Central Sites, Peripheral Visions

Central Sites, Peripheral Visions

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The terms qcenterq and qperipheryq are particularly relevant to anthropologists, since traditionally they look outward from institutional qcentersq-universities, museums, government bureaus-to learn about people on the qperipheries.q Yet anthropology itself, as compared with economics, politics, or history, occupies a space somewhat on the margins of academe. Still, anthropologists, who control esoteric knowledge about the vast range of human variation, often find themselves in a theoretically central position, able to critique the quniversalq truths promoted by other disciplines. Central Sites, Peripheral Visions presents five case studies that explore the dilemmas, moral as well as political, that emerge out of this unique position. From David Koester's analysis of how ethnographic descriptions of Iceland marginalized that country's population, to Kath Weston's account of an offshore penal colony where officials mixed prison work with ethnographic pursuits; from Brad Evans's reflections on the qbohemianismq of both the Harlem vogue and American anthropology, to Arthur J. Ray's study of anthropologists who serve as expert witnesses in legal cases, the essays in the eleventh volume of the History of Anthropology Series reflect on anthropology's always problematic status as centrally peripheral, or peripherally central. Finally, George W. Stocking, Jr., in a contribution that is almost a book in its own right, traces the professional trajectory of American anthropologist Robert Gelston Armstrong, who was unceremoniously expelled from his place of privilege because of his communist sympathies in the 1950s. By taking up Armstrong's unfinished business decades later, Stocking engages in an extended meditation on the relationship between center and periphery and offers qa kind of posthumous reparation, q a page in the history of the discipline for a distant colleague who might otherwise have remained in the footnotes.... Andamanese children carried off to be raised in the settlement nursery to rumors of Jarawas attempting to escape into the ... documentation of prisoner escapes and tallies of manufactures in their monthly reports (Man 1932; Portman 1990). ... Barnet Ford, superintendent of Port Blair from 1864 to 1868, believed that residents should be free to come and go as ... during the night, he opposed a proposal to send a military detachment to retrieve them (Roy and Choudhury 2002:5 1 ) .

Title:Central Sites, Peripheral Visions
Author:Richard Handler
Publisher:University of Wisconsin Press - 2006-10-04


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