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Anthropology's Wake: Attending to the End of Culture

Anthropology's Wake: Attending to the End of Culture

Scott Michaelsen
David E. Johnson
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Anthropology's Wake: Attending to the End of Culture
    Book Description:

    Posing a powerful challenge to dominant trends in cultural analysis, this book covers the whole history of the concept of culture, providing the broadest study of this notion to date. Johnson and Michaelsen examine the principal methodological strategies or metaphors of anthropology in the past two decades (embodied in works by Edward Said, James Clifford, George Marcus, V. Y. Mudimbe, and others) and argues that they do not manage to escape anthropology's grounding in representational practices. To the extent that it remains a practice of representation, anthropology, however complex, critical, or self-reflexive, cannot avoid objectifying its others.Extending beyond a critique of anthropology, the book reads the twinned notions of the human and culture across the long history of the human sciences broadly conceived, including anthropology, cultural studies, history, literature, and philosophy. Although there is no chance, they argue, for a newanthropology that would not repeat the old anthropology's problem of disciplining the other, they also recognize that there may be no way out of anthropology. We are always writing, thinking, and living in anthropology's wake, within its specific compass or horizon. Moreover, they demonstrate, we have been doing so for a very long time, since at least the beginning of the institution of philosophy in Plato and Aristotle.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4742-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Anthropology’s Wake
    (pp. 1-27)
    Scott Michaelsen

    “Nothing whatever draws me to ethnog[raphic] studies”: Bronislaw Malinowski, when he writes this remark in his diary on November 29, 1914, may simply be bored, or perhaps distracted by newspapers and by conversation with white acquaintances. If so, this moment is simply one of many bumps on the road to culturalist ethnography—a kind of writer’s block that demonstrates, according to George W. Stocking, Jr., just how difficult was the task Malinowski set for himself as a long-term participant-observer in the field (“Empathy” 191). But, at the same time, the remark clearly brings Malinowski to the brink of not studying...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Descartes’ Corps
    (pp. 28-57)
    David E. Johnson

    The body haunts us. It molests us wherever we are, whether we imagine ourselves beyond it, transcendental and without place, or whether we dismiss the ruse of such displacement and locate ourselves as positioned subjects. The body remains, disturbing us however we conceive the self. This is the case at both ends of modernity: at the beginning, in the writing of those two who will have turned away from others and toward themselves in a gesture toward knowledge of self that would be sufficient to ground a world, in Montaigne and Descartes; and at modernity’s end, in the anthropological writing...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Our Sentiments
    (pp. 58-80)
    Scott Michaelsen

    Of what value are sorrow and tears? How can one put them to use for purposes of political life? In short, how does one derive profit from that which is always associated with loss? These are not strange questions for sociopolitical theory in the nineteenth-century U.S., as recent scholarship has demonstrated, but they seem odd and out of place in the late twentieth century after decades of Freudianisms, functionalisms, structuralisms, and post-structuralisms. Nevertheless, such questions now turn up with some frequency in anthropology (and in allied and intellectually aligned domains of cultural studies, ethnic studies, Chicano and border studies, etc.),...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Ex-Cited Dialogue
    (pp. 81-110)
    David E. Johnson

    InA Sense for the Other, Marc Augé argues that “the best way to respect a contemporary culture, and to avoid considering it an arbitrary, closed ensemble of direct or indirect propositions, a ‘text,’ such as an archivist might discover, classify, or decipher, is to engage in dialogue with it” (75). Augé understands dialogue to be the methodological principle that displaces the archive as the governing metaphor of anthropological practice. On the one hand, in the archive, the other never speaks; it lies in state. On the other hand, in dialogue, anthropology, according to Augé, does not put others on...

  9. CHAPTER 4 An Other Voice
    (pp. 111-133)
    Scott Michaelsen

    “The crucial feature of human life is its fundamentallydialogicalcharacter,” writes Charles Taylor, in a celebrated text in defense of an anthropologically grounded multiculturalism founded upon interlocking participant observations, or what he calls an “intensely studied” version of “comparative cultural study” (“The Politics of Recognition” 32, 70, 73). Only long, ongoing anthropological dialogue, it seems, can open up possibilities for a “politics of difference” that will prevent the “cram[ming]” of “others into our categories” and will, at the same time, “displace our horizons in the resulting fusions” (71, 73). Dialogue, then, will accomplish two tasks: It will both preserve...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “Unworkable Monstrosities”
    (pp. 134-165)
    David E. Johnson

    InOn the Edges of Anthropology, James Clifford asks, “Where does anthropology begin?” (16). His response to this question makes clear that anthropology has always had a troubled relation to its own institutionalization: “Look at the disciplinary histories. Sometimes they start with Plato and the Greeks. Many begin with the birth of European rationality: some in the Enlightenment, some earlier” (16). Regardless of its birth date, or perhaps precisely because anthropology’s origin cannot be determined, Clifford Geertz contends that anthropology has suffered “a permanent identity crisis” insofar as no one “quite knows exactly what it is” (Available Light 89). This...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Hybrid Bound
    (pp. 166-187)
    Scott Michaelsen

    Anthropology was born as hybridity theory, and anthropology will be buried by hybridity theory. This now appears to be the inevitable trajectory of the discipline, though the outlines of this trajectory have been difficult to discern: Tracing such a trajectory has been made doubly difficult because the narrative of anthropology’s rise has effaced its origins in hybridity theory, and because the recent attempts to revive hybridity analysis have convinced a good many scholars across the disciplines that hybridity is, instead, the future of anthropological thought—and even, quite literally, the very possibility of “the future.”

    But hybridity comes (again) to...

  12. CODA: Anthropology’s Present
    (pp. 188-216)
    David E. Johnson

    At the outset ofOblivion(Les formes d’oubli1998), Marc Augé writes: “Oblivion is a necessity both to society and to the individual. One must know how to forget in order to taste the full flavor of the present, of the moment, and of expectation, but memory itself needs forgetfulness” (3). There is nothing particularly new in this observation. It is at least as old as Augustine and his remarkable meditation on forgetfulness and memory in hisConfessions. Augé’s consideration of oblivion, however, takes its explicit point of departure not from Augustine but fromLittré:“TheLittrédefines oblivion as...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 217-240)
    (pp. 241-264)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 265-270)