EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W082)

The state in the history of world anthropologies: disciplinary imaginaries at critical moments [AAA CWA panel]

Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 3
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Chandana Mathur (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) email
Ida Susser (CUNY) email
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Long Abstract

The powerful critique of mainstream anthropology offered by the recent world anthropologies discussion and its attempt to construct an "anthropology of anthropology" seems to offer an opportune moment to revisit the debates regarding the relationship between anthropology and colonialism. Insofar as this is something of a stocktaking exercise, we think it is especially fitting at a gathering of European anthropologists to solicit papers that will address not only the influences of colonial processes on classical anthropology, but are also concerned with peripheral anthropological traditions and their often different, and sometimes non-existent, relationship with crises of statehood in European history.

We are interested also in papers that seek to explore anthropological practices and theory-making in the postcolonial world, looking, for instance, at the burdens placed on the discipline by the imperatives of nation-building in newly independent states. Anthropology's "long twentieth century" has played out under the auspices of an extraordinary variety of state forms, from the institutionalised communisms of Eastern Europe to the apartheid systems of Southern Africa to the still established neo-colonial forms of domination in key oil-producing states. We are hoping for papers that will investigate the career of the discipline in these varied contexts. Living in a unipolar world constantly at war with non-state actors, we would also welcome papers that ponder the question of how the discipline is faring in the present context, papers engaging with, for example, the anthropology embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan or the ethnographic market research favoured by global corporations.

Chair: Talal Asad
Discussant: Michal Buchowski, Jonathan Friedman

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Peripheral people at the centre of the discipline: Polish anthropologists at the beginning of the long twentieth century

Author: Grazyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Long Abstract

The history of world anthropologies should also tackle the problem of scholars who came from marginal places and took part in the activities of centres. I would like to present three Poles: Bronislaw Malinowski, Maria Czaplicka and Jan Czekanowski. One of them, Malinowski became one of the discipline's founding fathers, the second, Czaplicka - a victim of the model of professionalization of anthropology then, the third, Czekanowski came back to Poland and became a renown physical anthropologist.

I would like to depict their ambivalent position in the colonial structure and the positive effect of that ambivalence for their fieldworks. Another problems concerns their political profile as members of a nation without state. It was especially important as they carried out their researches just before of during the IWW, when the chances for the independent Poland appeared.

I will also sketch their backgrounds: cultural as well as intellectual, the Polish "baggage" they took with them to the profession, their ethos of intelligentsia and their reluctant attitude towards Polish anthropology (of volkskundist type).

I will analyze the diaries of Bronislaw Malinowski (a Polish full edition), the field diaries of Jan Czekanowski from Africa, together with Czaplicka's travel book she published after her Siberian expedition.

The theoretical frame of reference will be based on the world anthropologies discussion.

Is an egalitarian global anthropology possible? The problem of hegemony and flows

Author: Gustavo Lins Ribeiro (University of Brasilia)  email
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Long Abstract

The metanarratives of the world anthropologies project seem to promise a world of equality among anthropologists. Although this trend has been criticized before, we need to deal with the problems that arise from metaphors such as center/periphery, flows, and from the use of the notion of hegemony. This paper will situate itself in the tricky encounter of pragmatism and utopia, necessary forces in any kind of politics.

Anthropology as satyagraha (truth force): Elwin in pre-independence India

Author: Daniel Rycroft (University of East Anglia)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper assumes a historical anthropological method to question how Verrier Elwin attempted to harmonise ethnographic practice and Gandhian ideology before 1947. As a satyagrahi (practitioner of truth-force) and census ethnographer, Elwin occupied an authoritative position between the national-popular and the colonial/nation-state. I question how Elwin's ethnographic 'experiments with truth' articulated a subject-object patterning that would redefine the national imaginary. Unsettling the margins of colonial primitivism, Elwin focused on India's aboriginal/tribal/Adivasi peoples to test the visual, numinous and political potential of Indian anthropology. His documentary work on The Baiga (1939) and The Muria and Their Ghotul (1947) fashioned a tribal heritage paradigm that can be reviewed from a contemporary world anthropologies/world art position attentive to de-coloniality. How did Elwin's 'tribal' philosophy redefine the strategic and representational possibilities of the ethnographic present? The concept of truth-as-unknowing provides an engaging departure point for this analysis.

