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Interview with Professor Hyang Jin Jung, Chair, Department

of Anthropology, Seoul National University

Virginia R. Dominguez ideological education, North Korea did not even exist on
Associate Editor for World Anthropology planet earth. The work with North Korean refugees pre-
Emily Metzner sented fascinating anthropological questions, again from an
Editorial Assistant for the World Anthropology section amalgam of the familiar and the unfamiliar. North Korea
soon became my other anthropological site. The biggest re-
Hyang Jin Jung is a professor and the current chair of the Department ward of researching North Korea is my realization that South
of Anthropology at Seoul National University in South Korea. Korea and North Korea may have walked a very different
She received her PhD in 2001 in cultural anthropology from the pathway on the route to modernity, but they are twins mir-
University of Minnesota, in the United States. Her research interests roring each other—perhaps like long-lost twins who grew
lie at the intersection of culture, self, and emotion, with the US up in radically different environments. I said earlier that I
and North Korea as her primary anthropological sites. Her ongoing started anthropology because I wanted to understand South
research projects include the emotional culture of contemporary Korea, and through North Korea, I come to better under-
postmodern US society and the psychocultural underpinnings of stand the puzzle that is South Korea. Of course, to us South
North Korean statehood and society. She is author of Learning to Koreans, North Korea is an urgent research topic, too.
Be an Individual: Emotion and Person in an American Junior Now that I do both the US and North Korea, it is inter-
High School (2007). esting that these two countries never talk to each other in
Virginia R. Dominguez (VRD): Can you tell us reality. They don’t even have a diplomatic relationship. But
about your work? I know you study both the United States they constantly talk to each other in me. Each presents theo-
and North Korea, isn’t that so? How did you come to choose retical questions to the other, back and forth. For example,
these sites? the theatricality of North Koreans’ public behavior makes me
Hyang Jin Jung (HJJ): When I came to the US for ask questions about the theatrical nature of self-presentation
a doctoral degree, I had Korea in mind for my disserta- among Americans and vice versa; the American preoccupa-
tion work. To me, South Korea, where I was born and tion with self-realization leads me to ponder about selfhood
raised, was the strangest place in the world and deserved among North Koreans under their political circumstances.
a full anthropological inquiry. After I finished my master’s VRD: You told me in person that you do not like
degree at Seoul National University, I collected extensive being interviewed. I think that is probably true of many
field notes over several years while working as a teacher anthropologists, but you still agreed to being interviewed for
and doing participant-observation in a junior high school. the World Anthropology section of American Anthropologist.
I planned to use these notes for my future PhD work. May I ask why?
Then at the University of Minnesota, I had an opportu- HJJ: I have this notion that musicians communicate with
nity to do a field study in an American high school for an their music; politicians with their political actions; writers
ethnographic methods course. That was truly my first seri- with writing; and scholars with their scholarly works.
ous “cross-cultural” experience. During the fieldwork at the VRD: But you interview lots of people.
high school, I kept asking questions that were very important HJJ: That’s for my ethnography—it’s different! But
to Korean teachers but “unfamiliar” to the American teach- maybe, after all the interviews that I’ve asked for, I should
ers. The coexistence of similarities and differences between sit for one too.
Korean and American schools gave me a visceral understand- VRD: So why did you agree to be interviewed by me?
ing of what anthropology is all about, I think. So I decided HJJ: Well, you asked, and it’s an honor to be inter-
to take an anthropological detour by doing PhD work about viewed and also maybe an opportunity to talk about Korean
adolescent socialization in a junior high school in the US. anthropology through my case. In no way do I represent
After that, I was going to do South Korea. But then, after Korean anthropology, but I’m based there.
I returned to South Korea, I joined a research team that VRD: Is it an honor because it is American Anthropologist?
worked with North Korean refugees. To my generation of HJJ: I wouldn’t deny the prestige that American An-
South Koreans, growing up under heavy anti-Communist thropologist has, but this is a forum for anthropologies from

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 118, No. 4, pp. 838–858, ISSN 0002-7294, online ISSN 1548-1433. 
C 2016 by the American Anthropological

Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/aman.12698

World Anthropology 839

different parts of the world to come together through this lack of public interest seem to discourage continuing field-
medium. If this kind of forum existed elsewhere, it would work in the US. I should tell you that I struggle to maintain
also be an honor to be included there, too. my research program on the US because it is very hard to find
VRD: Since I know that you have done extensive field- an audience in Korea. Even internationally, it’s very hard
work in the US, I must ask if the US is a popular area of to find anthropologists based outside the US but studying it.
anthropological study in the Republic of Korea (commonly It’s no wonder that I feel intellectually lonely.
known in the English-speaking world as South Korea) or if Another factor in my intellectual solitude concerns the
you are actually fairly unusual there. If you think that the US question of the relevance of anthropology to Korean soci-
is a popular area of anthropological study in the Republic of ety. My work on the US presents me with ethnographic
Korea, how does it manifest itself? And, if it isn’t, how does scenes and theoretical questions that are just as exciting,
that manifest itself? challenging, and fascinating as any other “exotic” culture and
HJJ: My US work is not mainstream in (South) that are extremely pertinent to contemporary life in South
Korea. In Korean academia as a whole, the US is frequently Korea. But when I am faced with this implicit principle that
studied, particularly in English literature, political science, academic research must be (directly) relevant and (imme-
international relations, and history. But it is not a popular diately) useful to Korean society, I feel like I can’t really
area in anthropology. For a certain discipline or research justify my US work other than saying that it is going to be
area to flourish, there has to be demand and support from useful in the long run. That’s why international relations
the general public. To the Korean public, the US appears too and English literature are two dominant fields in US studies
familiar and too distant at the same time to inspire, say, an in South Korea, the former supported by the importance of
anthropological romance. It is too familiar through Holly- the political alliance with the US and the latter by “English
wood and the market. American pop music and Hollywood fever.” Doing anthropology is already a luxury, and doing
movies have long been part of “modern” life in Korea. Now anthropology of the US seems to be a double luxury.
Starbucks is on every corner, and the obsession with the En- VRD: Are certain topics favored (and other topics not
glish language (especially American English, but in addition favored) in contemporary Korean anthropology? I was think-
to the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and ing of research specialties, but it might be interesting to think
Philippines are frequent destinations for middle-class Kore- of this also in terms of teaching areas.
ans studying English abroad) is gripping the whole country. HJJ: East Asia broadly conceived is the favored regional
The political and military alliance between South Korea and area, at least in our department. The East Asian focus has
the US is another factor that makes the US too familiar to three subareas: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and Korean
the Korean public. However, it is too distant for those of us Studies. Our department has historically emphasized East
living on the Korean peninsula, whose immediate regional Asia since its founding, first with Northeast Asia and later
concerns are mainly in Northeast Asia. The result is that expanding it to include Southeast Asia. Now that we’ve just
American popular culture and American politics are pop- received this state funding for graduate student training and
ular topics and mundane concerns among South Koreans, internationalization, we want to further strengthen the East
but American culture—culture as a way of life in a clas- Asian focus. The funding from the Korean government is a
sic anthropological sense—doesn’t seem to have a place in historic feat on our part. We won it over other very compet-
people’s imaginations. It’s interesting, and a bit paradoxical itive, bigger departments, like sociology and psychology, in
too, that my fieldwork site is in the Midwestern US, when both our university and other top universities, which ranked
it’s almost as though California (because of Hollywood and above our department in terms of the number of publi-
Silicon Valley) and Washington, DC (because of the White cations and other quantitative standards of evaluation. So
House) are the two locations that matter to Koreans and the we take this opportunity to really solidify our grounding in
vast in-between, including the Midwest, remains very much both academia and the broader public. The East Asian fo-
muted and unknown to the general public in Korea. cus is our attempt to be relevant to Korean society and the
Perhaps another reason that “America” (i.e. the US) is region at large, through anthropological engagement. We
not often seen as an object of anthropological study is that it also want to develop the Korean Studies component more.
is seen more as a force than a place where actual people live We think that it is high time for anthropological studies
their lives in their own cultural world, a force that seems of Korea, particularly because there are international de-
to force the rest of the world to become like America. Of mands on knowledge of Korean culture, many thanks to
course, there are the power relations of knowledge pro- K-pop and other K-culture industry. Our department is
duction that shape anthropological study, too. The US has receiving more international applications for graduate train-
historically been where the anthropologist comes from, not ing in the anthropology of Korea than ever before. Until
goes to. recently we have drawn international students most often
Korean anthropologists rarely do their fieldwork in the from China and Japan, but increasingly more applications
US. Some did their dissertation work in the US while study- are coming from other parts of the world as well. Presently
ing in degree programs there, but once they are based in we have students from China, Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan,
Korea, the sheer physical distance and perhaps the perceived the Emirates, Spain, and the US. International students are
840 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

