Anthropology consultancy in the UK and community development in the Third World: a difficult dialogue

The article investigates the impact of anthropology consultancy activities in the UK university sector and the role of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as a major provider of consultancy work. DFID and other donors see anthropology consultancy as useful primarily in the delivery of technical assistance to Third World projects with a community or social development dimension. The article points to tensions both between UK-based consultancy and `grassroots' development in the Third World, and between applied anthropology and the relative autonomy of anthropology as an academic discipline. The author suggests that a necessary precondition for understanding the contribution of anthropology to policy is the need to overcome the unwillingness by practitioners to question politically the power relationships within which the social sciences, anthropology, and commissioned activities themselves are located. The primary purpose of the paper is to open up a debate on the relationship between power, knowledge, empowerment, and consultancy work.