Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sources on Contemporary Anthropology - 1

The following is the first of several posts from members of Fishnet (the listserv associated with the Network of Christian Anthropologists) suggesting sources that can help readers become better oriented to contemporary anthropology.

[This was in response to a request in the entry below titled "Christians, World View, and Contemporary Anthropology - 2."]

From an anthropologist in the United States:

Octopus metaphor [mentioned in that post]: How about culture as rhizome? This is from Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which is neither readable nor short. Nevertheless, it's hugely influential among anthropologists who like to see culture as a weed (crabgrass) or a potato plant, where there's no root, trunk, or branch. Instead, there are stems, leaves, and little roots. Fertile nodes find good soil and sprout, and send out tendrils that do the same thing in the next plot. If the “parent” node dies, no big deal--the “rest” of the plant keeps growing. Everything's connected, the plant is more-or-less recognizable and consistent, but not in a central, determining way like an octopus.

A couple of really useful and clearly written books for everyone (not just hipster anthropologists [like me] who were in graduate school in 2000) are Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities ( and Arjun Appadurai's Modernity at Large, in particular his article “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”
( and its various “-scapes.”

I'm not saying these guys are right—there's plenty to criticize here! I just put them forward as ways to read your way into a “worldview” if you will—learning to see the world the way some very influential writers have, which might be useful.

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