usually interested in Korean culture and society, but some American one indeed, it heavily relies on American concepts
study their own society, too. of self, emotion, and person as building blocks. Think about
VRD: So they must be fluent in Korean? They take self and emotion. These are key concepts in psychological
classes in Korean? anthropology, but they are drawn from very individualistic
HJJ: Yes, they take classes in Korean. In our depart- conceptions of the person and psychic process. We all know
ment, several classes are taught in English by our newly experientially that emotion is something we personally feel
hired Prof. Olga Fedorenko and once in a while by me, but but that it is also social currency. Emotion is generated in the
the majority of classes are done in Korean, so international interpersonal and intersubjective arenas and, as such, flows
students must be fluent in Korean. The graduate school of through persons. But the very concept of “emotion” limits
Seoul National University allows thesis writing in English, our understanding of human emotional life. The concept of
so some international students opt to write their theses in “person” is more useful in the Korean context, but “self” is
English, especially if English is their first language or they again a heavily (American) culture-laden concept so that we
have competency in English. Even then, if they are work- have to be very careful when applying it cross-culturally. I
ing on Korean culture and society, we try to train them in guess any theoretical concept has this risk of being culture
academic Korean, because they should be able to utilize the bound. We just need to recognize it and try to expand our
Korean scholarship on their chosen research topic. conceptual tool kit beyond the concepts grounded in the
Outside our department, there are quite a few Korean American and Western intellectual and cultural traditions.
anthropologists whose regional specialty is other than East Yet South Korea is a great place for psychological an-
Asia, such as India, Mexico, and Nigeria. Some of our stu- thropology. Affective relationality is a core value among
dents are doing their work on other areas, too. Uzbekistan, Koreans. There is good reason why Koreans are so adept
Catalonia, Iran, India, and Cuba are among recent past or at creating melodramas for film and television. Korea has a
current field sites of our master’s and PhD students, while very rich affective culture plus a very complicated relation-
the majority of our students do their fieldwork in various ship with modernity after its dynastic history.
parts of East Asia. VRD: Have you considered working in the US?
VRD: You chose to come to the US to get graduate HJJ: I am often asked that question, both by Koreans
training (and you did so at the University of Minnesota). and Americans. Something about me invites that question,
May I ask why? And do you, therefore, tend to see yourself it seems. I always felt a little bit outside Korean culture.
as doing US-style anthropology even if you are based in Korea is a puzzle to me. Other Koreans tell me I’m a little
Korea? “off”—that I’m like an American in some ways. My child-
HJJ: My BA was from Pusan National University but in hood friend told me that I’ve always been this way, even
the College of Education. After my master’s degree course- before studying in the US. Maybe it has something to do
work in anthropology at Seoul National University, I worked with Korean sociability and my introversion. I need a lot of
in a middle school—a junior high school—for a while as an space. In Korea, people place a high value on being socia-
English teacher. During that time, I also wrote my master’s ble. I never liked engaging in everyday sociability, but I am
thesis on teachers’ social organization. After the master’s not reserved when it comes to intellectual debate and emo-
thesis, as I became more immersed in teaching, I came to tional expression. So, my general shyness combined with
develop interests in human development, socialization, and expressiveness and straightforwardness may be [viewed as]
personhood—classic themes in psychological anthropology. an interesting combination. I am feeling very reluctant to
I wanted to come to the US for doctoral training simply discuss this personal feature of myself. Whatever that is, my
because anthropology was more developed in the US at that sense of being “psychoculturally” at the periphery of Korean
time. Also, a practical reason was that I had some compe- society makes me an anthropological observer of my own
tence in American English; I didn’t want to have to learn society and drawn to psychological anthropology.
another foreign language or a different English for my doc- But when I am in the US, I feel acutely that I am Ko-
toral studies. Other than that, I didn’t know much. I had rean after all—yes, psychoculturally and otherwise. I have
some ideas about what I wanted to do in anthropology, certainly familiarized myself with some aspects of American
but the rest was sort of worked out for me. I was just so culture, especially through my fieldwork experiences, but
fortunate to have two excellent teachers in psychological that has nurtured my intercultural sensibility more than any-
anthropology, Kathleen Barlow and John Ingham, and one thing. Also, in the US, I am seen as a “scholar of color.” I was
in educational anthropology, Marion Lundy-Dobbert, at the taken aback upon first hearing the phrase “scholars of color”
University of Minnesota. at a conference. Color: I imagine colors, colorful, hues. I in-
Psychological anthropology still fascinates me, for its ul- stantly thought of pink, blue, green, so I didn’t comprehend
timate concern about the intertwining relationship between the term at first, but then I realized that the person meant
the psyche and the sociocultural world. I really think that scholars of “minority” backgrounds in the US and that this
psychological anthropology sustains my youthful fascination term referred to me whether I liked it or not. My own pre-
with anthropology that I felt in my early twenties, when I ferred identification would be as an “international scholar”
first discovered it. But because this subdiscipline is a very instead of a scholar of color. I say this, because people
World Anthropology 841

