EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality

Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008


Changing global flows of anthropological knowledge - a WCAA-EASA workshop

Location 2
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2008 at 09:00


Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel examines how globalization reconfigures anthropological knowledge. It will highlight different locations in which anthropologists work within the global system of knowledge production, and consider how to promote horizontal and heteroglossic conversation among anthropologists.

Long Abstract

In the last couple of decades, globalization processes have created the conditions for the development of world anthropologies, that is, a) of theoretical and political perspectives that are more aware of the epistemological, sociological and cultural constraints of anthropological production; and b) of a transnational and heteroglossic community of anthropologists. Changes in anthropological theory will now depend more on the heterodox exchanges among anthropologists located in different loci of the world system of knowledge production than on changes of the positions of native populations within national and world systems of power. This panel will discuss these perspectives from different "national" angles. It will also consider which initiatives may be carried out to foster more horizontal and heteroglossic exchanges in world anthropologies.

Chair: Gustavo Lins Ribeiro
Discussant: Johannes Fabian


Fluent perceptions: beyond centres and peripheries in the global production of anthropological knowledge

Author: Blai Guarné (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

It is well accepted that the discussion about centres and peripheries in the production of anthropological knowledge has a reductionist character that hides the complexity of a globalized world. In spite of this, we cannot neglect that in the production and dissemination of anthropological knowledge there has been main centres of irradiation and foundational schools that have historically influenced others defined as peripheral. In this process, hegemonic traditions, privileged channels and dominant languages have arisen in front of others that have been unknown or directly ignored. As Gustavo Lins Ribeiro and Michal Buchowski point out, the globalization processes have created the conditions for the development of world anthropologies. However, current anthropology does not interact at the same level as we would wish, not even at the level that new communication media could allow us. Professor Shinji Yamashita has proposed the articulation of an interactive anthropology, individually connected and transnationally organized. The articulation of this anthropology would imply going from an asymmetrical to a transversal relationship in the production of knowledge. The paper explores this challenge posing the need to shift from a model of structured perceptions to one of fluent perceptions that overcomes disconnections and imbalances in the global production of anthropological knowledge.

Rethinking the centre: thoughts about insiders and outsiders from a peripheral university in a 'central' location

Author: Joy Hendry (Oxford Brookes University)  email
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Long Abstract

The title reflects the position of the author as a professional anthropologist working in a city where her department is a "B" team, sometimes forgotten altogether by the much more famous one that has been regarded as part of the "central" hegemony in the anthropological world. The main argument of the paper, however, will be about her chief research location of Japan, which she will suggest can be used as a model for good relations between insiders and outsiders, both anthropologists and informants, versus the "poor" relations observed in North America, especially from the perspective of the Native Americans/ First Nations who have formed the focus of much anthropological study there. The new twist - for this is an area on which she has already published - is a perhaps surprisingly positive situation she observed when thinking historically about the position of Oxford in the world of different anthropologies, and reflecting on her own training amongst the "A" team there.

Now that we are Europeans are we better off?

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

Anthropology, especially its Europeanist kind, has been under tremendous pressure recently to live up to two major challenges: one is to understand and describe world-wide transformations resulting from the movement of capital and peoples together with regime changes and transnational reconfigurations of former identities and, second, to grapple with the way in which scholars must live up to standards set by both the international academic community and its national variants. The bulk of contemporary analysis focuses on the former cloaked under a Western-non-Western divide in what can be termed as identity-studies, while the latter is being relegated largely to marginal national schools of knowledge production. In this presentation, however, I argue that we must continue to critique the way anthropological analysis continue to depend on Western cultural categories, and need to raise questions that may in the end lead to a very different notion of anthropology than that which we have been familiar with over the past two decades.

Social anthropology: smuggling biased knowledge around the world?

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

The paper will discuss the experience of a marginal social anthropologist with practicing social anthropology both in countries where the discipline is fully established and countries where it is considered a foreign commodity received with utmost caution or outright rejected. The cross-relations with ethnology and other ethno disciplines as well as with sociology are analyzed on the basis of fieldwork carried out while trying to establish social anthropology in post-communist countries and in Africa. The vicissitudes of de-marginalization and decentralization in social anthropology are illustrated by concrete data from four continents.

