On the Critical Uses of Difference

The Uninvited Guest and "The Invention of Culture"

in Social Analysis

The year 2000 marked the twenty-fifth year anniversary of the publication of Roy Wagner’s book The Invention of Culture. One of the earliest and still most profoundly challenging considerations of anthropology from a quarter- century that went on to see its share of critical engagements with the discipline, the book’s recent anniversary provides an opportunity to look back at Wagner’s argument and consider what it has taught us and what parts of its message may still remain to be assimilated. In what follows, I take up these issues by examining the book’s reception, laying out its core argument, considering its contribution to critical anthropology and, finally, showing how its primary analytic strategy can be applied to the study of contemporary religious movements.