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Theories and Ideologies in Anthropology

Jukka Siikala

It has been claimed that anthropology is in a terminal decline. If so, according to my interpretation, part of this is self-generated. The intellectual suicide of the discipline is closely connected to the decline of serious ethnographic research. The classic backbone of the discipline has been called ‘salvage-ethnography.’ This critical concept implies that ethnography has interest only in the past or faraway places, and this kind of ethnography does not form the basis of the discipline’s current theoretical body. This kind of reductionism—reducing the distance between the anthropologist and the object—not only has led to the deletion of time and miles, but also has had the extreme result of focusing on individual experiences. With growing demands of reflectivity, self has become the object, and thus the empirical content of anthropology has been reduced to Western experiences of the world. Theoretically significant difference has been wiped out in the process. On the other hand, we witness a proliferation of ethnographies done by everybody else but anthropologists. In the following, I look at the recent anthropological practices that unintentionally promote the discipline’s own death and connect them to the shifts in the position of anthropological theory and its nature.

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