Accepted paper:

The Exoticizing Potential of Contemporary Anthropological Thought


Bruce Kapferer (UCL / University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Anthropology has rightly distanced itself from exoticism. As self-definition the discipline often sets itself the task of rooting out exoticism and de-exoticizing the potential of ruling frames of thought and conventional categories of understanding. The paper addresses this perspective but concentrates on the aporia of exoticism, the difficult of escape from it and its embedding in sovereign theory even that which is promoted in social philosophy explicitly to refashion anthropology anew and away from its origins in the Nineteenth Century.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropology is undergoing a major reconfiguration of thought. The claim often repeated is that anthropology is concerned with difference and diversity. Coupled with this insistence is a radical turning away from old concepts such as those of culture and society. Major reasons are that their boundaries were too hard and fast and that they over-stressed the homogeneity of value. Associated with this was a turning away from a conception of populations that were somehow outside or external to commanding political and economic forces. All this is true. But a critical argument that will be developed is that the conceptual and theoretical replacements, especially in the context of scientific and technological revolution and major political shift, no less engage or produce an exoticism that continue dimensions of that which is explicitly rejected. This is apparent in various anthropological attempts to reimagine the nature of human dynamics, e.g. in the idea of the post-human, that may be engaged in the reinvention of what anthropologists might aim to avoid. Of further concern in the paper will be the political position of anthropology and the processes within it that my exacerbate a growing irrelevance than relevance.

panel G22
Exoticisation, self-exoticisation: agency, identity and transformation