He would have disparaged the abstract, theoretical and philosophical interests that I have developed, which is also a part of Manchester even though it was highly ethnographically grounded. Turner was very much influenced by Nietzsche, the psychoanalysts, phenomenology — Gluckman was thoroughly influenced by jurisprudence.
I also think that the training and the intellectual commitment that the Norwegian system allows, or did allow, anthropologists, is fantastic. Plus, your linguistic abilities and so on, are fantastic. Here I also found a really strong fieldworking department which, of course, Barth had set up. But I did encounter a sense that this place did in fact accept that it was peripheral, and secondary or tertiary to everybody else.
And I think what I have done is try to demonstrate that this is not true. To re-centre Bergen, that was my aim — this has already happened in Oslo. Norway has a very great density of anthropologists, again supported by figures like Barth and others, so it is in fact a major centre of anthropology. It should not be looked at as a periphery. And I go into seminars with the idea that there will be a critical voice from me especially if I detect any note of centrist superiority from visitors.
I think that is right. But you could also be accused of having introduced subversive, post-structural theory in this department, like the thoughts from Deleuze and Guattari etc. I think that has made a lasting impact here as well…. I remember when I arrived in Bergen there was a lot of hostility. But what was so great was there were some post-graduate students and I began a seminar with them. They responded and we developed a good dialogue. From initial suspicion then there was an acceptance of this irritation from the outside. So, I felt fantastically welcome, and able to develop thoughts here and in terrific cooperation with others.
It has been a tremendous experience. I now think, because of the spirit of the people in the department, the younger ones particularly, Bergen is really on the map again. Speaking of which: In terms of being on the map anthropology has in different ways continuously been called a discipline in crisis. In particular from the s onwards with first resistance against colonialism, then the end of colonialism and the political sensitivity in terms of arguments of anthropology being a colonial discipline and the radical position of claiming this was the end of anthropology.
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Later anthropology suffered the onslaught of postmodernism. Now one can perhaps say that beyond postmodernism lately academic capitalism has affected the discipline. How would you assess such crises and the future of anthropology as a discipline?
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Well, I think that anthropology has changed. I have got a sense that anthropology as a distinct discipline is gone. I think it has sunk into a variety of other things. It does not have its autonomy or its independence that it once had. In many ways the thing that is seen as its big problem — its tendency to totalize, its ability to go and study a whole society, to see people as if they were a whole society, no matter how right or wrong that conception is — it was that overarching holistic position which gave anthropology its distinction and enabled it to say a number of different things.
Now I think it is much more topic-centred and it therefore joins up with all sorts of other disciplines. What do I mean by that?
People are living that world less and less and doing more and more interviews, and so forth. And maybe the capacities to do that, as you look at various methodological developments from James Clifford and George Marcus and all these people, they recognize that the world has changed, become fragmented and so forth. Oh God! What is meant by that? Anthropology as a concept or word has become a kind of performative. Call something anthropology and it becomes anthropology without any real thought about what that entails.
Anthropology, it seems to me, is a critical discipline and unerringly critical. It constitutes itself as something that will enter other realities and their constitutive dynamics to find original kinds of thought and practice. In anthropology, human being and its practices is given authority as to what human being is as well as the nature of realities that human beings form. Through this approach anthropology is given to challenge what Deleuze would call royal theory or theory that is conceived aside from what it is that human beings actually do and which accords itself authority.
Anthropologists address realities that have in some way or another been submitted to royal theories but which may, in fact, radically challenge them. Anthropology is in Deleuzian terms a classic minor discipline — not in any inferior sense — but in according critical value to other ways of thinking and practice that may subvert the royal theories that have suppressed — created the minor of the minor theory — and open up to new kinds of understanding that may be proven to have very great general value see Deleuze and Guattari : , It has not got the relationship to ethnographic materials that it once did have.
