Theory in Anthropology

Theories guiding our thinking, and thinking about theory.

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Discussion Forum

Foucault and Consensus 17 Replies

Started by Joel M. Wright. Last reply by Valentini Nov 19, 2013.

Recent Prestige Theory 4 Replies

Started by Bill Guinee. Last reply by Paulo Augusto Franco Jun 21, 2012.

What's wrong with Quine? 78 Replies

Started by Amiria Salmond. Last reply by John McCreery Dec 15, 2011.

What use is Anthropology? 25 Replies

Started by Liz Challinor. Last reply by Youdheya Banerjee/Bandyopadhyay Sep 18, 2011.

Gramsci's notion of hegemony 8 Replies

Started by Toby Austin Locke. Last reply by Eugene L. Mendonsa Aug 11, 2011.

Do anthropologists now doubt that peoples and cultures are different from one another? 44 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Michael Francis Nov 9, 2010.

Post-Subjective Anthropology 69 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Amiria Salmond Oct 15, 2010.

Is structuralism an elaboration of dialectics? 32 Replies

Started by Joel M. Wright. Last reply by MAI Saptenno Oct 4, 2010.

Assemblage, Structuration, Praxis 10 Replies

Started by Joel M. Wright. Last reply by Joel M. Wright Sep 14, 2010.

Capitalism and Flow 8 Replies

Started by Joel M. Wright. Last reply by Joel M. Wright May 18, 2010.

From Marxist anthropology to .......??? 34 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Joel M. Wright May 10, 2010.

Closing down Philosophy? Call to action.

Started by Heike Schaumberg May 1, 2010.

Can anthropologists cheat? 17 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by John McCreery Feb 2, 2010.


Started by fahmid al zaid Dec 25, 2009.

Perspectivism vs. Domestication of Nature (?)

Started by Ricardo Samuel Monteiro Dec 20, 2009.

How can comparative analysis contribute to future progress in anthropology? 33 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by John McCreery Dec 11, 2009.

theory of 'joining the tribe'?? 2 Replies

Started by Sinead Devane. Last reply by Sinead Devane Dec 8, 2009.

What do we want out of a theory? 26 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by John McCreery Dec 2, 2009.

Any theory on Ecology of Poverty? 2 Replies

Started by Ranjan Lekhy. Last reply by Ranjan Lekhy Nov 29, 2009.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Sousa on November 9, 2010 at 7:56am
I do believe that the problem will persist while anthropologists continue to view the study object as the other and as object. If culture tends to be the product of cumulative experience isn't necessary to review methodology? the only way the anthropologist may consider to work with the culture's meaning isn't related with the amount of experience it is shared? from my point of view there has been a lack of humanity and a continuous use of anthropology as a political weapon instead of understanding and respect. Every anthropologist may have the will to find a case study to certain theory or certain point of view, but it seems to me that it is always neglecting human nature and favoring academic needs.
Comment by John McCreery on November 9, 2010 at 3:18am
Nikos, am I correct to read you as writing in an ironical vein? Who better than a Greek should know the history of the Greek colonies planted all around the Mediterranean and Black Seas in pre-Roman times?
Comment by Keith Hart on November 8, 2010 at 10:45pm
I think it is naive to suggest that Layla alone has introduced unreasoning animus into this discussion. She certainly hasn't done much to cool down schismogenesis; but for a while this argument basically split on race and gender lines, white men vs Asian woman. Two individuals broke with that pattern. I am grateful to M Izabel for breaking the mold and not just because I basically agree with her. This is not the first time that a similar split has occurred here at the OAC and its trigger has been some version of postcolonial theory or similar. It's not as if we haven't all been there before. There is anger on both sides of this argument, not just one. I think it is time to let it go.
Comment by Michael Francis on November 8, 2010 at 7:33pm
@M Izabel - It is interesting that within globalisation there is a massive push of localised identity politics coming to the forefront. This would be a good place to recommend the paper An Extreme Reading of Facebook. It seems that community has taken on more substance and importance in recent times in much different contexts such as cyberspace. The Internet connects different people in ways telephones cannot. But of course sometimes new communities/identities are old ones revived or more likely reinvented in post-colonial situations.
Comment by Michael Francis on November 8, 2010 at 7:18pm
@Layla - We have listened and commented on your words. And to be frank I think we have given your words too much gravitas already. So your expectation that you be deemed equal to Bordieu is laughable love his ideas or hate them there are substantial reasons he is part of the canon and you are not. You wield theories like weapons and your unshakable believe and use of concepts such as 'domestication' and Orientalism set you up with ideological blinkers as opposed as ideas that are 'good to think with'. Claiming privileged voice due to minority status is not useful or accurate. Perhaps a little Marx should enter your realm and you can then look at your class position and realise you have much in common with your so-called oppressors aka - white colonial men via class position. I think most professional anthropologists and students of anthropology are well aware of the global structures of inequality as well as the history of the regions in which they work. So I hardly think you revealed anything new about global oppression to anyone here. What is clear is that you will never listen to anything resembling reason or rationality and make axiomatic claims and ad hominen arguments. And now that claim may mark me as a domesticated westerner but I do think we need to find the common ground for rational debate.

Notions of agency come to mind. We can choose to be civil and to exclude emotion from our debate. Nobody here claimed the Sudanese Muslims should be executed and nobody denied borders are colonial constructs. Those extreme examples were of your own making. When words and ideas are ascribed to someone's subject position unfairly one wonders about the point of debating the subject with that individual.

