Anthropology and the rise of the professional-managerial class

Many of the internal changes within anthropology as a discipline—particularly the “postmodern turn” of the 1980s—can only be understood in the context of broader changes in the class composition of the societies in which university departments exist, and, in particular, the role of the university in the reproduction of a professional-managerial class that has come to displace any working-class...

Fetishism as social creativity

Originally, the term ‘fetishes’ was used by European merchants to refer to objects employed in West Africa to make and enforce agreements, often between people with almost nothing in common. They thus provide an interesting window on the problem of social creativity – especially since in classic Marxist terms they were surprisingly little fetishized.

It is value that brings universes into being

Any theoretical term is an implicit statement about human nature. Anthropologists tend to be uncomfortable with this fact but it is nonetheless true. Even if one were to make a statement as apparently innocuous as “ritual can take many forms in many places,” one is still asserting that “ritual” is a meaningful cross-cultural category, implying...

Culture as creative refusal.

Many aspects of culture that we are used to interpreting in essentialist or even tacitly evolutionist terms might better be seen as acts of self-conscious rejection, or as formed through a schizmogenetic process of mutual definition against the values of neighbouring societies.

Remarks on Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer

The following essay was prepared for the volume “The Mythology in Our Language”—an anthropological response to Wittgenstein’s famous critical commentaries on Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, edited by Giovanni da Col and Stephan Palmier.