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Document Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/book
Title: Zwrot refleksyjny w antropologii kulturowej
Authors: Kruszelnicki, Wojciech
Keywords: antropologia refleksyjna; antropologia postmodernistyczna; refleksyjność; metodologia nauk społecznych; nauki o kulturze; badania kulturowe; wiedza o kulturze
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Dolnośląskiej Szkoły Wyższej
Abstract: The present book is an in-depth study in theory, methodology and epistemology of cultural anthropology with references to various conceptions of contemporary continental philosophy, cultural studies and to the descriptive praxis of ethnography. The object of my consideration is one the most important notions in contemporary anthropological theory: reflexivity. The main hypothesis of this study holds that within the last few decades cultural anthropology has been undergoing a “reflexive turn”. Its beginnings date back to the late sixties of the twentieth century, its peak can be seen in the mid-eighties with its momentum slowly declining in the nineties. The historical context and philosophical inspirations of the reflexive turn can be traced in the uneasy period of postcolonial transformations and in critical discourses of the second half of the twentieth century that have brought about more than one “crisis” stimulating the social sciences to reform their epistemologies and practices, postmodernism being the most syncretic of them. On the general level the book concentrates on the examination of the meaning and function of reflexivity in cultural anthropology. Numerous definitions of the term are provided, one of them following Jürgen Habermas and saying that reflexivity constitutes an intellectual activity which renders the whole body of interpretive processes employed by a social science the proper object of its study. Likewise, anthropological reflexivity is construed as a consistent attempt to understand the role our presuppositions, prejudices, scientific strategies, and tacitly presumed data play in the cognitive process and ultimately in its final effect, as constituted by the ethnographic description of a culture. Anthropological reflexivity is posited as a strategy that specifically accentuates the problem of both theoretical and socio-cultural determination of any knowledge of the social world. Recurring in the contemporary anthropological theory is the postulate to make of anthropology the object of an anthropological study. This powerful call, as my book intends to show, does not only come from the anthropologists themselves, but can be heard across the humanities. Its basic premise is that all forms of social knowledge are historically located, socially generated, and theoretically and philosophically predefined – an idea correspondent to late modernity’s acute awareness that human knowledge of the social world is culturally determined and thus in many ways limited. Seen from this perspective, anthropological reflexivity offers an intriguing insight into the manifold ways in which anthropological knowledge is constructed, or, to be more precise, into the ways cultural anthropology constructs the object of its cognition within the historically complex set of its cultural practices. The introductory part furnishes an outline of the book and specifies main concepts and categories to be used in the course of the presentation. Amongst them is the definition of culture – epistemologically inclined, as it is easy to notice. The notion of culture understood as a way of intersubjective interpretation of the world permeats all my investigations into various discourses of reflexive anthropology. The aim of the first chapter is to discuss the significance and function reflexivity has had for contemporary anthropological theory. I present the main definitions of reflexivity as provided by scholars representing sociology and anthropology alike. By so doing, I attempt to forge my own definition of the crucial term. In the second chapter I look at reflexivity from the historian’s perspective in order to uncover the conditions on which this category – although cherished by the most current anthropological discourses – can be regarded as a legitimate element of the history of the formation of the discipline’s critical self-awareness. The thesis I want to defend here is that in order to properly, that is, historically and philosophically account for the problem of reflexivity in anthropology, one needs to take into consideration not only the newest history of this phenomenon (characterized by a peculiar intensification of anthropologists’ meta-reflection), but also to observe its past historical manifestations as present in the works of the classics of anthropology. Basing on the premises of the history of ideas, I attempt to work out the methodology that would allow the presentation of reflexivity both as an intellectual current in contemporary theory (whose genesis can be shown historically and whose program can be philosophically analyzed) and as an intellectual strategy existing in the history of anthropology. I argue that although it may not constitute a coherent