outside the US do not necessarily see the world according to enhances defense capacity against North Korea while the US
the racial terms used in the US. I know that the term “schol- pursues its agenda in Northeast Asia. Koreans as a nation are
ars of color” is not meant to apply to international scholars, a people very proud of their history and identity. Just note
but in some sense it does apply. the fact that Korea has remained to this day a people with a
VRD: How are you perceived by colleagues in Japan? distinct tradition and cultural identity, in between China and
China? Japan throughout their long history, despite the many inva-
HJJ: In Japan, I am seen as a Korean scholar. In China, sions, subordination, and even colonization. As I mentioned,
as Korean. the US and the former Soviet Union recently entered this old
VRD: In fact, what relationship is there, or has there historical and regional drama surrounding the Korean penin-
been, in your country with anthropology in Japan, or an- sula, further complicating the already-complicated regional
thropology in China, anthropology in Russia, anthropology situation. Most Koreans are not so naive as to believe that US
in the US, anthropology in Taiwan, anthropology in North troops are in South Korean territory only for the interests of
Korea, or elsewhere? Many of these are very large countries. South Korea, but if US troops are the price we have to pay
Some have colonized or at least occupied the Korean penin- for deterring North Korea, that’s what we pay. But to me,
sula for some years, and some are (or have been) outright and I believe to almost all Koreans, it hurts to be thought of
enemies of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). as “colonized.” Some of us intellectuals, of course, talk about
HJJ: We talk about “East Asia” as a region, but East Korean society being in a neocolonial situation, but “being
Asia as such seems to be a fiction when there is so much in a neocolonial situation” is not the same as “colonized.” We
political and military tension. Yet it is becoming a reality know all too well what it is like being colonized.
more and more, I think, with the increasing interdependence VRD: I hope I didn’t cross the line there. I posed that
of the countries it represents, first and foremost through the question more as a Latin American and (at least part of the
market. China, Korea, and Japan in Northeast Asia have time) a Latin Americanist than as an interviewer for AA.
long had a history of contestation and rivalry as well as HJJ: Yes, any interview involves inter-viewing, so the
cooperation. In the already-complicated regional dynamics, interviewer is revealed too!
the USSR (now Russia) and the US entered the region in the VRD: I absolutely agree. Speaking of North Korea, do
early 20th century and more directly at the end of WWII, you or your colleagues tend to view North Korea in a cer-
the Korean peninsula becoming the chief politico-military tain way? You also do anthropological work that focuses on
stage of the old and new regional drama. North Korea, but are you unusual among your South Ko-
Korea is in the midst of all of these superpowers that seek rean colleagues in doing that, or is there serious widespread
to maintain influence there. Japan, China, and even Russia interest and work on North Korea among anthropologists in
are so close by, and the US has military troops in South Korea, the Republic of Korea?
and we have North Korea too. I guess that regional histories HJJ: Yes, North Korea plays a big role in Korean think-
can be very complex anywhere, but no other country has all ing and is studied seriously in many disciplines. But doing
the superpowers as either their neighbors (friends or foes) anthropology on North Korea is not easy, if not impossible.
or allies. Historically, the challenge for Korea has been to There are several Korean anthropologists who produced
steer its own course through the powers. Culturally, this great anthropological works on North Korea, mostly on
situation leads to the Korean preoccupation with cultural the political culture. I think that I, as a psychological an-
identity, combined with national pride. I can only say that thropologist, am in a better position to do anthropology of
Korea is a fascinating place for anthropological study. North Korea, compared to general sociocultural anthropol-
Today, peace in the region appears very precarious. I ogists. The North Korean propaganda materials, which are
think that for anyone in the region, and for Koreans in par- my main data, are like a treasure trove to a psychological
ticular, regional peace is not something that can be compro- anthropologist. North Korea may be an extreme case, but
mised for nationalist causes or anything. Our department as for this reason, it is a case in point to show how the state uti-
a community of anthropologists views mutual understanding lizes the psychocultural ground of the society and culturally
as crucial to regional peace building, in which anthropology constituted psychodynamics of individuals for its political
should take active part. As I mentioned earlier, the East purposes.
Asian focus of our department represents our attempt to be I would love to do fieldwork in North Korea, but that is
relevant to the region. not possible at the moment. Once, on a tourist trip to Kum
VRD: Is (South) Korea not best seen as “colonized”? Gang San, although the village life was shrouded from the
HJJ: Oh, you have to be careful there! It is true that US tourists along the roads, I could see glimpses through the
troops did not retreat from the peninsula after the Korean cracks in the barriers. I wanted to get off the bus and walk
War, instead making permanent bases in many parts of the across the barrier and talk to people. At the mountain, there
country, which is something that North Korea always makes were North Korean vendors. I wanted to ask them about
an issue of. But rather than a colonial encroachment, this their lives, but I couldn’t. We had to be very careful.
is better seen as a military alliance between South Korea VRD: You are now chair of your department at SNU
and the US, born of mutual national interests—South Korea (Seoul National University). I presume that means that your
842 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

colleagues (or at least the deans) trust you. Do you think anthropologists, broadly conceived. The biological anthro-
that you and your work are seen as examples in (South) pologist is a relatively recent addition, so we have yet to see
Korea of really good anthropological work being done now how the subfield will “evolve” in the department. In fact,
and perhaps even the kind of anthropological work stressed we are the only anthropology department in Korea that has
as good for the near future? the biological subfield. I think that the composition we have
HJJ: It is our custom to have all full professors take reflects both US anthropology (because we incorporate bi-
their turn as chair, and it was my turn shortly after I was ological anthropology and linguistic anthropology) and the
promoted. But I think my colleagues do trust me. German tradition of folklore studies, the latter probably via
VRD: Can you tell us about the grant you’ve been Japan. In the early 20th century, Japan introduced folklore
awarded? studies to colonial Korea, which became a nationalist enter-
HJJ: My colleagues and I have recently been awarded prise to many intellectuals at the time. In Korea, [the field of]
a very big grant from the national government to really folklore studies garners more popular appeal than anthro-
develop and train students in a globally oriented type of pology, due to the public’s longing for the “lost tradition.”
social science, this grant program being called “Brain Korea So our department wants to capitalize on this public support
21.” We are very excited about this. It started in the spring for researching traditional culture and folkways.
semester of 2016. The grant money is about 350,000 USD VRD: How is anthropology perceived in South (and
per year, totaling around 1,600,000 USD for four and a even North) Korean universities? It is not a large discipline,
half years. Approximately 60 percent of the money will be right? Is it considered a social science? Is it considered a
spent on scholarships and fellowships for our graduate stu- liberal–leftist or progressive discipline, a politically conser-
dents and postdoctoral fellows, and the rest will be spent vative discipline, or something else altogether?
on other internationalization efforts. Our students have had HJJ: Institutionally, archaeology is considered indepen-
some funding for attending international conferences, ex- dent of anthropology and part of the humanities, aligned with
change programs, and overseas fieldwork, but now with history, art history, or cultural anthropology. Anthropology
this grant, we will be able to fund more students and more varies. In some universities, it is in the college of humanities
money for such activities. Along with the existing support and in others, in the college of social sciences. It is often
from the university, this grant will be a big boost for our combined with archaeology in regional universities under
graduate students. Editorial costs for writing and publishing the name “department of archaeology and cultural anthro-
in academic English is another area that we will be spend- pology.” Overall, there are ten universities and one graduate
ing the money on. We’ll be training students to be scholars institute (Academy of Korean Studies) with an anthropology
in both Korean and English. And . . . oh dear. It’s diffi- department or program, either jointly or independently. In
cult. We still want them to produce strong scholarship in the Seoul metropolitan area, there are five, including Seoul
Korean. National University. The other six are in regional univer-
VRD: Your own department consists largely of socio- sities. In general, anthropology departments are small and
cultural anthropologists, with one biological anthropologist constantly face the question of relevance to Korean society,
and one linguistic anthropologist, if I remember correctly. the question to which major social sciences like economics,
Archaeologists are employed elsewhere on your campus. political science, and sociology have been “providing” more
Are these numbers a reflection of how anthropology is gen- generally recognized answers.
erally perceived in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), The number of anthropologists who are institutionally
and is this largely the result of US anthropological influence employed is around 120, while the membership of the
or Japanese anthropological influence? Korean Society for Cultural Anthropology numbers over
HJJ: Anthropology in (South) Korea didn’t really de- 250. Other than anthropology departments, many are em-
velop until the 1970s, when our department at Seoul ployed in general divisions and some other departments like
National University was established. In our university, ar- sociology, human ecology, or religious studies. Some are in
chaeology is in a department that is joint with art history research institutes and museums, too.
and is located in the College of Humanities. Anthropology The ideological spectrum is different in (South) Korea,
is a separate department in the College of Social Sciences. at least in part because of North Korea. If you are too “leftist,”
We started as a joint department with archaeology in 1961, there is the danger of being seen as a Communist, in line
but we separated and moved to social sciences in 1975. with North Korea. People tend to be more conservative
Our department has one biological anthropologist (trained because of that, although I note that the strong cultural value
in the US, who does biometrics and osteology), one linguis- placed on communalism and egalitarianism compensates for
tic anthropologist, and one anthropologist in folklore studies the ideological constraint to some degree. I would think that
(trained in Germany). Our predecessors decided that folk- anthropologists in general tend to be on the “liberal” side in
lore studies should be part of our department. We are 11 social issues.
in total, including an upcoming replacement hire this fall. However, in the public’s perception, anthropology as a
Out of the current ten faculty members, one does biolog- discipline is perhaps considered “something else” altogether,
ical work and the other nine are considered sociocultural something that is wonderfully interesting and [that] you
World Anthropology 843

