Paths Ahead? 1

This entire blog effort is devoted to finding “paths ahead” for a decolonized, liberatory, and public anthropology, and I do not want to render the effort entirely laughable here by presuming to rush to the finish line. However, since all projects begin with certain predispositions (otherwise, they would begin from nowhere), then in the spirit of stating one’s biases more openly, I will roughly sketch out below what some of the main lines of development could be, or are already. I have numbered this post “1” because I expect there to be many revisions and additional posts as the project matures over the years (hopefully it will mature).

  • Reform and articulation: that is, greater public engagement, not just making knowledge publicly accessible, but in fact working with the public in creating new knowledge; socializing the university; making open the process by which knowledge is constructed and presented (“open source” knowledge), and making that knowledge freely and widely available, contra the copyright culture and the privatization and commercialization of knowledge that, in the case of anthropology, came from the public itself and was funded by it (hence the need for “open access” knowledge);

  • Reformulation: completely revising the subject matter of anthropology and what is taught in colleges and universities; openly acknowledging the disarray and disrepair of “anthropological theory”, that it should not continue to be taught as if it were a solid canon, that students are somehow better off for having been “trained” in it; leading an “open social science” movement that thoroughly blends the sciences and humanities and creates new concepts, new themes, new research agendas; openness to multiple research methods, and no longer pinning “anthropology” onto the small back of “ethnography”; and,

  • Revolution: direct participation in processes of liberation; taking imperialism and capitalism as central subject matter because these are the central phenomena of our continuing world-system; action research; a focus on communication and new information technologies; decolonizing the epistemology and methodology of anthropology; the end of “discipline”, de-professionalization, and de-institutionalization (that is, anthropology as not the exclusive commodity of the university industry).

Given the expansive, increasingly undefinable, unrestrainable content of anthropology today (where one can already undertake virtually any research project and cultivate any interest), and given the unsteady location of the discipline between the sciences and humanities (which sits astride the two moreso than any other social science discipline), then anthropology might well be in a “privileged” position in that its creative self-destruction can act as a catalyst, a model, an inspiration for the creative self-destruction of the other disciplines…who knows.

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