Why the world needs anthropologists

The symposium ‘Why the world needs anthropologists’ on applied anthropology was sponsored by Vamos Bien. Amsterdam, 29 November 2013.

This international symposium explored possibilities for the use of anthropology outside of academia. Keynote speakers presented best practices of product development and service improvement by employing anthropological skills and knowledge, and critically reflected on the engagement of anthropologists in profit and non-profit sectors. Identifying possibilities for future collaborations between science and practice and opening new interdisciplinary fields for applied anthropology in Europe.


Organised by: VU University Amsterdam, University of Ljubljana, EASA Applied Anthropology Network, Antropologen Beroepsvereniging, Tropenmuseum, Institute for Innovation and Development of the University of Ljubljana.
Sponsors: Slovenian Research Agency, Metronik, Vamos Bien!

Introduction to the event: Ellen Bal, Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam.

The keynote speakers:

1. Anna Kirah, Making Waves, has a background as a design anthropologist and psychologist. She is internationally recognised as a pioneer using human-centered innovation in the design of services, products and organizational change at leading companies, including Microsoft and Boeing.
2. Jitske Kramer, HumanDimensions, is a highly sought-after facilitator, coach and presenter in the area of diversity, inclusion, cross-cultural issues and change in the commercial sector. Her ambition is to (re)connect people through their differences.
3. Simon Roberts, Stripe Partners, is a business anthropologist with over 15 years experience in technology research, innovation and strategy development. He has pioneered the use of ethnography in commercial settings, running his own consultancy and working in R&D at Intel.

The panel discussion featured:

Moderator: Dan Podjed, Coordinator of the EASA Applied Anthropology Network


1. Rajko Muršič is a Full Professor at the University of Ljubljana, specialised in the anthropology of music and popular cultures. He is critical to capitalism, but he strongly supports practical applications of anthropological knowledge.
2. Marina de Regt is an Assistant Professor at the VU University Amsterdam. She carried out her research on migrant domestic workers in Yemen and Yemeni-Ethiopian migration. Marina cooperated in several development projects in Yemen which made her critical of the development industry.
3. Wayne Modest is the Head of the Curatorial Department at the Tropenmuseum. His work is driven by a concern for more historically contingent ways of understanding the present, especially in relation to material culture.
4. Nadia Moussaid works as a reporter and editor at AT5 (TV station in Amsterdam): De stelling van Amsterdam/ Wereldstad.
5. Gregor Cerinšek, researcher and project manager at the Institute for Innovation and Development of the University of Ljubljana, has worked as a consultant on HRM and competence development for various Slovenian organisations. He cooperates in EU research projects and delivers lectures at the University of Ljubljana on creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and competence development. Gregor Cerinšek is also a part of the EURL3A project. It is a pilot project within the European framework of the University–Business Cooperation initiative. The main aim of the initiative is to form the so called “Knowledge Alliance” to encourage structured, result-driven cooperation ventures between universities and companies. The EURL3A partners are investing in Real Life Learning Labs as seeding grounds for new ideas and for innovative collaboration and learning processes.

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