Anthropology, by Comparison

Anthropology, by Comparison

Anthropology, by Comparison

Anthropology, by Comparison

Synopsis

Comparison has long been the backbone of the discipline of anthropology. But recent developments in anthropology, including critical self-reflection and new case studies sited in a globalized world, have pushed comparative work aside. For the most part, comparison as theory and method has been a casualty of the critique of 'grand theory' and of a growing mistrust of objectivist, hard-science methodology in the social sciences.Today it is time for anthropology to resume its central task of exploring humankind through comparison, using its newfound critical self-awareness under changing global conditions. In Anthropology By Comparision , an international group of prominent anthropologists re-visits, re-theorizes and re-invigorates comparison as a legitimate and fruitful enterprise. The authors explore the value of anthropological comparison and encourage an international dialogue about comparative research. While rejecting older, universalist comparative methods, these scholars take a fresh look at various subaltern and neglected approaches to comparison from their own national traditions. They then present new approaches that are especially relevant to the globalized world of the twenty-first century.Every student and practitioner of anthropology and the social sciences will find this thought-provoking volume essential reading. Anthropology, by Comparison is a call to creative reflection on the past and productive action in the present, a challenge to anthropologists to revitalize their unique contribution to human understanding. Anthropology, by Comparison is an indispensable overview of anthropology's roots - and its future - with regard to the comparative study of humankind.

Excerpt

It is unusual for social (or cultural) anthropologists to be quite so forthright about the kind of programme that this work urges. Anthropology, by Comparison invites us to think in three dimensions simultaneously, and thus offers something of an internal comparison between different parts of the anthropological enterprise. the first and third sections of the volume, on anthropology's public responsibility and on new approaches to the comparative method, afford, perhaps, not so unpredictable a combination. What is fascinating, however, is that sandwiched between these two parts you will find a set of chapters unashamedly called 'Reinvigorating past comparative methods'. Too often, anthropologists slink away from their own past as though it were not quite proper or were best passed over. But one of the towering strengths of this book is its simultaneous rejection of some parts of the past and retention of others. It is this call to action that knits the sections together.

I refer to these parts as CM1 (Comparative Methods 1) and CM2 (Comparative Methods 2), respectively. the authors reject CM1 in toto, while wishing to retain many elements of CM2-or perhaps not so much retain as recall. One of the aims of this collection is to inform those who do not know, or have forgotten, what the 'comparative method' has been about at various junctures in anthropology's history. Throughout much of that history, CM1 overshadowed a veritable multiplicity of such methods (CM2), a heterogeneous spectrum of middle-range strategies, mainstream and subaltern, that sustained the discipline along numerous lifelines (to use Richard Fox's phrase). Individual cases aside, the book claims it is precisely that pluralism which anthropology needs to carry forward.

And what is so emphatically rejected here? I am not going to give the game away, but I do just note that it was the most heavily programmed twentieth-century methods (CM1) that seem, in the end, to have had the shortest lifespan. Andre Gingrich and Richard Fox will be throwing out other dinosaurs as well, including certain claims to theoretical synthesis, although I would not chuck them into quite the same swamp myself. Let me remain with CM1, however, and especially with the comparative methods the editors refer to as 'scientific' and 'objectivist'. I wonder if we should not be rewriting this

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.