Urban Anthropology: Cities in Their Cultural Settings

Urban Anthropology: Cities in Their Cultural Settings

Urban Anthropology: Cities in Their Cultural Settings

Urban Anthropology: Cities in Their Cultural Settings

Excerpt

Some scholars claim anthropology is dead--outmoded in a nuclear world without spears, hoes, tumplines, outriggers, and the primitives who used them. The last decades have witnessed often exaggerated reports of other deaths--the end of ideology, of God, of ethnicity, of the family. The genesis of this book lay in my own fear that anthropology was indeed dead; its present format is a personal and, one hopes, scholarly affirmation that the reports of anthropology's demise have in fact been greatly exaggerated. If anthropology could say new things about cities, if anthropologists could carry forth effective research in urban locales, I reasoned, then surely the discipline was alive and well and living in the complex present rather than expiring with the primitive past. This quest led me to study urban institutions and their cultural settings in many different societies and time periods, and in ways rather different from much current urban anthropology. Yet in comparing the urbanism of contemporary Swaziland with that of Charlemagne, or of a north Indian town with seventeenth-century Paris, I only follow a long tradition of comparative research instituted by Morgan, Maine, Durkheim, and Mauss that sought to illuminate (often quite incorrectly) the present from the past. The presentiments of anthropology's demise have been with us, I believe, ever since many anthropologists rebuked this comparative approach as the discipline became professionalized several gen-

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