would do only if you didn’t have to worry about how to K-anthropology would be part of, and contribute to, the
earn a living. Last semester, when we did an undergradu- “global commons” of anthropological knowledge by bring-
ate conference in our department, undergraduate students ing in theoretical and ethnographic dimensions salient in
staged a drama about what anthropology is to them. One the Korean context yet with broader implications, such as
student said, “Students in other departments like economics state–society relations, affective relationality, and familism
complain about how difficult their study is; well, anthropol- (e.g., in markets, social organization, and politics), as well as
ogy is even more difficult, because we have to explain what by engaging in theoretical and ethnographic dialogues with
it is.” It was hilarious, and I thought that line well reflected other anthropologies from global and regional traditions.
the positioning of anthropology in the university as well as We tend to think of globalization as Westernization,
in the general public. Americanization, but I envision more centers of influence.
VRD: Is there an effort these days to create a specifically That’s the opportunity for Korean anthropology—moving
Korean anthropology, and would this be something you beyond “the West and the rest.”
would support? Do you ever worry that such a question or Emily Metzner (EM): What did you mean when you
movement could just lead anthropologists in the Republic said that the US is a “reference point” more than an object
of Korea to be antagonistic to other anthropologists outside of study?
the Republic of Korea or at least not very interested in what HJJ: In scholarship, the perception tends to be that
anthropologists do around the world? works by American scholars are the works that ought to be
HJJ: At least in our department, in recent years, referred to and cited. In the real world, too, at least in
we have taken seriously the possibility and feasibility of Korea, in policy making and organizational structuring—
“Korean anthropology” within the kind of constraints we for example, in education, welfare, and industry—the US
have, like anthropology’s marginal position in Korean model is often taken to be the model to refer to. It is difficult
academia and the immense pressures for academic globaliza- then to relativize American scholarship and US models, to
tion. Since 2014, our department has held a series of interna- view them as one of many possible options. This is, I think,
tional conferences to explore and promote Korean anthro- related to the lack of anthropological studies of the US. At
pology and at the same time to expose our graduate students the heart of doing anthropology is relativizing a given cultural
to global trends in anthropology. By Korean anthropology, phenomenon in the comparative horizon, but the US seems
we do not mean to be antagonistic to other anthropologists to be located outside the comparative horizon. It is ironic
or anthropologies outside Korea. Far from it. Our intention that the US as a society values and promotes diversity, but
is to establish an intellectual tradition of anthropology that “America” as a reference point to the rest of the world drives
is open to global engagement yet reflects our particular con- uniformity rather than diversity. I am not saying that the
cerns and intellectual heritage as Korean anthropologists. American people are driving this. It seems that “America” as
Just to take a metaphor: I am not a fan of K-pop, but still a force, phenomenon, or condition is something that all of
it sparks inspiration. Who would have thought K-pop and us on the globe face, including Americans.
“Gangnam Style” would become the global phenomena they VRD: Are there questions you wish I had asked here? If
have become? Pop music as a genre was obviously imported so, please tell me and proceed to answer it (or them) here.
from the West, and the US in particular, but I believe the HJJ: No, but thank you, Virginia and Emily, for your
“K” part of K-pop is what gives it global appeal, whatever incisive and daring questions! Thank you also for being such
that appeal may be. “Gangnam Style” is a satire on the fast- attentive interlocutors. This was wonderful. Like any good
tracked affluence that South Korean society has achieved. As interview, this interview compelled me to look back and
such, it humorously and brilliantly takes issue with the kind forward, and in and out. Me as a psychological anthro-
of modernity and modernization that South Korea has so pologist, as an anthropologist of the US and North Korea,
relentlessly embraced. I know that an academic discipline and as a Korean anthropologist, all at once. Many thanks
cannot be produced and promoted like the culture in- and cheers to the World Anthropology section and world
dustry, but I dream of something like K-anthropology. anthropologies.

