File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 128

Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2001 21:06:06 +0000
Subject: anthropology...


In the days when Bateson was writing the 'Bali: the value system of a 
steady state' anthropology was always dealing with the hear and the now, 
but the hear and the now was always actually someplace far away. Reading 
it always made me/you feel engaged in being a sort of tourist - similar 
to those interminable travel books - there is always a tendency for the 
text to be, not a reading of the place the writer was supposedly 
describing, but a reflection of the ethnologists originating culture. 
Occasionally a piece of materialist (read marxist or structuralist) 
anthropology would describe and perhaps define some element of the 
economy of the place - from desire, the symbolic, through politics to 
exchange value and use value, but this work remains somehow unconvincing 
because once again the ethnographers original culture was riding them 
like the proverbial monkey on their back. Too often then it was a 
radical tourism. For years I waited for the African or Amazonian to 
return the favor and write the anthropology of the North London Suburbs 
or the Po valley. But still more recently the anthropologists have begun 
to return home. Probably because as the post-modern has become 
completely dominant, globalisation has made the G20 countries, the 
anthropologists home cultures, more fascinating than ever.

The definition of anthropology seems to be as follows: research deals 
with the issue of the other. The question of the other is the main 
intellectual issue, the baseline from which the diverse fields of 
investigation start from. It is the case hoiwever that it deals with the 
other in the present - we are of course dealing solely with the human 
other - a level of exoticism defined against the dominant 'us', the 
other as reference point for the ever diversifying regime of 
differences.... The other aspect is of course that anthropology is 
finding itself facing the strangeness at home - the contemporary world 
we exist in with its ever mutating transformations and the strange new 
phantasies it produces about itself - from the cyborg to shopping 
centres - this seems to produce a new focus on new social terrains of 

But I suspect that this isn't the anthropology Eric has in mind.... I 
imagine that Eric is thinking in terms of the passage from the symbol to 
the sign, whose history might be followable as an anthropology... but if 
not what is?

Bateson - stated that there is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is 
an ecology of weeds.... (pathologies of epistemology). The ecology of 
ideas constitutes a system that propagates itself and it is basic tenet 
that an error branches out and mutates like a parasite generally 
creating a mess (i can think of some stunningly bad ideas...)



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