The 'state' of anthropology in Papua New Guinea

Author: Karen Sykes (University of Manchester)  email
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Long Abstract

The state in Melanesia is often treated as a new development, but the last decade of research in that region shows that recent engagements with the place of the state in everyday life of Melanesians informs current conceputal categories of anthropology thought. More specifically the post colonial period in Papua New Guinea introduced a new form of critique of Melanesia's place in global relations, drawing constructively on categories of social and political life that have been significant for some time. A full engagement with coroporate development of the region's resources, with the partnership of the state created a critique of neoliberalism.

The state and the anthropologies of the state

Author: Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper will address the problem of studying the state, whether through emic or etic approach, under the conditions of state hegemony. It will be based on the experience of studying, doing fieldwork, writing, publishing and living in countries that ranged from benign bureaucratic state to highly oppressive state machineries. The questions addressed among others will be academic freedom, alternatives to the state, direct democracy, justification of political anthropology, theories of the emergence and withering of the state, state formation, self-censorship. The paper will formulate a general theory of the relationship between the anthropologies and the state.

Can anarchism be a critical point in the new anthropological imagination?

Author: Charles Macdonald (CNRS)  email
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Long Abstract

Departing from the contention found in postcolonial studies that anthropology had a deep ideological and epistemological connection to colonialism and Western imperialism, I see in the authoritarian state an older, deeper and more pervasive anthropological paradigm that has inspired and constrained anthropological theory during the 20th century. I shall explain this paradigm based on the concepts of corporateness, transcendence, mechanical determinism, and hierarchy. I will try and show that a paradigm shift in anthropological theory is necessary and possible if the concepts of complexity,disorder and randomization become preliminaries to a construction of an anthropological theory of collective life. This major shift is predicated from considerations on anarchy and anarchism as enduring dimensions of human behavior.

The state and the framing of the anthropology of AIDS

Author: Ida Susser (CUNY)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper will examine the context of AIDS prevention and treatment since the 1980s in the United States under conservative and neoliberal regimes and in South Africa under apartheid and post -apartheid governments. It will consider the perspectives with respect to different populations vulnerability and stigma that emerged at different historical moments and how these were framed by hegemonic perspectives. It will consider the anthropology of engagement with respect to HIV/AIDS and how this differed under various governmental regimes in the United States and South Africa. The paper will also consider the ways in which social movements fostered the development of anthropological approaches to AIDS which contested national policies.

More ethnography! Will miraculous mantra help in the times of global crisis? Critical assessment of the anthropological orthodoxy

Author: Rajko Mursic (University of Ljubljana)  email
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Long Abstract

The author will question the scope and limits of social anthropology in the times of global crisis. It seems that anthropology does not address issues important for other social sciences and general public. The only answer one can hear from anthropologists is »more ethnography«. With concepts of suppression, displacement, and repetition the author will assess the current state of the discipline.

As a scholar educated in "small tradition", the author will discuss social anthropology as (post)colonial science. During socialism social anthropology was considered as a decadent bourgeois scholarship in the service of international capital and western powers. After the fall of the real-socialism social anthropology was a sign of liberalisation from the ideological umbrella of socialism. That is why anthropology's colonial past was mostly not an issue in its uncritical reception.

The author will criticise predominant nominalism in anthropology as ideological blindness and will discuss anthropologists' servitude under liberal capitalism.

The final frontier: anthropological aspects of media neo-colonialisms

Author: László Kürti (University of Miskolc)  email
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Long Abstract

With the incredible success of Avatar and District 9 behind us there are new questions that must be addressed: how do we assess recent media adventures celebrating conflicts between humans and 'aliens', citizens and foreigners, residents and 'illegal' residents? What do these recent cinematic adventures represent in light of our colonialist heritage and the ways in which we understand post-colonial and liberation theories in general and anthropological theory in specific? In this presentation I will analyze these two films and will present some of the more problematic aspects of these neo-colonialist enterprises and suggest possibilities how we might deconstruct them.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.