Culture Incarnate: Native Anthropology from Russia

Culture Incarnate: Native Anthropology from Russia

Culture Incarnate: Native Anthropology from Russia

Culture Incarnate: Native Anthropology from Russia


This collection of studies uses the processes of analysis and self-analysis to examine the social, political and spiritual forces at work in the post-Soviet world. The text includes discussions of ethnohistory, political anthropology and ethnic conflict, and symbolic anthropology.


Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer

Who has the right to claim authoritative interpretations of the ethnohistory and cultural anthropology of a given people? Do "insiders" do it better, or is it more appropriate for carefully trained professionals from another culture to attempt to attain knowledge of a particular society without "going Native"? These classic anthropology questions have special relevance in the current fin-de-siècle and fin-de-Soviet period of political uncertainty, cultural multiplicity, and ethnic assertion. the answers are by no means obvious, for standards of anthropology are shifting both in the "West" and in the "East." It is not even clear who is "Native" and who is not, for many truly multicultural people of mixed ethnic and educational backgrounds have become our most talented and sensitive anthropologists worldwide.

The phrase "Native anthropologist" is used here interchangeably with "indigenous anthropologist." the word "native" has itself been subject to some political critique, given dangers of ghettoizing anthropologists who write about their own cultures, and given anthropologists' memories of the notorious colonial stereotype phrase "the natives [read primitive other] are restless." I feel relatively comfortable with "native," however, since I am willing to describe myself as a "native anthropologist" (without capitalization) when I write about my own indigenous suburbs of Washington, D.C.

As old national boundaries erode and new ones emerge, new voices of anthropologists, ethnographers, and ethnosociologists studying their own cultures have begun to be heard more clearly. Indigenous anthropologists, as representatives of their own cultures, are often the incarnation of traditions that they themselves choose to describe and interpret. With anthropological training, they are both of their cultures--culture incarnate--and in positions to critique those cultures in times of turmoil. While this is an . . .

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