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Reviewed by:
  • World Anthropologies: Disciplinary Transformations within Systems of Power
  • Claudia Briones (bio)
Gustavo Lins Ribeiro and Arturo Escobar, eds. World Anthropologies: Disciplinary Transformations within Systems of Power. New York: Berg, 2006. 320 pp. Paper, $34.95.

As the result of a Wenner-Gren International Symposium held in Pordenone, Italy, March 7–13, 2003, this book is a significant step in the conformation of the World Anthropologies Network (WAN), defined as "an experiment in global cooperation" in Lins Ribeiro and Escobar's words (ix). The main goal of both endeavors is not only to examine and promote changes in the relationships among anthropologists in different locations but to analyze the dynamics and effects of what Tomas Gerholm (1995) has called the "world system of anthropology." Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira's "peripheral anthropologies," Esteban Krotz's "anthropologies of the South" (conceived as a sort of "anthropologies without history" in Eric Wolf 's terms), Anibal Quijano's "coloniality of power," Walter Mignolo's "geopolitics of knowledge" and "diversality," Dipesh Chakrabarty's "provincializing Europe project" are all taken as valuable antecedents to developing epistemological, theoretical, and political awareness of the conditions affecting our discipline's processes of knowledge production and communalization (Brow 1990).

The common purpose of analyzing the "world system of anthropology" is to reflect and comment critically on the genesis and impacts of power relationships and asymmetries within the anthropological community at large. The aim of such recognition is not to voice resentments but to rethink contexts for open, reciprocally enriching exchanges and dialogues. One founding premise is that the consolidation of an "international anthropology" and the immersion of different academies in transnational processes cannot be seen as the result of simple processes of imposition, borrowing, adaptation, or contestation; they depend [End Page 205] instead on many factors, argue editors Lins Ribeiro and Escobar, "from nation building and national structures of alterity to institution building and opportunities for exchanges" (9).

Amidst such a backdrop, each of the book's chapters explore and highlight different incarnations and consequences of the unequal structuring of the system in terms of theory consumption, definition of research agendas, institution building, financial support, access to resources, language, interpersonal relationships, brain drain, or, as Paul Nchoji Nkwi conveys,"catch-22" predicaments for "Third World" colleagues trapped in the cross fire of being suspected of partaking in the colonial heritage of universal academic standards while trying to intervene in the pressing public agenda of their nation-states. As a result, the editors identify, and find productive to keep in tension, two perspectives that traverse the volume. One approaches anthropology as a unified field, a sort of unity, admitting diversity, but doubting that we can do without some universals or unified language—that is, if we want to "make communication, and hence collective action, possible," as Susana Narotzky states (146). The other anchors itself in the idea of diversality as a point of departure that opens up "new dialogic possibilities" and "other avenues of engagement" by taking into account "multiple histories, trajectories, languages, conceptual frameworks, political commitments, experiences of transnationalism, and networking" (24).

For those of us anthropologists who read in English and have access to international books, it is both a luxury and a powerful tool in and of itself to have in a single piece critical explorations of the discipline's developments in Japan (by Shinji Yamashita), Siberia (Nikolai Vakhtin), China (Josephine Smart), Mexico (Esteban Krotz), France (Eduardo Archetti), Spain (Susana Narotzky), Cameroon and Africa at large (Paul Nchoji Nkwi), United Kingdom (Eeva Berglund), Peru (Marisol de la Cadena), Australia (Sandy Toussaint), India (Shiv Visvanathan), and Brazil (Otávio Velho) along with a contextualizing introduction by the two editors and a final, insightful discussion by Johannes Fabien. And it is so for at least three main reasons.

First, it is as much useful as unusual to have a book that updates the readership on such a wide spectrum of case studies that illustrate the ways in which anthropological academies have been affected by the "empire-building" and "nation-building" processes of their respective home countries. This variety is strengthened by the fact that the [End Page 206] sample includes academies that belong to the global south and also...


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