No local debate, no global impact: German anthropology since the 1980s (and a bit before)

Author: Dieter Haller (Ruhr Universität Bochum)  email
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Long Abstract

Globalization processes may have created the conditions for the development of world anthropologies, but they have not done it the same way everywhere across the globe. National conditions are still not irrelevant to the production of knowledge - but these conditions are often not reflected and debated. Since the 1980s, the discipline in Germany has strongly absorbed and reflected Anglo and French theories, methodologies, debates and intellectual genealogies, but obviously not produced any genuine contribution to these fields that is of intellectual interest other world anthropologies. My paper will look into this situation and argue that it is mainly rooted in the lack of intellectual debate on the specific conditions and results of knowledge production within Germany itself which has prevented to uncover the (strong and weak) particularities of German anthropology to other anthropologies likewise.

Mutuality and reciprocity in situations of marked inequality: dilemmas of and concerning US anthropology in the world

Author: Virginia Dominguez (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)  email
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Long Abstract

To be addressed are ways of looking at responsibilities the largest and richest anthropological community in the world has, or could have, to its colleagues and students at home and abroad, including some that look contradictory. When size, finances, freedom of movement, intellectual agendas, patterns of training, languages of everyday use, institutional histories, national governments, degrees of public visibility, patterns of internal differentiation and external connections all differ as much as these do in the profession of anthropology around the world, exactly how should we all relate to each other and not just in the north Atlantic?

The paper explores some of the key contradictions I see in ways of looking at the current, past, or plausible role of the U.S. anthropological community, especially that represented by the American Anthropological Association and its nearly 40 Sections. Should U.S. anthropology lead more in the world of anthropology than it currently does? Should it lead less? Should its journals and book series become more international--in authorship and not just readership--or should they be less, thereby acknowledging U.S. national intellectual agendas, histories, political concerns, institutional preferences, and other taken-for-granteds? A great example of the complexity of the problem concerns the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Would making these meetings more multi-lingual, multi-sited, and multi- national not unintentionally lead some, especially in the U.S., to reinforce the problematic but common U.S. view that the U.S. is the world?

Towards a doubly rooted cosmopolitan anthropology

Author: Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

Well before the demise of the European colonial empires, their anthropological knowledge production began to change as a result of engagement with societies that had their own textual traditions. Some countries, both inside and outside Europe, generated bodies of knowledge closely related to comparative social anthropology, even if the focus was often restricted to that country (or to a single 'nationality' within it). The two types of anthropology were classically described for the case of Hungary by Tamás Hofer in an article in Current Anthropology in 1969.

During the 1970s, both 'native ethnographers' and foreign socio-cultural anthropologists carried out research in rural Hungary. It is interesting to compare their outputs with the equivalent knowledge production of recent years: despite the rhetoric of globalization, I shall suggest that not much has changed in the interaction between foreigners and natives since the 1970s. What is new is that students in Budapest can nowadays study socio-cultural anthropology as a separate program in a separate faculty, entirely distinct from Hungarian néprajz. This is consistent with Hofer's wish in 1969 that the two variants of anthropology should maintain their separate identities. But I shall take this Hungarian example to argue for the benefits of institutional unification. The resulting larger, more cosmopolitan department should not lack local roots. On the contrary, the better integration of national ethnography into both research and teaching should facilitate the persistence of distinctive national, regional and institution-specific intellectual traditions.

Ships passing in the night? Interdisciplinarity, East-West relations and commoditization of knowledge in anthropology of post-socialism

Author: Kacper Poblocki (Roosevelt Academy (Utrecht University))  email
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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.

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Intricate relations between Western anthropologists and postsocialist ethnologists

Author: Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)  email
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Long Abstract

Western representations of the Others are criticized by anthropologists, but similar hegemonic classifications are present in the realationships between anthropologists living in 'the West' and working on 'the (postsocialist) East', and those working and living in 'the (postcommunist) East'. In a hierarchal order of scholars and knowledge 'postsocialist anthropologists' are presented as relics of the communist past: folklorists, theoretically retarded empiricists and nationalists. These images replicate Cold-War stereotypes, ignore long-lasting paradigms' shifts nad actual practices triggered by transnationalization of scholarship. Consigned to the 'dormant' postsocialist academia either contest this pecking order of wisdom or approve such hegemony. Their reactions range from isolationism to uncritical attempts at 'nesting intellectual backwardness' in the local context (what trickles down and reinforces hierarchies). Deterred communication harms anthropological studies on postsocialism which prominence can be hardly compared to that of the postcolonial studies.