Cultural anthropology in France continues to bear the influence of a colonial-era distinction between “modern” societies with a high degree of social differentiation (and marked by rapid social change) and ostensibly socially homogeneous and change-resistant “traditional” ones. The history of key institutions (museums and research institutes) bears witness to this, as does recent scholarship centered on “the contemporary” that reworks earlier models and concepts and applies them to a world increasingly marked by transnational circulation and globalization. Anthropology at the Crossroads describes the evolution of a national tradition of scholarship, changes to its institutional status, and the models, concepts, and critical perspectives of anthropologists currently revisiting and reworking the foundations of the discipline in France.
Experiencing Anticipation. Anthropological Perspectives
Christopher Stephan and Devin Flaherty
Despite contemporary anthropology’s growing interest in ‘futures’, there has been an absence of sustained dialogue concerning the vital role of anticipation in everyday life. Seeking to bring much needed attention to the first-person perspective on futurity, in this introduction to the special issue we situate anticipation within the temporality of lived experience. Drawing on premises from anthropological studies of experience (particularly phenomenological approaches), we frame the experiential approach to anticipation by highlighting the parameters of its cross-cultural and intercontextual variability. We argue that anticipatory experience provides a crucial locus for ethnographic inquiry into the disparate and polysemous manifestations of futures in everyday life. We then seek to demonstrate how anticipation thus conceived may be productively integrated with numerous ongoing themes within contemporary anthropological scholarship. Finally, we introduce the individual contributions to the issue.
of the ways families may adapt to change, may stick together or separate, and the nature of transgenerational conflicts is crucial for effective anthropological analysis. This article contributes to such analysis with an examination of the insights
Sally Engle Merry
This provocative question became the basis for a spirited discussion at the 2017 meeting of the American Anthropological Association. My first reaction, on hearing the question, was to ask, does anthropology care whether it matters to law? As a discipline, anthropology and the anthropology of law are producing excellent scholarship and have an active scholarly life. But in response to this forum’s provocation article, which clearly outlines the lack of courses on law and anthropology in law schools, I decided that the relevant question was, why doesn’t anthropology matter more to law than it does? The particular, most serious concern appears to be, why are there not more law and anthropology courses being offered in law schools? It is increasingly common for law faculty in the United States to have PhDs as well as JDs, so why are there so few anthropology/law PhD/JD faculty? Moreover, as there is growing consensus that law schools instil a certain way of thinking but lack preparation for the practice of law in reality and there is an explosion of interest in clinical legal training, why does this educational turn fail to provide a new role of legal anthropology, which focuses on the practice of law, in clinical legal training?
The Stepsister of Linguistic Anthropology
Anthropology of the word is an approach that originated in Poland, at the University of Warsaw, in the early 1990s. It emerged from philological study of language and literature, by widening and strengthening their cultural dimensions. Gradually, this approach grew closer to linguistic anthropology but retained its specificity, which consists essentially in considering linguistic practices as cultural practices, including language-mediated practices in which the verbal line is only one thread; studying historical forms of linguistic practices; recognising verbal art (including literature) as a set of peculiar linguistic practices and making it a subject of anthropological study; including linguistic practices other than oral and written ones; identifying various cognitive aspects of the textual bias in order to eliminate its distorting effect on the study of linguistic practices.
Rachel Gooberman-Hill, Isabel de Salis, and Jonina Einarsdottir
This issue of Anthropology in Action examines the relationship between conventional anthropological methods and those used by anthropologists working in applied health research. Three of the articles were originally presented at a workshop at the 2006 conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, while a fourth (Poehlman) addresses related themes and sits well alongside those from the workshop.
Taking Amazonian Climate Science Seriously
Drawing on fieldwork with researchers and technicians involved in a scientific project in the Brazilian rainforest, this article explores specific aspects of climate science in the Amazon. It suggests that taking science seriously anthropologically requires an investigation into the relation between endo-anthropology and exo-anthropology. This is done recursively by exploring a particular way in which what is 'inside' and what is 'outside' are achieved and negotiated in the scientific practice under study. Researchers and technicians 'do' some crucial distinctions with data, and the article points to the importance of the flux of data and the boundaries and sides that emerge from the control of that flux.
Defining Anthropological Truth
This article holds that deeply entrenched assumptions about the nature, provenance, and value of truth can be brought into view and examined critically when set against the backdrop of a radically different set of concepts and practices that are associated with truth seeking in contemporary Afro-Cuban divination. Drawing briefly on an ethnographic analysis of the ways in which Cuban cult practitioners use oracles, the article seeks to formulate a radically alternative concept of truth. This viewpoint eschews common premises about the role of 'representation' in the pursuit of truth in favor of a notion of truth as 'conceptual redefinition'. If the ethnography of divination in Cuba forces the analyst radically to reformulate the concept of truth, what effect might this new approach have on the project of anthropology itself?
The anthropological conundrum
Douglas R. Holmes
Fascism in our time is emerging not as a single party or movement within a particular nation-state but rather as a dispersed phenomenon that reverberates across the continent nested within the political contradictions of the European Union. Rather than focusing on a specific group to determine whether it is or is not “fascist,” we must look at how diverse parties and movements are linked together in cross-border coalitions revealing the political ecology of contemporary fascism and the intricate division of labor that sustains it. Underwriting contemporary fascism is an “illiberal” anthropology that can colonize every expression of identity and attachment. From the motifs and metaphors of diverse folkloric traditions to the countless genres of popular culture, fascism assimilates new meanings and affective predispositions.
The Sub-disciplinary Context
Máiréad Nic Craith and Laurent Sebastian Fournier
This special issue on anthropology and literature invited proposals for original contributions focusing on relationships between anthropology and literature. We were especially interested in the following questions: what role does literature play in anthropology? Can literature be considered as ethnography? What are the relationships between anthropology and literature, past and present? Are anthropology and anthropological motives used in literature? We also looked for critical readings of writers as anthropologists and critical readings of anthropologists as writers. Moreover, we wanted to assess the influence of literature on the invention of traditions, rituals and cultural performances. All these different questions and topics are clearly connected with the study of literacy, illiteracy and popular culture. They also lead to questions regarding potential textual strategies for ethnography and the possibilities of bringing together the field of anthropology (more associated with the social sciences) and literary studies (traditionally part of the humanities).