doctrine, reflexivity manifests itself in the writings of the classics in the form of early anticipations of the discourse of the reflexive critique of anthropology. The third chapter goes on to examine the historical context from which cultural anthropology as a modern science was born and attempts to extract from the works of three, classical anthropologists (Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski and Claude Lévi-Strauss) the element of reflexivity. The theoretical insights uncovered therein are posited as early anticipations of the problematic explored by the discourse of the reflexive critique of contemporary anthropology and thus as components of the history of anthropological reflexivity. The fourth chapter of the book brings an analysis of the wider historical and philosophical background for the reflexive turn in cultural anthropology. I advance a thesis that the emergence of radically new ideas and discourses of reflexivity in anthropology had its source in an unprecedented rehabilitation of philosophy in the social sciences of the second half of the twentieth century. It is philosophy’s critical questioning that has shifted the social scientists’ attention from the problems of methodology and theory to the problematic of epistemology and ontology. My presentation goes on to discuss those philosophical conceptions that have triggered anthropology’s focus on the mechanisms of its cognition and spawned the vexing question: what is it that different factors and tacitly assumed beliefs introduce into anthropological cognition of a culture, and in what way they determine it and mark its limits. The conceptions under examination are: the intellectual legacy of positivism and post-positivist philosophy of science that contradicts it, hermeneutics, sociology of knowledge, and postmodernism. In the fifth chapter I extend the previous examination onto the field of anthropology and present the crucial intellectual events that have shaped the process of the reflexivization of anthropology. The dynamics of the reflexive turn in anthropology is shown throughout six sub-chapters, each discussing a separate conception and commenting on the determined, constructivist, and ultimately cultural aspect of anthropological knowledge. Anthropology’s historical, political and ideological predicament is evidenced in the presentation of Talal Asad’s and Edward Said’s critique of the discipline’s colonial complicity, be it conscious or unconscious. Next, attention is focused on early definitions and calls for reflexivity as delivered by scholars such as Bob Scholte, Barbara Myerhoff, and Jay Ruby. This analysis is followed by a complex examination of the program of Clifford Geertz’s interpretive anthropology which specifically emphasizes its critical thrust that lays fundaments for the textual critique of ethnographic practice. Textual critique is discussed in the corresponding investigation of the “writing culture debate” as spawned by the seminal publications of James Clifford and George Marcus. Following are sub-chapters that discuss the contribution of feminist studies and experimental ethnographies into the process of the reflexivization of anthropology. I conclude this part of the book with a proposition of five different types of reflexivity to be discerned from the various discourses of meta-anthropology. The last chapter of the book furnishes an examination of the intellectual legacy of the reflexive turn in cultural anthropology. I summarize the contributions of the reflexive critique into anthropological theory and ethnographic practice and show the main fields of the meta-theoretical reflection generated in the discipline as a result of the reflexive turn. The thesis defended here holds that understanding of the fact that anthropological knowledge is to a large extent culturally, theoretically, and personally determined must result in the renouncing of certain dogmas of conventional, “scientific” and “objective” anthropology, but at the same time it opens new possibilities of social research. It by no means suggests, though, that anthropologists should neglect the exigency of respecting the basic standards of scientific investigation, lest they be regarded pragmatically as purely conventional. In the final part of the chapter I emphasize the significance the constructivist and culturalist epistemology might have for the progress of the social sciences. The reflexive turn in anthropology seems to bring back to our attention the problem of culture as a distinctive object of social research. It is cultural studies, I am led to conclude, that is destined to continue the work of the reflexive critique of anthropology, although the stakes are now much higher. One of the strategic aims of cultural studies could also be to examine scientific activity as a form of cultural practice and politics, that is, as an activity deeply determined and structured by historically variable patterns of thought, along with the conventions, norms and values discernible through cultural analysis of scholarly works.
ISBN: 978-83-62302-40-6
Appears in Collections:WNP – Publikacje i manuskrypty

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