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique
of the Mediation Processes

Anthropologies and Anthropology in Tension: A Preface

Susana Narotzky organized by the Committee for World Anthropologies
Universitat de Barcelona, Spain (CWA) of the AAA, with the sponsorship of the WCAA
(World Council of Anthropological Associations), at the
The articles by Gordon Mathews, Yasmeen Arif, and 2015 AAA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The idea
Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima came out of a roundtable was to revisit the accomplishments and challenges of World
844 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

Anthropologies in the present and assess the ambivalent the hegemony that operates in the global knowledge
positionalities of those who labor to connect the various field. Against the background of this hegemonic practice
anthropological traditions. Ten years after the founding (British-American), there is a danger of exoticizing “the
of the WCAA, with the revitalization of the IUAES (the rest” or of reproducing an arbitrary division mirroring the
International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological arguably obsolete “Area Studies” model. Indeed, being
Societies) and the presence of the CWA within the AAA, defined as producers of “peripheral,” “subaltern,” or even
the roundtable sought to address the practice of mediation “indigenous” theory sets them immediately in contrast to just
between hegemonic and nonhegemonic knowledge tradi- “theory” and as external or tangential to the master matrix
tions. It sought to clarify the experience, within academia, of anthropological knowledge. Yasmeen Arif, following
of anthropologists trying to mediate between knowledge Derrida’s insight, has engaged with this issue by highlighting
practices situated in an unequal power field. The process the distinction between evidence and testimony that can
by which nationally embedded knowledge extends outward be respectively assigned to hegemonic and nonhegemonic
to reach knowledge produced elsewhere in order to engage knowledge. This raises the question of the tension between
in a wider intellectual conversation is often described as “world anthropologies” and “world anthropology” that is
“internationalization.” However, as Souza Lima brings to highlighted by Arif and Mathews from different positions
our attention, this process is not innocent of either internal and different locations of the practice of anthropology.
or external power forces. Both contributions propose the centrality of teaching
The roundtable asked participants to address two sets anthropology for the debate on world anthropology versus
of articulated questions: (1) What brokerage positions are world anthropologies. This is a crucial aspect in the process
developed by those who actively engage in international- of deprovincialization and decolonization of anthropology,
ization? How are actors who are engaged in these processes one that appears clearly when teaching anthropology in the
positioned by their own local academic communities alleged peripheries of knowledge production. Here, propos-
(e.g., as facilitators, opportunists, heroes)? (2) What ing a syllabus becomes infused by power dilemmas: one may
new distributions of power and knowledge are produced surrender to the dominant knowledge; one may become an
through this internationalization process? Should they be activist in support of the (local) subaltern knowledge; or,
challenged, monitored, transformed, or supported? How in the spirit of world anthropology–world anthropologies,
does this affect nonhegemonic anthropological traditions? one may attempt to create a conversation between them
Is a new kind of epistemological space emerging, one that and address their tensions. To do so, however, we need to
embraces theory produced from very different political know about anthropological production around the world,
positionalities? In sum, what are the worldwide effects of something that ICT (Information and Communication
this process for anthropological knowledge production? Technologies) tools may help to achieve. The experiment
Forging new connections on equal terms between of Déjà Lu, the e-journal of the WCAA, which publishes
anthropologists in different parts of the world was part of (in their original languages) articles selected by the national
the more general move to open the theoretical conversation associations of anthropology as significant knowledge
to local participants and collaborators in ethnographic contributions, is commendable, and it would be valuable to
research. This was a move to decolonize the practice and the support and expand this initiative. A different experiment
theory of anthropology. However, connections between is that of Vibrant, an e-journal of the Association of Brazilian
different ways of producing anthropological knowledge Anthropology (ABA) that translates pieces written in
are often mediated by individual scholars or academic Portuguese into other languages such as French, Spanish,
institutions that acquire the ambiguous position of “broker.” and mostly English in order to expand their audience.
They might be seen as belonging neither here nor there; Mediation is often a task of facilitation that requires
they might be thought of as serving their own interests; interpreting the intended meanings of the parties in
or they might be hailed as leading their local–national conversation. But it is also an issue of gatekeeping, as
anthropologies toward a better position in the global power Gordon Mathews’s article points out. This gatekeeping
geometries of knowledge production. can be observed in teaching, mentoring, grant proposals
There is a danger in highlighting the differences and funding, and publication. The key mechanism in
between “traditions” of anthropology instead of underlining gatekeeping is that of setting standards of anthropological
their similarities. There is also a problem when the concept “quality.” Standards produce a grid for exercising power.
of a “national tradition” homogenizes practices within a They produce a framework that appears as neutral but is
nation that are extremely different among them (e.g., in fact strongly embedded in a particular power-knowledge
opposed methodological schools or theoretical frameworks) structure. The styles for presenting a problem and its
but that might be part of a wider international community background and proposing a hypothesis grow out of
of thought. Nevertheless, there seems to be a process for historical developments and regional hegemonies (e.g.,
defining what “good” theory is that rests on a sociotechnical the German style was hegemonic in Europe in all sciences
and spatial locus, making determinations about the “value” at the turn of the 20th century). When teaching our
of knowledge that permeate the field. This is, I suggest, students and colleagues to use a unique standard, we
World Anthropology 845

