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Modernist Anthropology

Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text

Edited and with an Introduction by Marc Manganaro
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 349
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  • Book Info
    Modernist Anthropology
    Book Description:

    Recent insights into the nature of representation and power relations have signaled an important shift in perspective on anthropology: from a fieldwork-based "science" of culture to an interpretive activity bound to the discursive and ideological process called "text-making." This collection of essays reflects the ongoing cross-fertilization between literary criticism and anthropology. Focusing on texts written or influenced by anthropologists between 1900 and 1945, the work relates current perspectives on anthropology's discursive nature to the literary period known as "Modernism.".

    The essays, each demonstrating anthropology's profound influence on this important cultural movement, are organized according to discourse type: from the comparativist text of Frazer, to the ethnographies of Boas, Benedict, Mead, and Hurston, and on to the surrealist experiments of the College de Sociologie. Meanwhile the book's orientation shifts from essays that approach anthropology from the vantage points of literariness and textual power to those that contemplate what bearing the junction of cultural theory and anthropology can have upon present and future social institutions.

    In addition to the editor, contributors include Vincent Crapanzano, Deborah Gordon, Richard Handler, Arnold Krupat, Francesco Loriggio, Michele Richman, Marty Roth, Marilyn Strathern, Robert Sullivan, John B. Vickery, and Steven Webster.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6141-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)

    • Textual Play, Power, and Cultural Critique: An Orientation to Modernist Anthropology
      (pp. 3-48)

      This anthology is born out of a number of critical developments in the past twenty-five years that have brought about, among other things, a coalescence of anthropology and current theories on discourse emerging from literary and other cultural studies. Perhaps most important, recent anthropological writing has called into question the legitimacy with which we represent the “Other” in cultural written accounts. Indeed, insights gained into the nature of representation and power relations have made impossible the comfortable assumption that other cultures can be grasped, categorized, and put on paper. The recognition that cultural representation is inherently problematic is of course...


    • Frazer and the Elegiac: The Modernist Connection
      (pp. 51-68)

      Modernist literature has a deserved reputation for being radically experimental in theme, structure, and technique. And yet the more one ponders it and its successors in the century, the more its collective voice appears to speak elegiacally, that is, in accents reflective of one of the most traditional and conventional of literary modes. Recently Peter Sacks (1985, 2) has reminded us that “the myth of the vegetation deity” is one of the elegy’s central conventions all of which may be “not only aesthetically interesting forms but also the literary versions of specific social and psychological practices.” Both the presence and...

    • Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough: A Reading Lesson
      (pp. 69-79)

      Reading James Frazer’sGolden Boughas an imaginary construction is made easier by the fact that theGolden Boughhas long been invalidated as a work of anthropology. Frazer has been made the subject of anthropological “contempt and ridicule . . . abhorrence and denunciation”—his own estimate of the only acknowledgment that a “savage forefather” is likely to get from a modern (Frazer [1922], 307). This intention is further accommodated by the opening of the work itself, which is characterized, first, by particularly “fine” writing—a sudden access ofstyle;second, by the display of a work of fine...

    • Out of Context: The Persuasive Fictions of Anthropology
      (pp. 80-130)

      This is the confession of someone brought up to view Sir James Frazer in a particular way who has discovered that the context for that view has shifted. I wish to convey some sense of that shift.

      To talk about a scholar is also to talk about his or her ideas. But there is a puzzle in the history of ideas. Ideas seem to have the capacity to appear at all sorts of times and places, to such a degree that we can consider them as being before their time or out of date. One of the things I learned...


    • Irony in Anthropology: The Work of Franz Boas
      (pp. 133-145)

      Born in Minden, Westphalia, in 1858, Franz Boas was clearly an extraordinary figure, not only a teacher, but amaîtrein the grand sense, whose students often became disciples, and, in several cases (Kroeber, Mead, Sapir, Benedict, Radin), virtual masters themselves. Boas published extensively on linguistics, on folklore, art, race, and, of course, ethnography, a fabled “five foot shelf,” of materials on the Kwakiutl. Yet Boas did not, like his contemporaries Sigmund Freud and Ferdinand de Saussure, found what Foucault refers to as a field of discursivity, a written discourse that gives rise to the endless possibility of further discourse,...

