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What has anthropology learned from the anthropology of colonialism?

Peter Pels

The emergence of the anthropology of colonialism in the 1990s has stimulated and enhanced critical reflection on the cultural and historical embedding of the discipline of anthropology, offering what is in effect a historiography of the discipline's present. How has this historical consciousness changed the contours of the discipline? Has it allowed anthropologists to critically distance their discipline from its intimate involvement with the world of modernity, development and the welfare state, as it first emerged under colonial rule? Have anthropologists learned that, instead of targeting and thus essentialising otherness, we should now study the processes by which human differences are constructed, hierarchised and negotiated? This presentation focuses on recent developments in European and North American anthropology in order to discuss the potential effects of the anthropology of colonialism's historical consciousness on anthropological ontologies (epitomised by current discussions on ‘indigenous peoples’), epistemologies (in reconceptualising ‘field’ and ‘method’) and ethics. It thus tries to outline the ways in which the critical promise of the anthropology of colonialism faces the obstacles that the present‐day heritage of colonialism puts in the way of realising its future potential.

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Anthropology after Darwin


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Data management in anthropology

The next phase in ethics governance?

Peter Pels, Igor Boog, J. Henrike Florusbosch, Zane Kripe, Tessa Minter, Metje Postma, Margaret Sleeboom‐Faulkner, Bob Simpson, Hansjörg Dilger, Michael Schönhuth, Anita Poser, Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo, Rena Lederman, and Heather Richards‐Rissetto

Recent demands for accountability in ‘data management’ by funding agencies, universities, international journals and other academic institutions have worried many anthropologists and ethnographers. While their demands for transparency and integrity in opening up data for scrutiny seem to enhance scientific integrity, such principles do not always consider the way the social relationships of research are properly maintained. As a springboard, the present Forum, triggered by such recent demands to account for the use of ‘data’, discusses the present state of anthropological research and academic ethics/integrity in a broader perspective. It specifically gives voice to our disciplinary concerns and leads to a principled statement that clarifies a particularly ethnographic position. This position is then discussed by several commentators who treat its viability and necessity against the background of wider developments in anthropology – sustaining the original insight that in ethnography, research materials have been co‐produced before they become commoditised into ‘data’. Finally, in moving beyond such a position, the Forum broadens the issue to the point where other methodologies and forms of ownership of research materials will also need consideration.