are undoubtedly helping others to get past the selection Thomson standard (one of the strongest hegemonic tools in
panels or reviewers, but we are also acting as gatekeepers and the evaluation of scientific production). National allocation
reproducing a hegemony that collapses quality into form. of funding for research projects that promise to “internation-
Language is also crucial. English, which has become an alize” the dissemination of findings (which means publishing
international instrument of communication, is not neutral in ISI journals) has increased contributions in English by non-
to the native speaker of other languages. The English of anglophone anthropologists, but the effort to accomplish this
non-English speakers is inflected by their native grammar is considerable and goes generally unrewarded. Hence, the
and the “spirit of the language.” Language is also an will to participate in wider conversations may paradoxically
instrument for excluding the circulation of non-anglophone result from an imposition of the hegemonic benchmarking
knowledge production in the international arena. Indeed, as model.
Souza Lima’s article exposes, many anthropologists cannot The three articles presented here come from a US
express themselves in English fluently or at all, which does anthropologist working in Hong Kong for over 20 years,
not mean that they are not theoretically contributing to an Indian anthropologist working in Delhi who has done
anthropological knowledge. Speaking and writing in English fieldwork in Lebanon, and a Brazilian anthropologist both
comes at a cost for the non-anglophone, increasing internal working and doing research in Brazil. Their experiences of
differentiation in national contexts between those who practicing anthropology are very different, yet they present
attend English-language international conferences and those important commonalities. The most salient one, I suggest,
who don’t. Therefore, mediation is generally taken on by is the rejection of a multiculturalist understanding of world
those able to speak and write in fluent standard English or anthropologies that would stress the incommensurability of
those who have the money to get their contributions trans- different traditions. Instead, these anthropologists express
lated. Internationalization of strong national anthropological a will to participate in a single world anthropology, a global
practices, such as those of Brazil or Mexico, may come as body of knowledge that will engage multisited and histori-
a result of internal impact measurement by national institu- cally embedded theories in an ongoing conversation that will
tions that adopt the ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) need to negotiate the power effects of a multipolar world.

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique of the
Mediation Processes


Between World Anthropology and World Anthropologies:

An American Anthropologist in East Asia as
Gordon Mathews ical Sciences (IUAES) had anthropologists from 69 differ-
The Chinese University of Hong Kong ent countries. The American Anthropologist now includes a
subsection devoted to world anthropology in every issue;
The globalization of anthropology is no longer simply a de- editorial boards of major journals published in the United
sirable future but rather a present reality. It used to be that States and Western Europe increasingly consist of anthro-
anthropology consisted of scholars from the United States pologists from around the world. All of this testifies to a
and Western Europe studying tribal peoples within their recent explosion of interest in world anthropology as well
colonies; more recently, anthropology has consisted of peo- as to the globalization of anthropology as a discipline. Ulf
ple from rich countries studying people from poor countries, Hannerz (1996) defined “the global ecumene” as a world in
as is still the case today, although to a lesser extent than in which we all are also increasingly engaging with one another
the past. The World Council of Anthropological Associa- in a common forum. This is the situation of anthropology
tions (WCAA), founded in 2004, now has 49 members, today.
consisting of presidents of anthropological societies across This globalization is inevitably eroding the power of
the globe, including the United States, Japan, China, India, what has heretofore been the intellectual hegemon. The
Chile, Mexico, Tunisia, and the Philippines. It holds regular more that anthropology is global, the less it is “American”—
yearly meetings and fosters numerous research initiatives that is, from the United States—and, in a broader sense, less
to explore how anthropology may exert global influence. Anglo-American and European American. The leaders of the
At its most recent full meeting in Manchester in 2013, American Anthropological Association—its presidents, of-
the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnolog- ficers, and administrators over the past decade—have been
846 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

