Ships passing in the night? Interdisciplinarity, East-West relations and commoditization of knowledge in anthropology of post-socialism
Kacper Poblocki (University of Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
By bringing the recent dispute between Western and 'native' anthropologist of post-socialism into the 'world anthropologies' debate, I seek to highlight those aspects of current epistemic inequalities that result from global commoditization of knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
Debates on 'native anthropology', 'anthropology with an accent' and so forth have usually focused on colonialism as the main culprit of asymmetric relations between anthropological knowledges. By bringing the recent dispute between Western and 'native' anthropologist of post-socialism into the 'world anthropologies' debate, I seek to highlight those aspects of current epistemic inequalities that are not post-colonial in nature, but result from global commoditization of knowledge. I ponder why Western anthropologists who started visiting Eastern Europe from the 1970s, concluded that 'native' academic knowledge is inferior to their own output. This was not due to a prejudice brought from afar, I argue, but rather was a result of their field experiences. I discuss how three types of native 'captive minds' (communist, nationalist, and neo-liberal) emerged, and how encountering (or learning about) them made Western anthropologist uninterested in (and distrustful of) local epistemic production. I focus on the putative nationalist 'captive mind', and argue that the straw man of East European 'positivist' science (as opposed to the superior 'theory-oriented' Western anthropology) emerged due to recent changes in the political economy of the academia. I show how the 'theoretical turn' was experienced differently in Western and Polish academia, and how these changes, explained by the different regimes of value, show that there has been an increase only in 'ritual' exchange between parochial and metropolitan anthropology rather than meaningful communication.Download the full paper
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