ANTH 3690 Lecture Notes - Lecture 18: Thomas Kuhn, Metanarrative, Marilyn Strathern

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Lecture 18 Nov. 15. 2011
Theory in Anthropology Since the Sixties (1984)
Sherry Ortner (University of California at Los Angeles)
The 1980’s ....
This decade was one of the collapse of previous paradigms
Think back to Thomas Kuhn - Paradigm Shifts, competing paradigms
As Ortner writes, it was unclear as to what the divisions were and which one, one should align
oneself with
Note the articles that we are reading which were published in the 1980’s :
Asad (1987)
Bourdieu (1982)
Clifford (1986)
Marcus and Fischer (1986)
Strathern (1981)
Wolf (1982)
Ortner (1984)
-She mentions all but 2 in her own article (marcus, fischer and clifford)
-speculate on the reasons why they are excluded
Wolf And Asad - Anthropology as Hegemony and the Voice of the Other
Wolf and Asad are concerned with history and the political economy of a world system
The interrelatedness of cultures is the point that Wolf wants to demonstrate
Asad, while appreciating the vision of Wolf’s efforts asks the fundamental question of whether
other cultures, those integrated by capitalism into a world system dominated by the West, do
not have a history independent of Europe and capitalism
Wolfs work can be seen as part of the political economy school that Ortner identifies arising in
the 1970s with Wallerstein and Frank
The major criticism she launches at this school is that it understands all communities and
cultures in relation to capitalist expansion and can not represent the uniqueness of these
communities and cultures.
Remember - Wolf talks about the ‘sinks and margins of the capitalist system.’
Said in Orientalism (1979) despairs of the West ever being able to appreciate a non-Western
However, Ortner takes the position of Asad, we cannot know the world’s cultures only in
relation to ourselves
To those who despair of ever doing this successfully, Ortner answers: ‘To such a position we
can only respond: Try.’ (p.512)
The approach to ethnography that only saw a local community as a product of capitalist forces,
is incomplete, because as Ortner points out - each village has its own history, its own view of
itself that is as much an aspect of its culture as is the capitalist hegemony approach
-Ortner incomplete, denying certain reality.
-Critique of Asad - sees it as caught up in own cultural framework, incapable of understanding
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