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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Reconsidering Detachment: building an exploratory network

Grant reference: RES-810-21-0060

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Impact Report details

Impact report: Reconsidering Detachment
This report summarises the project's scientific, economic and societal impacts.

Primary contributor

Co-author Matei Candea

Additional contributors

Co-author Thomas Yarrow
Co-author Catherine Trundle
Co-author Joanna Cook


The grant’s main aim was to impact upon training and networking, and raise general conceptual awareness of issues relating to detachment. Impacts thus fall under four headings 1. Developing theoretical frameworks to conceptualise engagement and detachment, and raising awareness of these topics within the social sciences and humanities. 2. Building a network of researchers interested in these issues. 3. Providing training and networking opportunities for the four grant-holders 4. Providing training and networking opportunities for a number of phd students through the medium of a masterclass

The grant has had three main forms of output: 1) two panels at international conferences and one international conference (details omitted for want of space, but please see end-of-grant report for details) 2) An online website designed to accompany and disseminate these activities ( 3) Publications (not directly funded by the grant, but inspired by discussions emerging from events organised under the auspices of the grant) a) published - Candea, M. (2010). ""I fell in love with Carlos the Meerkat": engagement and detachment in human-animal relations." American Ethnologist 37(2): 241-258. - Yarrow, T. (2011b). ‘Maintaining Independence: The Moral Ambiguities of Personal Relations amongst Ghanaian Development Workers’ in A. Meike Fichter and H. Hindman (eds) Living in ‘Aidland’. Kumerian Press - Trundle, C. (2012) The transformation of compassion and the ethics of interaction within charity practices. In S. Venkatesan & T. Yarrow (eds) Differentiating development. Oxford: Berghahn Books. b) currently in preparation/in press: - Trundle, C, Cook, J, Candea, M. and T Yarrow (submitted)“Anthropology beyond engagement? " proposed special issue of American Anthropologist - Candea, M., Yarrow T, Trundle, C, and J. Cook Detachment: essays on the limits of relational thinking (Book proposal Submitted to Routledge CRESC series. - Candea, M. (Accepted). ‘Suspending belief: Animal behaviour scientists as abstentionists’ special issue “Anthropology beyond engagement?" IN American Anthropologist - Trundle, C. (Submitted) Empathy Without Understanding: The Charitable Works of Americans in Florence. special issue “Anthropology beyond engagement?" IN American Anthropologist - Cook, J. Forthcoming. Directive and Definitive Knowledge: Experiencing Achievement in a Thai Meditation Monastery. In, N. J. Long and H. L. Moore (eds) The Social Life of Achievement. Under review at Berghahn Books.

Impact, both upon our own training and network-building, and upon the broader academic discussion of detachment, was achieved through the medium of the conferences, the online collaboratory and the publications listed above (see above). The detachment collaboratory (an online networking tool and content management system) provides a forum for ongoing debate, collaboration and dissemination. The collaboratory ( used web-2 technologies to enable participants to share papers and exchange ideas. Later, it allowed the dissemination of parts of the conference that did not translate directly into the terms of a classic paper publication - through podcasts and typescripts of the discussions and questions. Publications under 1b) above have been informed and fertilized by the discussions of detachment enabled by the events above – even though this Training and Networking Grant has not directly funded their writing or the associated research. These publications in turn are beginning to generate responses and citations in the wider academic community. Publications under 1 a) above are direct results of papers given at the confrences and events. While they are not yet in public circulation, and cannot thus be yet counted as having produced impact on the general theoretical discussion of detachment, they have had, and are having an impact on the co-applicants’ training as junior academics developing their editing, reviewing and writing skills.

- One category of recipients of impact were, as outlined in the initial grant application, the four co-applicants, all junior academics whose training and networking skills were furthered by the activities undertaken here. Since undertaking this grant, three of the four co-applicants secured new lecturing positions in academic departments, two of these permanent, while the fourth, Candea, satisfactorily completed probation in his permanent position, partly through the activities undertaken under the auspices of this grant. - A second broader category of recipients includes the PhD students who participated in the masterclass. 12 participants from different universities in the UK (Including Cambridge, UCL, Manchester, Oxford and St Andrews) attended this three hour masterclass with Professor Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University) at part of our Cambridge Conference ‘Reconsidering Detachment’. This provided students with an opportunity to practice core academic skills, including giving and receiving scholarly feedback, networking with emerging and eminent scholars in their field, and engaging in intellectual debate. - More broadly still, the Detachment collaboratory has built up a community of 60 registered users. This high take-up suggests that the collaboratory is contributing to raising general conceptual awareness of issues relating to detachment, although it is of course difficult to gage the broader impact, beyond this community of the documents, recordings and discussion which the site makes available to a broader interested public.

The project was not primarily intended to have economic and social impact. However a public forum enabled four practitioners from a range of professions to critically reflect upon their practices in the context of theories and ideas developed through the main conference. All four highlighted how this gave them a new perspective on ideas and practices at the heart of their professions. The event also raised broader public consciousness of the themes of the workshop.

A public event was organized to facilitate reflexive discussion between academics, practitioners and members of the general public.

The public event constituted a series of talks in which an artist, an architect, an archaeologist and a medical doctor spoke about issues of detachment and engagement in the context of their respective professions. This facilitated a wider dialogue informed by the ideas developed through the broader conference.

The public event had an impact on the four speakers, who all made explicit how the discussions enabled a reflexive re-apprehension of previously taken for granted aspects of their respective professions. Through enabling them to understand key aspects of their professional cultures in a new light, the event in turn had an indirect impact on their colleagues, patients, clients and other end users. The public forum also enabled dissemination of ideas to an audience of approximately forty.

The publication of a special issue in a leading anthropology journal will result in dissemination of key theoretical and methodological issues to a broad anthropological audience. The inter-disciplinary edited volume will make key insights of the project available to a broader social science and humanities audience. The online Collaboratory will continue to promote discussion and debate around the key issues of the conference.

The project was conceived from the outset primarily as a means of consolidating a network around a range of theoretical and empirical problems. The public event enabled a limited impact on a range of professionals. It is anticipated that the event will have further impact in the future as research arising from and informed by the project feeds into policy and practice in a range of areas.

Cite this outcome


Candea, Matei et al. Reconsidering Detachment: building an exploratory network: ESRC Impact Report, RES-810-21-0060. Swindon: ESRC


Candea Matei et al. Reconsidering Detachment: building an exploratory network: ESRC Impact Report, RES-810-21-0060. Swindon: ESRC.