Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Marking Time

Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 176
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Marking Time
    Book Description:

    InMarking Time, Paul Rabinow presents his most recent reflections on the anthropology of the contemporary. Drawing richly on the work of Michel Foucault, John Dewey, Niklas Luhmann, and, most interestingly, German painter Gerhard Richter, Rabinow offers a set of conceptual tools for scholars examining cutting-edge practices in the life sciences, security, new media and art practices, and other emergent phenomena. Taking up topics that include bioethics, anger and competition among molecular biologists, the lessons of theDrosophilagenome, the nature of ethnographic observation in radically new settings, and the moral landscape shared by scientists and anthropologists, Rabinow shows how anthropology remains relevant to contemporary debates. By turning abstract philosophical problems into real-world explorations and offering original insights,Marking Timeis a landmark contribution to the continuing re-invention of anthropology and the human sciences.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2799-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-11)

    The anthropology of the contemporary has seemed to me best done by doing it, that is to say, by laying out examples and reflections on those examples. As will be apparent in this book, my inclination is more to show than to tell, in Wittgenstein’s sense. At the same time, frequent well-meaning interlocutors, including reviewers of this book in manuscript form, have asked me to explain what I mean by the notion. As a means of acknowledging these requests, while at almost the same time refusing to honor them fully, I offer the following introductory thoughts.

    What is the contemporary?...

    (pp. 12-32)

    The initial mapping and sequencing of the human and other genomes during the course of the 1990s was an event; in its wake almost everyone seems to agree that we are on the verge of something momentous and extravagant. In English, “verge” means the boundary beyond which something happens or changes. The sequence, it is true, is only one in a larger series of recent bravura, techno-scientific accomplishments that individually and in an accumulative fashion raise a host of unsettling and unsettled issues ranging from the scientific, to the ontological, to the ethical, to the political. Today, there is ferocious...

    (pp. 33-50)

    One of the most telling incidents from my first field work, in Morocco in 1968, concerned the relative place of timing, situation, and telos in ethnographic work. My memory (faulty as it may be) is that my advisor, Clifford Geertz, laid down a stern admonishment to Lawrence Rosen, another University of Chicago graduate student, and myself: we should not waste our time with peripheral matters, however tempting they might appear, because something highly distinctive and more important was passing from the scene. The admonition was directed at Rosen’s interest in the Jewish community of Morocco and mine in the French....

    (pp. 51-72)

    The recent past has seen a number of relatively new forms of anthropological practice emerging; others most certainly will be invented in the near future. Among the current approaches is one that I have been experimenting with, one that privileges extensive interviewing with a distinctive group of actors, within a restricted field setting. This approach is consequently faced with a challenge of what form to give this material. Such a site-restricted, directed interview-oriented form of inquiry can be contrasted to the more traditional ethnographic practice of broad-ranging observation that orients itself to multiple contexts and actors, aiming at a comprehensive...

    (pp. 73-100)

    The great historian of late antiquity, Peter Brown, opens his splendid bookPoverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empirewith the statement:

    I wish to draw attention to the social and religious implications of a revolution in the social imagination that accompanied the rise and establishment of the Christian Church in the Roman empire in the late antique period, that is, between the years 300 and 600 of the Common Era. It is a revolution closely associated with the rise to power of the Christian bishop as an increasingly prominent leader in late Roman society. For the Christian bishop...

    (pp. 101-128)

    The natural world held a fascination for Paul Klee throughout his life. “For the artist,” he wrote, “dialogue with nature remains aconditio sine qua non.”¹ But what kind of dialogue was the artist imagining? Klee specifies his vision in a letter to an art teacher in which he offered the following pedagogical advice: “Lead your students to nature, into nature! Let them experience how a bud develops, how a tree grows, how a butterfly opens its wings so that they become as prolific, as agile, as idiosyncratic as the great nature.”² For Klee this close observation and direct experience...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 129-140)
    (pp. 141-146)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 147-149)