The 2011 Huxley Memorial Lecture at the RAI PODCAST

A recording of the 2011 Huxley Memorial Lecture by Professor Johannes Fabian (University of Amsterdam) Cultural Anthropology and the Question of Knowledge is now available as a podcast at the following URL:


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Comment by Keith Hart on January 14, 2012 at 11:24am

The 2011 Huxley lecture was by Bruce Kapferer recently. I see no sign of Fabian's 2010 lecture having been published, but the podcast is still there. You can contact the RAI at Email: Office Manager.

Comment by Kerim Friedman on January 14, 2012 at 10:59am

Does anyone know if this was published?

Comment by John McCreery on February 8, 2011 at 9:31am

Just took a break from the daily grind to listen to the lecture. Definitely worth investing an hour. The one point on which I question Keith's summary is the assertion that  Fabian sees anthropology as a kind of "confrontational politics." Confrontational? Yes. Politics? Yes? But I heard something a bit different. I heard Fabian talking about our relations with the people whose lives we share and study and suggestion that to observation, conversation, and interaction, we should add confrontation. 


To me Keith's "confrontational politics" evokes the image of the anthropologist as the defender of the world's victims, confronting the powers that be. To me, it seemed that Fabian said that, if we truly regard the other as our peer, we will argue with them, engaging them in the kinds of debates that we have with each other. In pursuit of understanding how they know what they know, the questions "How do you know that?" and "What is your evidence?" have to be asked of everyone—not just to members of our own tribe.

Comment by Francine Barone on February 7, 2011 at 7:25pm
Thanks for sharing this and thanks to Keith for that useful overview.
Comment by Keith Hart on February 7, 2011 at 6:51pm

I have a lot of time for Johannes Fabian. He is a rich and complex character with a distinctive trajectory in anthropology and some distinguished books to show for it, especially Time and the Other which was original and has been hugely influential.

The lecture is quite long and I found it slow-going to start with, but the last 20 minutes or so are quite impressive. He proposes that cultural anthropology should be rebranded (but he wouldn't use that term) as a "science of survival", that anthropological knowledge should be conceived of as pragmatic in the sense that it changes not only the knower but also the known. It is a kind of confrontational politics. He concludes with reflections on his own recent attempt to make a virtual archive out of Congolese popular paintings and recorded conversations collected in the 1970s. Apparently the materiality and temporality of this process confirm his dialectical view of the knowledge question which is, How do we know what we know about how they know what they know? This in turn exemplifies how our discipline could become a science of survival. Could be worth the effort for some of you with an hour to spare.

As far as I can see, there is no method for advancing or reversing the listening point. But maybe it's just me being dumb.


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