January 13, 2012
It has long surprised me how anthropologists from different societies don’t argue much. American, or Japanese, or Indian, or Mexican, or Brazilian anthropologists might argue vociferously with one another over anthropological issues because they share a common reference group. But we don’t see, as much as might be expected, arguments between a Japanese, a Mexican, and a Bulgarian anthropologist over the changing meanings of “culture,” the different global impacts of neoliberalism, the different cultural effects of global tourism, nationalisms and how they play out in different societies, and so on. We don’t see many genuinely global arguments.
Why? One major factor is language. English has become the de facto international language, but many anthropologists around the world are far more comfortable writing in their own language. Computer translations may be improving, but have a long way to go before they can enable a truly global anthropological communication. A second reason is the history of the discipline: anthropology over its history has long been largely a matter of those from richer societies investigating those of poorer societies across the globe (or richer members of a given society investigating its poorer, often indigenous members), and so the idea of a global anthropology has taken a long time to fully emerge. Today there remains a power difference in world anthropologies, with an Anglo-American core, and semi-peripheries and peripheries. This power imbalance works against the emergence of a genuinely global anthropology.
But it’s time to overcome this. This blog and forum can maybe serve, in a small way, as a means of overcoming the barriers to global anthropology. Let’s discuss things! Let’s argue! Wherever you are from, write down your opinions on any aspect of anthropology in the world today and send them on, to the e-mail address listed below. We’d love to hear from you and throw your work out there to a global audience! Send us a blog! Register on this WCAA website and give us your comments!
World Council of Anthropological Associations