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In and Out of the West

Reconstructing Anthropology
Maurice Godelier. Translated by Nora Scott
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BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813927077 · $49.50 · Jun 2009

Is anthropology simply a continuation of colonial domination and cultural imperialism by other means, or has it--since its nineteenth-century rebirth as a purportedly scientific discipline--produced reliable knowledge about the cultures it studies? Is anthropology a mirror--which reflects only the preoccupations of the (Western) anthropologist--or a window, through which it is possible to see, though not with the same eyes as their members, other cultures?

Deriving from the 2002 Page-Barbour Lectures delivered by the French anthropologist Maurice Godelier at the University of Virginia, and supplemented by additional lectures and articles by the author, In and Out of the West addresses a series of fundamental topics and issues in social anthropology--including family, kinship, and the construction of the self. He particularly emphasizes the strategic role of political-religious relations in the construction of societies and social life.

Godelier places social anthropology in its historical perspective, with its origins in the West and, more particularly, colonialism, while also arguing that it has to some extent transcended its origins, achieving a measure of scientific objectivity and validity that cannot be reduced to a continuation of the colonial project. A final chapter, reflecting his experience as the first head of the science department of the new Quai Branly anthropological museum in Paris, discusses issues surrounding the presentation of nonwestern cultural artifacts to a Western general public.

About the Author(s): 

Maurice Godelier is an internationally acclaimed anthropologist best known for his fieldwork among the Baruya, a New Guinea Highlands tribe, detailed in his ethnography The Making of Great Men. He is also the author of The Enigma of the Gift and The Mental and the Material, among other important contributions. He is Directeur d’études at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

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