And that is because of a new form of academic, the celebrity intellectual whose ideas are tested in the academic marketplace and which are all about self-advancement and less about knowledge. Ethnography has become more information — actually empiricist, an array of collected facts. This was a feature of old ethnographies but the best of them — Evans-Pritchard, for example — expressly recognized their ethnographies as constructions that depended on sets of premises that could be tested or challenged through an examination of the way the ethnography was constituted — and had emphasised certain facts, for example, over others..
More and more ethnographies these days strike me as chunks of data sandwiched between theoretical assertions of various kinds.
Anthropology in my view is not at first theory-driven. The theoretical is emergent from the ethnography. Ethnography should not be treated as mere illustration of theories already agreed upon — usually by those at the metropoles. In other words — and conversely — we should evade using ethnographic data or fieldwork material merely as illustrating theoretical positions? He proposes engagement with the way the phenomena of existence or experience are constituted as a way into understanding.
Deleuze offers a different kind of phenomenology to that conventionally offered.
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He looks particularly at what might be called events of creative emergence in which human and non-human forces are at work. Unlike many approaches in anthropology his orientation is fabulously open to potential not just in human creativity and invention but in the kinds of questions and finding of many other approaches outside anthropology. By the way, for me a seminar is a kind of event.
This is why I give them tremendous importance at Bergen, although many here might not agree. A seminar is an occasion to have ideas contested. They should not be passive occasions, just times for the dissemination of information, or moments when we can hear an important person. This was the point of the seminar at Manchester and I think we tried it at Adelaide. It was a great time to challenge thought and in the occasion or even in itself often very exciting ideas emerged.
Seminars are occasions of creative emergence. But back to the current changes: Somehow I think the development of celebrity intellectualism has even hit anthropology and this dampens the subject as a place of excitement. Seminars are egalitarian moments of challenge — they were so at Manchester — and in this space they can be creative. Celebrity intellectualism creates new forms of hierarchy. What I am suggesting is that the emergence of the celebrity intellectual is connected to the larger changes that are overtaking the universities.
The neo-liberalism that is establishing the life of the university feeds into the nature of thought — anthropological thought. Too much pressure is being placed on production and this is affecting critical areas of anthropology. There is a move away from the ethnography to the article. Yet it is the ethnography that is central to the development of thought in anthropology.
This I feel often demands years of intensive work. It cannot be produced hurriedly. Modern pressures on quick production are a factor in killing anthropology, anthropology as a very distinctive discipline. The pressure is for people to get their books out. We are asked to take on the speed of science and technology — itself motivated in the market. This is countervailing to the idea of anthropology. But do you think anthropology can still thrive in geo-politically peripheral places like Norway? Anthropology was a discipline of the periphery that gained its energy in the periphery.
You can recognize what the centre is, you can listen to the centre, and you can have suspicions about the nature of the centre. Whatever you think of these people, Boas — they are all peripheral. So Norway is important to anthropology, a great place from which to critically reflect on the metropoles. Is this also why there is a need to go to the peripheries to do fieldwork as well — to visit global peripheries — or is fieldwork universally applicable in a sense? However, the best time to do work in Norway is after you have done work somewhere else as you are then used to looking at the things that everybody thinks they know about.
It is a skill that should be learned, seeing the strange in the familiar. The ability to stand outside yourself in other words, is hard. Experience of difference is important. Is that also why you have moved through a number of fieldwork locations, and moved through a number of different analytical themes as well? I did work on Australia Kapferer d, c, .
Department of Anthropology
Such movement is related to my interest in Louis Dumont — who stresses anthropology as par excellence a comparative discipline — to see the difference in the apparently similar and the similarity in the difference. I think people misinterpret Dumont. He is against that comparison that merely works through oppositions and which fails to establish the ground either for the difference or the similarity.
For Dumont ethnography and fieldwork are paramount. I like to move around. But I want to be back in Bergen because, in a funny kind of way, it has allowed me to maintain my own autonomy to some extent. That is because people have been generous. You talked about the enthusiasm and the sense of if not necessarily revolution, then radical and political transformation when you were in Zambia at that time.
Zambia looks to me like many other newly independent places that have broken away from colonialism.