Strecker - Chapter 11 | eBooks | Non-Fiction

Strecker - Chapter 11

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Convictions: Embodied Rhetorics of Earnest Belief

I begin this essay with two polemical propositions. First, I oppose the strong separation of material and symbolic that appears to be the parochial inheritance of Cartesianism in social anthropology, and regard it as an intellectual proxy for relegating certain groups of people into past time or primitive status — Fabian's (1983) "allochronism." However much some of our colleagues seek to avoid the problem by waggling apostrophe-like fingers every time they use the taboo word "primitive," they do not avoid the problem by ironizing it or by seeming to bury it in a self-deprecating gesture: it is apparently as hard to swallow the idea of the materiality of the symbolic as it is to accept the artisanal character of intellectual work or to recognize the theoretical capacities of informants who lack a formal education. These parallels are not a matter of chance: in much anthropological discourse, the symbolic can serve as a proxy both for "them" (when it is vague and unfocused) and for "us" (when it is intellectual), much as "nature" is both the standard of acceptability (as in the process of naturalizing power) and an attribute of otherness (as in notions of primitivity).

Convictions: Embodied Rhetorics of Earnest BeliefMichael HerzfeldI begin this essay with two polemical propositions. First, I oppose the strong separation of material and symbolic that appears to be the parochial inheritance of Cartesianism in soc
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