As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, anthropological theory has (for better or for worse) a genealogical orientation and I’ve been trying to figure out how this orientation operates because I will probably be teaching a course on ‘anthropological theory’ in the future. One of the ways I’ve been trying to figure out this history of anthropology has been to look years which seem like turning points — or at least pivots — in (US) anthropological theory. Since I am doing ‘contemporary’ theory I have focused less on the pre-WWII period and tried to focus on some moments that seek key to me. I have a big piece of paper where I’ve plotted important books on a timeline. Here are some years that stand out for me just in terms of publishing:
1957/58: The New Ethnography — componential analysis and cognitive linguistics
1966: The year structuralism hit. Savage Mind, etc. etc.
1972: Anthropology Today (Berreman) and Rethinking Anthropology (Dell Hymes) — politicization and relevance
1981/82: Post-Steward Columbians: Europe and the People Without History and Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities
1986: Objectivity? We don’t need no stinkin’ objectivity: Writing Culture, Anthropology as Cultural Critique
1997: Culture, Power, Place and Anthropological Locations.
One of my professors in grad school once remarked to me there is a bit of an academic rain shadow effect — your professors teach tend not to teach about their professor’s generation (because they are rebelling against it?), so you never learn about it in grad school. Then you learn about it, rebel against your professors, assign your students to read the generation of professors who taught your professors, then your students never read your professor’s work, they graduate… etc. etc…..So I am particularly interested in learning more from y’all about the ‘soft’ spot in my knowledge of the history of anthro between the period now firmly declared ‘classic’ (pre-Kroeber’s textbook Anthropology) and Ortner’s “Theory In Anthropology Since The Sixties” (1984) whose definitive construal of this period I have been struggling to get out from under for the past couple of years.