Globalisation as diffusion? Critical re-assessments and contemporary researches 
João Leal (Universidade Nova de Lisboa -Center for Research in Anthropology (CRIA))
Jean-Yves Durand (CRIA-UMinho)
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Wednesday 27 August, 9:00-10:45, 11:00-12:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This workshop explores the possible interplays between current research in globalisation and the critical reassessment of some of the major categories of diffusionist theory, examining the ways in which its accomplishments and shortcomings are relevant for current agendas of anthropological debate.

Long Abstract

Globalisation has become a major topic of contemporary anthropology. Such an interest has stimulated numerous researches about processes of restructuration and circulation of cultures around the globe, in which concepts such as hybridisation and creolisation have played an important part. The issues addressed by this growing body of literature are mostly viewed as new developments in anthropological research. Yet, it can be argued that this new interest in cultural globalisation is in some ways a return to an old topic of anthropological research: diffusion.

Having played an important role in the development of USA anthropology and European ethnology, diffusionism and its contributions to anthropological thought have been widely overlooked. The main objective of this panel is thus to critically re-assess diffusionism in the context of current anthropological researches on cultural globalisation. What can we learn from classical approaches of processes of cultural diffusion? What were their shortcomings and their accomplishments? How can we engage a critical dialogue with diffusionism? Which of its aspects can be useful today in order to study phenomena taking place on a reduced scale and which do not necessarily pertain to global dynamics?

These and other similar questions can be answered through a) critical analysis of the canonical texts of diffusionism and b) ethnographical case studies interested in a critical dialogue with the categories developed by diffusionist theory. In both cases, this panel is intended as a contribution to the ongoing calls for a critical dialogue between contemporary anthropology and the classical texts on culture.

Accepted papers: