Although early reviewers of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland recognized the novel as a fictional travelogue, the travelogue aspect of the novel remains underexamined. This essay examines Flatland as a travelogue and as a work of ethnographic criticism in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science. Situating Flatland in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science and in relation to Notes and Queries on Anthropology, For the Use of Travellers and Residents in Uncivilized Lands (1874)—in particular to its concerns with the dangers of cultural assumptions—provides a means of tackling the problem both early reviewers and more recent scholars have noted concerning the marked differences between the novel’s two parts and the difficulties of making sense of the novel as a whole.
Valerie M. Smith
This article focuses on the site where much anthropological work is conducted—universities—and anthropological approaches to studying their current transformations. Although I work comparatively on the imagining and enactment of universities in Denmark and Britain, here I focus on the recent changes to universities in England, which have taken many by surprise, as if they exceeded anyone's wildest imagination and were even beyond belief. I will trace how the “conditions of possibility” for the current changes came about—the tripling of student fees, removal of government funding for teaching in arts and social sciences, and transfer of public resources to commercial, for-profit higher education companies. I will briefly outline the problems that opponents to these moves are having in imagining an alternative future, let alone organizing themselves to contest current developments. In conclusion, I will point to the changes in anthropology itself that are incurred when engaging in an ethnography of such a large policy field and when attempting to capture “what the present is producing” (Moore 1987: 727).
Is fieldwork as anthropologists do it simply a method among others? This article disagrees, drawing on the concept of “serendipity” as introduced by German scholar Ina-Maria Greverus. Beyond the prescribed way of any method, anthropology’s specificity articulates as “discovery”, in this case: an unexpected discovery of remains of the Soviet past in Estonia, through the author’s family life.
Jeremy J. Kingsley and Kari Telle
At a time of ‘interdisciplinary’ scholarly debate and ‘transdisciplinary’ pedagogy, some disciplines appear more siloed and tone deaf to each other than ever before. This article will consider why law and anthropology as disciplines offer almost no impact upon each other’s educational or research agendas.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.