Willing and able? Small places and large issues in anthropology
James G Carrier (Max Planck Institute)
Paper short abstract:
This paper considers changes over the past few decades in anthropological orientations and the institutional nature of the discipline and its knowledge. It considers whether these make it more or less likely that we will continue to address those large issues in the study of small places.
Paper long abstract:
The description of this panel says that the study of small places as a way to address large issues 'raises a complex set of methodological problems that remain at the heart of the discipline'. If we wish to continue to address large issues through the study of small places, then it might be worth expanding our concern beyond those methodological issues. This paper does so primarily by considering changes in the discipline over the past few decades that appear to have affected the likelihood that anthropologists will seek to, and be equipped to, address large issues in their study of small places. Some of these changes relate to views about what anthropological research is for, which is to say the purposes for which anthropological knowledge is produced and accumulated. Other of the changes relate to the ways that anthropological knowledge is organised and institutionalised in higher education. The paper argues that, taken together, these changes reduce the likelihood that anthropologists will want to use the study of small places to address large issues, and reduce the likelihood that they will routinely be equipped to do so.
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums