New Teaching Resources from the RAI Public Anthropology Fellows

Illustration from research by Charlie Rumsby, drawn by illustrator Ben Thomas. This image is part of series about Charlie’s work with stateless ethnic Vietnamese children in Cambodia, highlighting the power of illustration to tell difficult stories.

By Laura Haapio-Kirk and Jennifer Cearns, RAI Leach Fellows in Public Anthropology.

When we first applied to be public anthropology fellows for the RAI back in 2019 little did we know of the year to come. Inevitably some of our plans fell through, and we had to rapidly shift our approach to online platforms. In some ways having the constraint of online activities has meant that we could perhaps reach larger audiences than we would have otherwise, and it means that there are several resources that can be accessed indefinitely. Here is a round up of our two key contributions which we feel would be particularly useful for teachers: the Illustrating Anthropology Online Exhibition and accompanying Learning Pack, and the Being Human Podcast.

Illustrating Anthropology

We curated an exhibition exploring human lives around the world through comics, drawings, and paintings of anthropological research. From those who use illustration as a fieldwork method, to others who partner with artists and research participants to tell stories, this exhibition draws together a wide range of ways that contemporary anthropologists are illustrating anthropology.

Over 120 people responded to our open call, from which we chose 62 people to feature. The entries to the exhibition were also judged by Dr Benjamin Dix, Founding Director of PositiveNegatives, who produce comics, animations, and podcasts about social and humanitarian issues.

The exhibition website launched in September 2021 and has so far received over 9,000 visitors from 106 countries. We also have a corresponding Instagram account with nearly 1000 followers where we have been slowly releasing the works and interacting with the growing audience.

In this short trailer we explain the thinking behind the exhibition.

Photo of the Illustrating Anthropology Exhibition
Illustrating Anthropology at the
Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, 2020.

This level of engagement really demonstrates the appetite for anthropology presented in creative visual forms, and we are so thrilled with this result. We showed the physical exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool in November 2020 as part of the national Being Human festival of the humanities. As soon as covid allows, we are planning a week-long exhibition at Bloc Projects in Sheffield, along with a roundtable discussion that will hopefully also be live-streamed.

Many people have also been in touch to let us know that they are using the site in their teaching. To help students get the most out of the exhibition we have just released a Learning Pack which presents the various (and often overlapping) ways that illustration is being used by contemporary anthropologists. The pack includes practical and discussion-based activities which can be done in and out-side of the classroom. Please feel free to share with your students and networks. We would love to feature any results of student engagement with the learning pack on the blog, and have just published the first student showcase from a UCL alumna here who demonstrates the potential of mixed media collage for illustration.

For anyone who would like to engage in more regular discussion about all things graphic anthropology, and share projects, ideas, and resources, please do join this new community workspace set up on Slack.

Being Human Podcast

We launched the ‘Being Human’ podcast featuring conversations pairing anthropologists working on similar topics. We put out an open call for anthropologists interested in participating and received 97 proposals. We then set to work pairing anthropologists whose work might speak with one another and be of high topical interest. Episodes have so far featured anthropologists working on conservation, care, AI, social inequality, uncertainty and luck, and those using illustration to disseminate their work.

You can find the Being Human podcast on Spotify, iTunes and wherever you listen to podcasts. So far we have recorded 14 episodes, 7 are now public. Currently episodes have been listened to in 54 countries. The podcast is also being used on some university teaching syllabuses now in the USA, Netherlands, UK, and Germany.

We hope that the above resources will be useful to teachers and students, and will help to show the dynamic diversity of anthropology research today. Please do get in touch to let us know how your students get on with the material! You can email us directly at

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