Peripheral vision as anthropological critique

How perspectives from the margins can illuminate the exploits of twenty-first-century global capitalism

in Focaal
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In the context of rapid neoliberal reform, both anthropology as a discipline and the social and cultural phenomena it studies are undergoing profound changes. In this article we develop June Nash's concept of “peripheral vision” to show how peripheries, and the politics of “peripheralization”, can illuminate processes of neoliberalization and the implications that this has for anthropological knowledge production. We argue that anthropology is uniquely situated to examine the conceptual blind spots produced by capitalism. By recasting “peripheral vision” as an analytic concept and methodological tool, we show how cultivating our ethnographic sensibilities to identify and hone in on events and processes that lie beyond our immediate field of vision can provide a useful antidote to the seductive fantasies of contemporary capitalism. In doing so, we also suggest how this approach can help counter some of the increasing strictures on knowledge production and narrowing of the research imagination that neoliberal reforms impose.