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Social anthropology. Towards a pragmatic enlightenment?

  • KIRSTEN HASTRUP (a1)

Abstract

After a couple of decades of post-modernist debate, time is ripe to reassess the unity of anthropology as a distinct field of knowledge. Many disciplines study culture and quite a few have embraced ‘ethnography’ and fieldwork. The distinction of anthropology is not, therefore, implied simply by a particular object of study (society or culture) or by a particular method (fieldwork). I shall argue that the distinction derives from a particular way of relating to the object and pertaining to both the relations in the field, and the way in which these relations infuse the resulting knowledge. By tracing the development of anthropology through various ‘turns’ and delineating the contours of a particular mode of anthropological attention, the article makes a case for the vitality and pertinence of the anthropological field, which it owes to the power of bringing the ethnographic and the epistemological into coincident view.

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This article was first prepared for the symposium ‘Facing fieldwork. Challenges for anthropology in a globalising world’ organised by the WDO in Leiden in December 2003. The contributions of the organisers, co-speakers and audience are gratefully acknowledged. In particular I wish to thank the appointed discussant (now the editor of Social Anthropology), Peter Pels, for thoughtful and pertinent comments that helped me clarify issues for the printed version of my talk.

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Social anthropology. Towards a pragmatic enlightenment?

  • KIRSTEN HASTRUP (a1)

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