewhat ironic that anthropology blogs largely focus on a Western audience and topics related to Western ideologies, when we’re the primary field that prides itself on a cross-cultural and often non-Western focus. I endorse his call to create “a more global and plural anthropological community” (2013:397). We need more anthropologists writing in a variety of languages about a variety of cultures and topics, specifically engaging the public in our attempts to explain the fascinating biocultural nature of humans around the world.
People who live in “Western” societies think red is the universal symbol for “stop” but no sign automatically translates across cultures.
The work I’ve done on intercultural communication in social policy unpacks symbols. For example, when peace keeping forces are stationed in another nation in a rural area, the first method through which they try to enforce law and order is through visual signs. They hand out pamphlets and put up posters that direct locals. They draw on their own cultural ideas which they presume will be shared in their new environment, including “stop” and the meaning of colours. Red has different connotations in different regions of the world. Translating meaning through visual cues is not straightforward.
[Video is a loop a pedestrian crossing button, with a sign showing red, amber and green symbols]