    • The Politics of Ethnographic Authority: Race and Writing in the Ethnography of Margaret Mead and Zora Neale Hurston
      (pp. 146-162)

      In the 1980s, cultural anthropology in the United States was transformed by a growing body of critical literature that focused on the politics of ethnography. Historians of anthropology, anthropologists themselves, and literary critics have turned their attention toward the writing of fieldwork as a locus of power relations and historical contexts.¹ The text itself, the document that certifies the authenticity of fieldwork, has come under scrutiny from critics who view ethnography not as a transparent window onto another culture but rather as a poetic and rhetorical translation, inevitably partial and contested. This focus on representation as problematic, incomplete, and responsible...

    • Ruth Benedict and the Modernist Sensibility
      (pp. 163-180)

      In recent works, Michael Levenson (1984) and Kathryne Lindberg (1987) have charted the tension within literary modernism between the quest for self-expression and the desire to recover a viable tradition. Both critics, in strikingly different ways, have presented the dialogue and debate between Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot (among others) as emblematic of the larger opposition of individuality and tradition, or deconstructive originality and cultural constraint. In my work on the literary endeavors of Boasian anthropologists, I have examined a similar tension in the development of a culture theory that could accommodate both cultural holism and human individuality. Using...


    • Anthropology and Modernism in France: From Durkheim to the Collège de sociologie
      (pp. 183-214)

      In 1937, a group of writers, intellectuals, and university professors met as a “Collège de sociologie” to discuss a common interest in what their conveners, Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, and Michel Leiris termed a “sacred sociology.” According to the Declaration issued at the time of their initial reunions, the goals of this essentially intellectual activity were the following: (1) to investigate the nature of social structures in such a way as to complete the overly cautious conclusions of scientific investigations. Usually restricted to the so-called primitive societies, social anthropology tends to be reticent when it comes to transferring its findings...

    • Anthropology, Literary Theory, and the Traditions of Modernism
      (pp. 215-242)

      There is a place in Richard Rorty’sPhilosophy and the Mirror of Naturethat, although indirectly and inadvertently, seems to be setting itself up as a kind of epilogue to the century, an aftermath where finally the relevant tensions crisscross and the whole picture begins to emerge, becomes if not fully explicit at least much clearer. It occurs, very appropriately, toward the last pages of the book.

      In the paragraph I am thinking of, Rorty is responding to Jurgen Habermas. He is targeting the claim that the functions knowledge has in universal contexts of practical life can be analyzed only...

    • Marxism and the “Subject” of Anthropology
      (pp. 243-265)

      I have used the term “subject” in my title to draw attention to the double meaning of anthropology as a discipline and its association with Marxist theory, and the idea of “subjectivity” as a construct of social forces or formations. When we speak of “social formation” we are confronted with a complex web of interrelationships: the economic foundations of a given society, be it primitive communism or postindustrial capitalism; the social relations pertaining to that particular infrastructure, be they cooperative or highly competitive; and, finally, how the individual is positioned within such a formation, be he or she a member...

    • The Historical Materialist Critique of Surrealism and Postmodernist Ethnography
      (pp. 266-299)

      Form has become important in some contemporary ethnographic writing. However, the social theory implicit in the writing cannot be easily distinguished from its form. History is obscured in this merger, which is itself historic. In the social sciences, the long-established distinction between aesthetic criticism and social science, although often questioned, seems to have become blurred in practice and problematic in theory since about the 1960s. In aesthetics and literary criticism, on the other hand, the apparent convergence has long been implicit in the conceptual framework of modernism. Since the 1970s the perhaps related processes in some of the social sciences...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 300-308)

    There is an authority vested in an Afterword that I wouldauthoritativelylike to disclaim. It is one thing to write an Afterword after one’s own words and quite another to write one after the words of others. The first is a continuation of one’s words after a chiasmus, which marks a stock taking and adds authority to these words and its own. The second has imperial possibility. It possesses, it organizes, the others’ words—even in the guise of a continuation or a dialogue. Here I will continue—no doubt entering into implicit dialogue with the essays in this...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 309-310)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-328)
  12. Index
    (pp. 329-337)