Accepted Paper:

What has anthropology learned from the anthropology of colonialism?  
Peter Pels (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation focuses on recent scholarship in anthropology, discussing the potential effects of the anthropology of colonialism's historical consciousness on anthropological ontologies (such as 'culture' and 'development'), epistemologies (such as 'fieldwork' and 'method') and ethics.

Paper long abstract:

The emergence of an anthropology of colonialism in the 1990s has generated the possibility of reflecting critically on the cultural and historical embedding of the discipline of anthropology, offering what is in effect a historiography of the discipline’s present. How has this historical consciousness changed the contours of the discipline? Has it allowed anthropologists to critically distance their discipline from its intimate involvement with the world of modernity, development and the welfare state, as it first emerged under colonial rule? Has it forged an anthropology that, instead of targeting and thus essentializing otherness, now studies the processes by which human differences are constructed, hierarchized and negotiated? This presentation focuses on the recent scholarship in European and North American anthropology in order to discuss the potential effects of the anthropology of colonialism’s historical consciousness on anthropological ontologies (such as "culture" and "development"), epistemologies (such as "fieldwork" and "method") and ethics. It thus tries to answer the question whether the critical promise of the anthropology of colonialism can be fulfilled.

Panel P1
Colonial legacies: the past in the present