Cultural Critique, George Marcus And Michael M.j Essay

Cultural Critique, George Marcus And Michael M.j Essay

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According to Stephan Feuchtwang, early British social anthropology sought “knowledge of total systems or structures from small-scale social units by direct personal observation with as little participation as possible” (1973:72). By applying minimal and often misconstrued knowledge imbued with personal biases to complex social systems, early anthropologists left much of their proposed evidence up to assumption. Using comparative methods, many early anthropologists focused on unilineal evolution and classified societies as progressing through stages from primitive to civilized. Wrought with racism, misunderstanding, and assumption, these types of studies continually reinforced misconceptions of the racial other as less civilized, primitive, and inferior. Early anthropological work readily maintained Colonialist ventures by perpetuating the superior-inferior dichotomy between Europeans and the racial other.
The 1980s brought about many anthropologists working to dispel previous colonialist influences and reform anthropological modes of thought. In Anthropology as Cultural Critique, George Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer discuss the “us-them dualism” that dominated previous ethnographic work, which involves only “controlled comparison” of one culture to another regionally similar culture (1986:139). Marcus and Fischer dismiss these practices and suggest using “multiple other-cultural references” to prevent “simplistic better-worse” judgements (1986:139). In order to evoke a “common capacity for communication” and “shared membership in a global system”, Marcus and Fischer propose two techniques for cultural criticism (1986:139): defamiliarization by epistemological critique and defamiliarization by cross-cultural juxtaposition (1986...


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...ith the high degree of interconnectedness that humans experience with other biological and technological beings, the mere study of humans is becoming ill-considered. Anthropology can no longer be seen as solely the study of humans; it is a study of complex interactions between human, non-human, the living, and the non-living. In an age where previously assumed truths are being uninhibitedly questioned, anthropology is working to do the same. Through these multidisciplinary approaches, anthropology is able to study the non-hierarchical total phenomena of existence, including both humans and their earthly counterparts. While anthropological study is not remotely close to being idealistic, contemporary study has brought forth a rejection and revision of its colonial history in order to study the amalgamation of influences that generates human, and non-human, experience.

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