Anthropology with an Attitude: Critical Essays (Cultural by Johannes Fabian

By Johannes Fabian

This e-book collects released and unpublished paintings during the last dozen years by way of certainly one of today’s so much distinct and provocative anthropologists. Johannes Fabian is celebrated outdoors of his self-discipline simply because his paintings so usually overcomes conventional scholarly limitations to convey clean perception to crucial subject matters in philosophy, historical past, and cultural reviews. the 1st a part of the publication addresses questions of present serious quandary: Does it nonetheless make experience to look for objectivity in ethnography? What will we achieve after we invoke “context” in our interpretations? How does literacy swap the paintings of the ethnographer, and what are the bounds among ethnology and heritage? This half ends with a plea for getting better negativity in our pondering tradition. the second one half extends the paintings of critique into the prior by way of studying the start of recent ethnography within the exploration of significant Africa throughout the past due 19th century: the justification of a systematic perspective, the accumulating of ethnographic items, the presentation of data in narration, and the function of recognition―given or denied―in encounters with Africans. a last essay examines how the Congolese have again the “imperial gaze” of Belgium via the paintings of severe reminiscence in well known historical past. the 10 chapters are framed via meditations at the relevance of idea and the irrelevance of the millennium.

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How, it could be asked, are we to distinguish legitimate ecstatic experiences from, say, 32 CRITICAL. C O N CERNS those flights of imagination that made Carlos Castaneda's fame and for­ rune? The answer is: We cannot (unless we have some factual information on fraud in a given case). 33 Incidentally, these recommendations for ecstasis make empathy, once a strong term in the critique of positivism, rather pale. They also help to clarify a distinction that is often difficult to make-the one between epistemology and method.

A search of major journals in anthropology since 1980 yielded disappointing results. 1o The one paper that looked as if it might address the issue (Feleppa 1986) approached it in terms of the emies versus eties debate and was (as some of the commentators noted) unable to sal­ vage a truly epistemological question from the confusion that has charac­ terized that debate from its very beginning. Feleppa defined the problem of ethnographic objectivity, so far as he defined it at all, as one of over­ coming ethnocentrism, or of gaining an insider's perspective on a culture.

It is concerned with operations, not kno niques of with the grounding of ethnographic knowledge in some actual relations between knower and known. 14 But that is not yet the full story of the disappearance of objectivity, if such can ever be told. We also need to ask why the critical language­ centered position described above failed to have the impact it should have had. In retrospect, I come up with a fairly long list of shortcomings, but before I discuss some of these I want to offer a general observation: that in ethnography and anthropology the chance to develop a conception of objectivity that is not to be derived from natural sciencel5 hinges on a conception of intersubjectivity as something that is made, rather than given.

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