29 January 2011

Paternalistic neo-colonialism in 21st century anthropology

I am always surprised to see how little has changed in Anthropology since Clifford and Marcus' book Writing Culture (1986). As far as I can see, anthropologists still practice an implicit territoriality over their subject, their collections, their region and their "natives". They stubbornly adhere to the now completely discredited belief that they are not only the connoisseurs of Culture, but the mediators between the Modern and the Indigenous.

Access to the now institutionalised patrimony and inscriptions of the indigenous, appropriated over centuries largely without the consent, or even knowledge, of the originating cultures, are now strictly guarded by these marshals of cultures not their own. Is this just the last desperate grasping of a dying epistemology, or the resurgence of a new colonialism? Let's hope the former.

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