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Anthropology's Wake

Attending to the End of Culture

David Johnson

Publication Year: 2008

Posing a powerful challenge to dominant trends in cultural analysis, this book covers the whole history of the concept of culture, providing the broadest study of this notion to date. Johnson and Michaelsen examine the principal methodological strategies or metaphors of anthropology in the past two decades (embodied in works by Edward Said, James Clifford, George Marcus, V. Y. Mudimbe, and others) and argues that they do not manage to escape anthropology's grounding in representational practices. To the extent that it remains a practice of representation, anthropology, however complex, critical, or self-reflexive, cannot avoid objectifying its others.Extending beyond a critique of anthropology, the book reads the twinned notions of the human and culture across the long history of the human sciences broadly conceived, including anthropology, cultural studies, history, literature, and philosophy. Although there is no chance, they argue, for a newanthropology that would not repeat the old anthropology's problem of disciplining the other, they also recognize that there may be no way out of anthropology. We are always writing, thinking, and living in anthropology's wake, within its specific compass or horizon. Moreover, they demonstrate, we have been doing so for a very long time, since at least the beginning of the institution of philosophy in Plato and Aristotle.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Anthropology’ s Wake- Title Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

The ‘‘plague village’’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail dramatizes quite well the current ‘‘state’’ of anthropology. A cart piled high with corpses is pulled through a medieval village, accompanied by the Cart Master who repeatedly calls out, ‘‘Bring out your dead. . . . Bring out your dead. . . .’’ For nine pence villagers can deposit their dead on the cart to ...

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pp. xi

Parts of Anthropology’s Wake have been published previously. We would like to thank those journals and their editors for permission to reproduce those pages, often somewhat revised, in this new context. A slightly different version of Chapter 1 was published in Arizona Quarterly 57.1 (Spring 2001). An earlier version of Chapter 2 appeared in Aztlán: A Journal of ...

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pp. 1-27

‘‘Nothing whatever draws me to ethnog[raphic] studies’’: Bronislaw Malinowski, when he writes this remark in his diary on November 29, 1914, may simply be bored, or perhaps distracted by newspapers and by conversation with white acquaintances. If so, this moment is simply one of many bumps on the road to culturalist ethnography—a kind of writer’s block ...

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Descartes’ Corps

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pp. 28-57

The body haunts us. It molests us wherever we are, whether we imagine ourselves beyond it, transcendental and without place, or whether we dismiss the ruse of such displacement and locate ourselves as positioned subjects. The body remains, disturbing us however we conceive the self. This is the case at both ends of modernity: at the beginning, in the writing of ...

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Our Sentiments

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pp. 58-80

Of what value are sorrow and tears? How can one put them to use for purposes of political life? In short, how does one derive profit from that which is always associated with loss? These are not strange questions for sociopolitical theory in the nineteenth-century U.S., as recent scholarship has demonstrated, but they seem odd and out of place in the late twentieth ...

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Ex-Cited Dialogue

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pp. 81-110

In A Sense for the Other, Marc Auge´ argues that ‘‘the best way to respect a contemporary culture, and to avoid considering it an arbitrary, closed ensemble of direct or indirect propositions, a ‘text,’ such as an archivist might discover, classify, or decipher, is to engage in dialogue with it’’ (75). Auge´ understands dialogue to be the methodological principle that displaces ...

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An Other Voice

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pp. 111-133

‘‘The crucial feature of human life is its fundamentally dialogical character,’’ writes Charles Taylor, in a celebrated text in defense of an anthropologically grounded multiculturalism founded upon interlocking participant observations, or what he calls an ‘‘intensely studied’’ version of ‘‘comparative cultural study’’ (‘‘The Politics of Recognition’’ 32, 70, 73). ...

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‘‘Unworkable Monstrosities’’

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pp. 134-165

In On the Edges of Anthropology, James Clifford asks, ‘‘Where does anthropology begin?’’ (16). His response to this question makes clear that anthropology has always had a troubled relation to its own institutionalization: ‘‘Look at the disciplinary histories. Sometimes they start with Plato and the Greeks. Many begin with the birth of European rationality: some ...

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Hybrid Bound

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pp. 166-187

Anthropology was born as hybridity theory, and anthropology will be buried by hybridity theory. This now appears to be the inevitable trajectory of the discipline, though the outlines of this trajectory have been difficult to discern: Tracing such a trajectory has been made doubly difficult because the narrative of anthropology’s rise has effaced its origins in hybridity ...

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CODA: Anthropology’s Present

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pp. 188-215

At the outset of Oblivion (Les formes d’oubli 1998), Marc Auge´ writes: ‘‘Oblivion is a necessity both to society and to the individual. One must know how to forget in order to taste the full flavor of the present, of the moment, and of expectation, but memory itself needs forgetfulness’’ (3). There is nothing particularly new in this observation. It is at least as old ...


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pp. 217-239


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pp. 241-263


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pp. 265-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247424
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823228775
Print-ISBN-10: 0823228770

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2008