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Culture Wars

Culture Wars: Context, Models and Anthropologists' Accounts

Deborah James
Evie Plaice
Christina Toren
Series: EASA Series
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Culture Wars
    Book Description:

    The relationship between anthropologists' ethnographic investigations and the lived social worlds in which these originate is a fundamental issue for anthropology. Where some claim that only native voices may offer authentic accounts of culture and hence that ethnographers are only ever interpreters of it, others point out that anthropologists are, themselves, implanted within specific cultural contexts which generate particular kinds of theoretical discussions. The contributors to this volume reject the premise that ethnographer and informant occupy different and incommensurable "cultural worlds." Instead they investigate the relationship between culture, context, and anthropologists' models and accounts in new ways. In doing so, they offer fresh insights into this key area of anthropological research.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-811-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction Culture, Context and Anthropologists’ Accounts
    (pp. 1-18)
    Deborah James and Christina Toren

    It is by now well known, almost a commonplace, that the knowledge produced by anthropologists about the lives of others is mediated or refracted through a series of lenses. That this is so does not, however, necessarily vitiate the ethnographic text, which remains a powerful means of analysing what it is to be human in all its multiplicity. The point here is to recognize that, because the analyst is always historically located and always the carrier of an intellectual legacy that is inevitably projected into the text, it follows that we need to understand the social processes that produce us...

  4. Chapter 1 Alliances and Avoidance: British Interactions with German-speaking Anthropologists, 1933–1953
    (pp. 19-31)
    Andre Gingrich

    Although the investigation of separate national traditions of anthropology is a very fruitful exercise, one to which Kuper has contributed substantially, it represents only one step in the creation of the ‘cosmopolitan anthropology’ for which he has called.¹ His pioneering work in this field shows – in the case of British and American traditions – how contexts mould academic concerns and how these concerns shape their contexts in turn (Kuper 1973, 1999a, 1999b). Debates in specific national settings, he shows, have been ‘generated within, and in relation to, real … dilemmas’ which those settings present (Kuper, in Gibb and Mills...

  5. Chapter 2 Serving the Volk? Afrikaner Anthropology Revisited
    (pp. 32-44)
    John Sharp

    At the height of the apartheid period, the Afrikaner nationalist anthropologists (or volkekundiges, as they called themselves) perfected a theory of the irreducibility of ethnic belonging. They argued that South Africa was divided into a series of primordialVolke(Peoples, s.Volk), which differed from each other in respect of their cultures and identities. There were certain differences of emphasis among the volkekundiges on this score, with some arguing that a Volk’s culture could change (as a result of internal innovation or external influence) while its essential identity remained constant, and others insisting that the inevitable continuity in a Volk’s...

  6. Chapter 3 ‘Making Indians’: Debating Indigeneity in Canada and South Africa
    (pp. 45-56)
    Evie Plaice

    For a rather slim document, the Canadian Indian Act is extraordinarily contentious. Considering that it governs the everyday lives of a small but vital sector of the Canadian population, perhaps this should come as no surprise. But for those who are not First Nations Canadians, the Act and its unerring impact on all manner of daily choices and decisions goes largely unnoticed. Just how forceful the impact of the Indian Act has been on Canadian First Nations, and just how divisive, became abundantly clear when Bill C–31 was introduced in 1986. This long anticipated piece of legislation reinstated generations...

  7. Chapter 4 Culture in the Periphery: Anthropology in the Shadow of Greek Civilization
    (pp. 57-72)
    Dimitra Gefou-Madianou

    ‘Culture wars’ have raged in anthropology for more than a century.¹ Definitions of the concept have been advanced and fiercely contested. In one of the strands of this debate, proponents of a single culture–civilization nexus have confronted those who propose the existence of a multiplicity of cultures. Situated in the context of evolutionary theory this concept assumed a universal hierarchy of progress: as civilizations evolved through time, humanity became increasingly more sophisticated and logical, more ‘cultured’ in the Latin sense; in other words, the theory went, people accrued more civilization. For specific historical and political reasons, this notion of...

  8. Chapter 5 Culture: the Indigenous Account
    (pp. 73-85)
    Alan Barnard

    This chapter bears on culture, the indigenous peoples’ movement, and apartheid, making comparisons between the latter two in light of anthropological definitions of ‘culture’. I shall suggest that the idea of culture and the idea of indigenousness or indigeneity share certain peculiar attributes, notably their problematic nature as anthropological categories and their appropriation by people claiming indigenous cultural status. This is a problem both for anthropology at a theoretical level and for the engagement of the discipline with those of our subjects who make that claim.