And to speak anthropologically about structure and agency can be done so in a way that acknowledges the limits of choice. In the Kalahari the !Xam Busmen I work with have very limited economic choices they can make, and it is within those limits they express agency. Examining their lives (within their limits) is not simply voyeuristic and does not lead to further oppression. It is through examining other peoples lives in other places that we can construct a valid critique of powers that emanate from dominant centres. I suggest a reading of Taussig - Devil and Commodity Fetishism. One cannot make the claim that all the Western/domesticates simply reproduce global inequality while you and only you challenge it.

And to come back to agency - when your voice is dismissed and people quit responding to your polemic it is not because they are domesticated or feel threatened by your ideas, but because they choose to ignore the ideas as irrelevant dogmatic rants. So instead of speaking 'truth to power' you will end up 'shouting in the wind'.
Comment by M Izabel on November 8, 2010 at 7:12pm
I hope you're coming back, Layla. You can still redirect your rage into something productive that can bridge gaps and give voice to the silenced and marginalized.

I am not dismissing what Layla said, but I find her questions old and stale. A question or a statement that has been repeated over and over and has not changed through time, to me, is a rhetoric. Sadly, people rely on rhetorics to empower themselves as if words are really that powerful. That’s only true for poets.

In college, I used to join a hysterical rally in front of the US Embassy. We burned American flags and effigies of American presidents. We shouted anti-imperialist and colonialist slogans. My favorite was “America gives us aid and AIDS.” Looking back, I could not help but smile at my irrationality. What was I thinking?

If you have a problem with social science being a remnant of colonialism, decolonize it. Localize anthropology. Intellectualize your native language. Explore your identity and ethnicity. Western theories also exist to be opposed and debunked. If we are all talk, we won’t see the light.

Realize that colonialism, as we know it, has evolved. It is now globalism. China is now doing what the US had been doing before, doling out exploitative capital, strengthening dictators, and turning a blind eye to corruptions happening in developing countries. Why can’t we call China an “imperialist” or “colonialist”? Is it because it is not within our notion of white men's colonialism?

Colonialism has also become an internal politico-economic, socio-cultural phenomenon. India has its “tribals” that want autonomy. Chinese Muslims are fighting for self-determination. Amazon Indians do not have an idea called Brazil. Africans are reclaiming resources from the Whites, who are minorities in their countries. Even in the Philippines, the indigenous peoples cry Manila “imperialism” and “colonialism.” Marginalized peoples are now looking inwards. The enemies, it seems, are from within. The "troublemakers" are insiders not outsiders, and the troubles they forment are legitimate and historical following the framework of western colonialism.

As I said, postcolonialism is also a culture's self-introspection.
Comment by Layla AbdelRahim on November 8, 2010 at 6:15pm
Do you have that many "minority" (how do we feel about being called that when we are the majority in the world - just like the Russian revolution with the inversion of Mensheviks and Bolsheviks) voices to debate with? Or is there a trend I notice that any minority who has something unpleasant to reveal to you about your role in global oppression is ganged up against and shut down? I agree with you on that this is not a discussion.
And call me arrogant, but I demand the same respect for my words as you attribute your respectable men of knowledge. So, if Derrida or Bourdieu would never be dismissed because they can't clearly state their ideas and you have to break your head getting through their language in order to debate with what their saying and not what's in your head, I demand the same treatment. First understand what I'm saying and then disagree.
This time, I'm really off for good.
Comment by Paul Wren on November 8, 2010 at 5:51pm
After watching this exchange for some time, I just want to say in my domesticated way that it is not a discussion, at least where you are concerned, Layla.

No one here can challenge your assertions without having their response labeled as the obvious result of their domestication within western civilization. I think most of us are reasonable, and wish to hear, think, and respond rationally. I also suspect most of the anthropologists visiting and contributing on this site at least believe they are open to the possibility they are wrong about some things. Unfortunately, you deem all of us (in general) to be incapable of seeing things as they are, and dismissing anything said which isn't the equivalent of "OMG! Layla's right and now I see the light."

As you say, you have come here to "share your knowledge, questions, and position." After reading through your responses to others, it does not seem you came believing any of the westernized anthropologists here had anything to say worth listening to.
Comment by Michael Francis on November 8, 2010 at 5:41pm
@Layla - I have enjoyed the interchange but I do think that when you make claims such as:

"But dismissing my words as badly articulated is part of civilised silencing that inscribes voices and authority in that same infamous socio-political and economic structure"

is rather arrogant as you claim a truth in your words that cannot be dismissed. If someone disagrees with you it is not because they are 'domesticated' or silencing you. You may actually be wrong or someone may hold an equally valid difference of opinion.
Comment by Michael Francis on November 8, 2010 at 5:35pm
@Joshua - There is interest in academia in Canadian contexts that is why there are entire departments called Canadian Studies. I currently has a proposal out to study people linked by a region/resources in the Athabasca River Basin and much of that would be a study of settler communities but the framework is not to look at them (me?) as a colonial settler but more of their relationship to space and place. If you do want to work as an anthropologist on Canadian issues there are opportunities and interest but most often people that do so become sociologists due to scale and scope and often do not do the gritty fieldwork. Anthropology is about the fieldwork and scope and scale.

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