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The Misrepresentation of Anthropology and Its Consequences

Herbert S. Lewis
American Anthropologist
Vol. 100, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 716-731
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/682051
Page Count: 16
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The Misrepresentation of Anthropology and Its Consequences
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Abstract

Critiques of anthropology from within the discipline and from without have been a major feature of our intellectual life since the late 1960s. The theoretical and empirical bases of cultural and social anthropology have been under attack since the Marxist and New Left critiques of the 1960s to those coming more recently from poststructuralism, postmodernist and literary theory, and postcolonial and cultural studies. As a result, several academic generations have been educated by reading the attacks on the field but rarely dealing with the actual theoretical works and ethnographies of earlier anthropologists. This article deals with several of the most common charges leveled at anthropology, notably that it has regularly and necessarily exoticized "Others," has been ahistorical, and has treated each culture as if it were an isolate, unconnected to any other. It demonstrates how inaccurate and easily falsifiable such claims are and recommends a critical reevaluation of these unexamined and destructive cliches.

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