    My focus here is on these issues in light of anthropology in southern Africa,...

  9. Chapter 6 We are All Indigenous Now: Culture versus Nature in Representations of the Balkans
    (pp. 86-96)
    Aleksandar Bošković

    In this chapter, I look at a case in which a myth about a specific region was transformed into an anthropological reality. While I take my cue from Adam Kuper’sThe Invention of Primitive Society(Kuper 1988), my use of the term ‘culture’ is almost completely opposite to what he had in mind. I cannot imagine abolishing it, although I agree with Pina-Cabral (this volume) that it has been used uncritically. Words and concepts that we use should be taken in the context where they appear. Understanding Balkan societies, their self-representations, and the ways in which they want others to...

  10. Chapter 7 Which Cultures, What Contexts, and Whose Accounts? Anatomies of a Moral Panic in Southall, Multi-ethnic London
    (pp. 97-114)
    Gerd Baumann

    In studying a seemingly irrational phenomenon such as a moral panic – an apparently spontaneously generated and widespread idea that a minority group (for example) is dangerously deviant (Cohen 1980) – the gulf between insider and outsider contextualizations and accounts must appear as an epistemological chasm. How can ‘they’, the insiders and experts in ‘their culture’, so complicate their social lives by a moral panic? How can ‘we’, the outside experts on culture and comparison, explain their seeming irrationality in rational terms that are recognisable to insiders too? By means of a case study of ‘Asian gangs’ in late 1980s...

  11. Chapter 8 ‘What about White People’s History?’: Class, Race and Culture Wars in Twenty-first-Century Britain
    (pp. 115-135)
    Gillian Evans

    If culture, as Kuper claims (1999b), has lost its analytical utility as a concept in the tool kit of anthropologists, should we treat it as an ethnographic category, whose utility lies in its being invoked by our informants (Baumann 1996)? Adopting such a strategy in this paper, I analyse how it came to be the case that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, white working-class people in Britain are now categorized as a ‘new ethnic group’,¹ a people forced, in a setting which they consider to be their home, to articulate a cultural identity in order to compete in...

  12. Chapter 9 A Cosmopolitan Anthropology?
    (pp. 136-151)
    Stephen Gudeman

    Fifteen years ago, Adam Kuper urged anthropologists to develop a ‘cosmopolitan anthropology’. He called for an anthropology that would draw on the voices of local people, ethnographers and social science theories to build a comparative and critical science. Distinguishing this project from that of self-referential ethnography, symbolic analysis and cultural interpretation, he argued that we must confront our accepted models with those of others (Kuper 1994b). Kuper issued his challenge partly in reference to a book,Conversations in Colombia, which was written by a colleague and myself (Gudeman and Rivera 1990). We presented the work as an unfinished ‘long conversation’...

  13. Chapter 10 The Door in the Middle: Six Conditions for Anthropology
    (pp. 152-169)
    João de Pina-Cabral

    Some of the best minds in anthropological theory over the past decades have been warning us that modernist anthropological theory has come to a serious impasse.¹ Modernist anthropological theory comprises the conceptual frameworks that emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reaching its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, and then entering into a process of critical self-questioning around and after the 1960s. Fifty years after the optimistic formulations of Parsons, Kroeber, Fortes and Gluckman, the central concepts that laid the ground for the development of our discipline are viewed with suspicion by most anthropologists today. In this...

  14. Chapter 11 Adam Kuper: an Anthropologist’s Account
    (pp. 170-188)
    Isak Niehaus

    In a characteristically provocative essay, Leach (1984) suggests that an understanding of the personal background of anthropologists may shed useful light on the history of their ideas. In this respect, observers frequently comment upon the Jewish origin of so many prominent anthropologists. The popular stereotype posits some kind of elective affinity between Jews as ‘ethnic outsiders’ and anthropologists as ‘professional strangers’. MacMillan (2000) sees this affinity as being more profound. He argues that experiences of the diaspora, anti-Semitism and nationalism made Jewish scholars particularly sensitive to questions of race, tribe and ethnicity. Jewish anthropologists working in Africa, such as Max...

  15. References
    (pp. 189-208)
  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 209-212)
  17. Index
    (pp. 213-220)