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Anthropology and Egalitarianism

Ethnographic Encounters from Monticello to Guinea-Bissau

Eric Gable

Publication Year: 2011

Anthropology and Egalitarianism is an artful and accessible introduction to key themes in cultural anthropology. Writing in a deeply personal style and using material from his fieldwork in three dramatically different locales -- Indonesia, West Africa, and Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson -- Eric Gable shows why the ethnographic encounter is the core of the discipline's method and the basis of its unique contribution to understanding the human condition. Gable weaves together vignettes from the field and discussion of major works as he explores the development of the idea of culture through the experience of cultural contrast, anthropology's fraught relationship to racism and colonialism, and other enduring themes.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Some books take a long time to write, and this one began twenty years ago as a lecture accompanying a slide show that I gave in a class on the anthropology of Africa that Deborah Kaspin was teaching at the University of Virginia. In showing several juxtaposed images of people in the village in Guinea-Bissau inhabited by members of an ethnic group called Manjaco among whom I had ...

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Introduction: Culture by Contrast and Theory in Anthropology

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pp. 1-14

One of the most influential anthropologists in recent memory, Clifford Geertz, said that cultural anthropology is the study of people living in “out of the way places.” For Geertz, it was because anthropologists studied people far away from the taken-for-granted of their own world that anthropology had something crucial to contribute to our collective understanding

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1: Supping with Savages

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pp. 15-34

One of the first things our Lauje hosts told my wife and me as they helped us settle into our house on stilts in their ridgeline village about four hours’ hard hike upriver from the coast was that they lived at the center of the world. They promised to show us the “navel of the earth,” a moss-covered conical stone covered with etched scratches they ...

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2: Standing in a Line

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pp. 35-56

I started to study Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s hobbyhorse and home, because of an argument I had with a Manjaco aristocrat. His name was Louis, and though many people—especially the younger men in the village who were beginning to take on positions of responsibility as household heads and so forth—complained of his haughty manner ...

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3: Jefferson’s Ardor

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pp. 57-79

Every discipline has its own mythology—those stories we tell about ourselves and our origins. For anthropologists, the myth inevitably harkens to one of our illustrious ancestors, Bronislaw Malinowski, who because of the accident of World War One, spent years in the Trobriand Islands, where he was technically a foreign detainee under the watchful eye of ...

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4: The Colonialist’s Dress Code

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pp. 80-96

If you think about Monticello as Geertz would, it, like Notes on the State of Virginia, is a text. But Monticello is a text written in artifacts. Jefferson clearly thought of his home as a model that conveyed a message. When Jefferson was designing and decorating Monticello, he considered the messages it would convey—through its architecture and accoutrements on display—to those who visited him there ...

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5: Taking Pictures in the Field, or the Anthropologist’s Dress Code

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pp. 97-126

Ever since there have been cameras, anthropologists have used them to make a record of the ethnographic material they encounter in the field. Before that (and even after) some people made sketches. Malinowski made photographic images of Trobriand canoes with their carved prows, and much else as well—a village of frond-roofed huts with his tent close by, a scene of men carrying a ...

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6: Beyond Belief

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pp. 127-156

When Thomas Jefferson was president, his opponents stoked the rumor mill with stories about his keeping a slave mistress, “Dusky Sally,” and they accused him of foisting atheism on the American public. What Jefferson did or did not do with Sally Hemings is a story I will take up later. How Americans through the years have told that story, or interpreted its meaning, tells us a lot about ...

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7: The Sex Life of Savages

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pp. 157-183

Sex and politics are always intertwined in America. In 2006, the Democratic Party won back the House of Representatives and the Senate in large part because of the public’s disillusionment with the Iraq war, but also in some small measure because Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida, had been caught sending sexually explicit e-mails to a young congressional ...

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Conclusion: Tending to Nature, Tending to Culture; or, Is Anthropology History?

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pp. 184-210

Modernity can be a kind of mourning—an endless lament for something we have lost and long to regain. What we have lost, we often imagine, is a profound connection to the world around us. We are no longer close to God, close to each other, or, worst of all, close to nature. If modernity is nature’s anathema, then that lament of loss can also be a compelling force for radical change. ...

Notes on Sources

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pp. 211-217


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pp. 219-224


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pp. 225-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004840
E-ISBN-10: 0253004845
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355768

Page Count: 246
Illustrations: 7 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011