Shifting Contexts: Transformations in Anthropological Knowledge

Shifting Contexts: Transformations in Anthropological Knowledge

Shifting Contexts: Transformations in Anthropological Knowledge

Shifting Contexts: Transformations in Anthropological Knowledge

Synopsis

Shifting Contexts offers an original critique of current Western thinking: it does not take it for granted that 'global' and 'local' indicate orders of magnitude or scales of importance. Rather, it addresses the techniques by which people shift the contexts of their knowledge and thus endow phenomena with local or global significance. It is an unusual and original collection of essays by seven leading anthropologists, in the company of two specialists in research policy.This book examines certain contexts in which people (including anthropologists) make different orders of knowledge for themselves as a prelude to questioning assumptions about the 'size' of knowledge implied in the contrast between global and local perspectives.

Excerpt

This book is one of five to have been produced from the Fourth Decennial Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth held at St Catherine's College, Oxford, in July 1993. Sections were organised by Richard Fardon, Wendy James, Daniel Miller and Henrietta Moore, each of whom has edited their proceedings. in addition Wendy James acted as Oxford Co-ordinator, and it is principally due to her untiring efforts that the conference took place at all. As Convenor, I take the opportunity of acknowledging our debt to her, and of registering gratitude to Priscilla Frost for her organisational assistance and to Jonathan Webber for acting as conference Treasurer.

The Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford gave material as well as moral support. the following bodies are to be thanked for their generous financial assistance: the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the British Council, the Oxford University Hulme Trust Fund, the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Association of Social Anthropologists itself.

To suppose anthropological analysis can shift between global and local perspectives may well imply that the two coexist as broader and narrower horizons or contexts of knowledge. Indeed, the relationship seems familiar from the ethnographic record: in cosmologies that set a transcendent or encompassing realm against the details of everyday life; or in systems of value that aggrandise this feature while trivialising that; or in shifts between what pertains to the general or the particular, the collective or the individual. and if knowledge consists in the awareness of context shift, then such scaling may well seem routine. However, this book does not take scale for granted. It examines certain contexts in which people (including anthropologists) make different orders of knowledge for themselves as a prelude to questioning assumptions about the 'size' of knowledge implied in the contrast between global and local perspectives.

Marilyn Strathern

University of Cambridge

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