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David A. B. Murray

In this paper I want to trace how and why The Invention of Culture (IOC) has resonated strongly throughout my encounters with anthropological theory and fieldsite experiences in the Caribbean. I briefly outline how some of its key analytical arguments about the meanings and applications of the ‘culture’ concept can be productively compared and applied to what at first glance might appear to be quite unrelated ‘new’ theoretical models about gender and sexuality, particularly Judith Butler’s ‘performative’ approach, more than twenty-five years after its initial publication.

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Introduction

Reinventing the Invention of Culture

Joel Robbins and David A. B. Murray

In a recent special issue of Social Analysis, Culture at the End of the Boasian Century (1997) the editors noted that the 1970s was a time of particularly intense anthropological debate about culture. They mentioned Geertz, Sahlins, Schneider and Boon as anthropologists who made some of the key theoretical contributions of that era, interrogating the meaning of the ‘culture concept’ and extending it in new directions. As much as those names conjure up a period of impressive accomplishment in anthropological culture theory, we feel there is an important omission from this list: Roy Wagner’s The Invention of Culture, first published in 1976 (with a revised volume published in 1981). In fact, we would argue that more than twentyfive years later, this book remains highly relevant to contemporary debates on the meanings and definitions of culture in anthropological circles and, indeed, to debates on the meanings and definitions of anthropology itself.

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Ibrahim G. Aoude, Sandra Bamford, Mark T. Berger, Doug Dalton, Allen Feldman, Jonathan Friedman, John Gledhill, Richard Handler, Keith Hart, Michael Humphrey, Dan Jorgensen, Bruce Kapferer, Clive Kessler, Leif Manger, David A. B. Murray, Joel Robbins, Michael Rowlands, Marshall Sahlins, Elizabeth Stassinos, Marilyn Strathern, Karen Sykes and Souchou Yao

Notes on contributors