extraordinarily welcoming toward the emergence of global from a different intellectual tradition of anthropology that
anthropology. However, the rank-and-file of US anthropol- they had better conform to my norms of anthropology if
ogists have not been interested. Panels concerning global they want to succeed in the department of which I am chair.
anthropology offered at the AAA annual meetings have gen- When I advise a candidate for promotion or tenure that she
erally been sparsely attended over the years as compared, for had better try to publish more in English in well-known
example, to similar panels offered at IUAES. This is entirely Western journals, this may represent anthropological com-
understandable—your average graduate student or assistant mon sense—as well as passing down what is perceived as
professor in the United States probably has more immedi- common sense by university administrators at my institu-
ate concerns than global anthropology, namely finding and tion and in Hong Kong at large (see Faure 2001; Math-
keeping a job within the profession. Who can blame them? ews 2009)—or it may represent the imperialistic enforce-
But this may be based on a misunderstanding of current ment of my own hegemonic standards on younger scholars
market realities. As the United States sheds anthropologi- for whom these standards may seem distinctly foreign and
cal positions, East Asia adds them: I know of several dozen unwelcome.
US- or British-trained anthropologists who have been able Obviously, both of these positions—that of a single
to find jobs as anthropologists in East Asia in recent years, global anthropology with a single standard of judgment and
having been unable or unwilling to be employed in the soci- that of multiple global anthropologies with multiple stan-
eties in which they received their anthropological education. dards of judgment—are to some extent valid. There is a
Global anthropology is not only an intellectual movement common global anthropology, or at least aspects of a com-
but an economic movement as well, as other parts of the mon global anthropology, with broadly common ideas of
world, such as East Asia, increasingly begin to supersede the what the discipline consists of in its premises and methods.
Western world economically. This is why I can teach in Hong Kong with some degree
I am an American by birth and an American anthropol- of confidence. I have never yet had a student or colleague
ogist by training. I attended graduate school in the United say, “You can’t understand my vision of what anthropology
States, but I have taught in Hong Kong over the past 23 is because you are US trained, whereas I was trained else-
years, and I lived in Japan for some eight years before that. where.” (This is partially because so many anthropologists
I am thus in an ambiguous position. My ambivalence is in Hong Kong have received graduate training in the US
personal—I have no idea anymore where my home is be- or the UK; in Japan and China, I have indeed received such
tween Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States—but it responses from a few anthropologists, although certainly not
is also professional. It is rooted in my simultaneous roles from most.) I do not believe that this lack of critical response
of interpreter of East Asian and US anthropologies to one is only because of false consciousness on the part of my stu-
another and of gatekeeper, judging East Asian students and dents and colleagues. Rather, there really does exist a global
colleagues regarding the anthropological quality of their ef- anthropology with standards that, while not uniform and
forts. This gatekeeper role includes grading students and homogenous, are also not radically disjunctive: worldwide,
considering their research proposals; evaluating the research we anthropologists are for the most part broadly engaged in
proposals and employment, tenure, and promotion applica- the same common endeavor.
tions of professional anthropologists; and, as an editor of However, there are indeed significant differences in na-
Asian Anthropology, evaluating submitted articles, through tional traditions: to take just one example of many more that
referees, as to their worthiness for publication. All of these might be mentioned, Japanese anthropologists are some-
activities involve me, as a US-trained anthropologist, judging times seen as being wholly immersed in ethnographic data at
the quality of the work of anthropologists from other intel- the expense of theory, while anthropologists in the United
lectual traditions. If anthropology is indeed one—that is, if States, by contrast, may be seen as being obsessed with the-
there is a single global anthropology—then my judgment ory at the expense of ethnography. I have written about “the
may be apt. However, if there are multiple global anthro- referee system as a barrier to global anthropology” (Mathews
pologies, then my judgment, and my capacity for judgment, 2010), and indeed it is a barrier, in the sense that referees,
is questionable. and teachers too, are gatekeepers enforcing, to at least some
On the one hand, when I, as editor for Asian Anthropology, extent, US hegemony. Both of these views—of world an-
request that a Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani anthropologist thropology, on the one hand, and world anthropologies, on
rewrite a paper, this may represent my effort to make this the other hand—have their legitimacy; the problem is how,
paper meet global standards for anthropological publica- in particular situations and circumstances, these two per-
tion; on the other hand, it may represent my imposition of spectives can be disentangled. I have spent my career trying
US standards on other anthropologies—my exercise of US to understand this.
hegemony. When I tell a mainland Chinese graduate student World anthropology, based on the idea of a single
in my university that her research proposal is not interesting global anthropology, necessarily involves a singular vision of
and she needs to rethink it, this may represent the universal what anthropology is and should be, and this tends to be
training of anthropology graduate students everywhere, or Western anthropology, particularly US anthropology. Dif-
it may represent my role as a US gatekeeper telling students ferent anthropologies around the world continue to more or
World Anthropology 847

less take their cues from the theories of US anthropology. dards of anthropological citation will become ever broader,
But there are ongoing features of anthropology in the United leading citation indexes such as the SSCI (Social Sciences
States today that make it distinctly unsuitable to be the world Citation Index) to increasingly represent not just the West
gatekeeper and hegemon of anthropology. but the world, as is resoundingly not the case at present
The trend in US anthropology over the past 50 years, (Mathews 2015:368). I am convinced, because of the West’s
since Clifford Geertz and the postmodern wave that fol- relative economic decline—leading gradually and indirectly
lowed him, has been to write in a more and more complex but inescapably to the relative decline of Western and US
and literary way, one that in its complexity privileges native anthropology as well—that other anthropologies, particu-
writers and speakers of English. This has made US anthropol- larly those of East Asia but of a range of other societies
ogy less comprehensible to non-native speakers of English as well, will increasingly contest US anthropological world
than it once was and, thus, more provincial (see Ribeiro hegemony.
2006:377–378 in his discussion of “metropolitan provincial- We now live in a multipolar world of political power,
ism” in US anthropology). Earlier US anthropologists such and we will increasingly live in a multipolar world of an-
as Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Marvin Harris wrote thropological power and influence. This calls for a world
for a larger audience, but this is generally no longer the case anthropology more than world anthropologies—but it will
(albeit with a number of notable exceptions, among them involve a range of competing anthropological centers, allow-
David Graeber). US cultural anthropology is generally dis- ing for far more diversity than we currently foster. We will
tinctly harder than in earlier eras for non-native speakers indeed come to live in a global anthropological ecumene,
of English to understand. This is due not simply to trends as is only beginning today but will definitely be the case in
within US anthropology itself but also to the tenure sys- decades to come. This, I think, will be a far better anthro-
tem, requiring “advances” in theory every few years for a pological world than today, and I look forward to seeing its
new generation of junior academics. This is not the case in ongoing emergence.
many other societies, where academics are granted lifelong
employment upon hiring. Also, because academic publish- REFERENCES CITED
ers and university presses in the United States have enough Faure, David
readers within the anthropological world itself to make it 2001 Higher Education Reform and Intellectual Schizophrenia
largely unnecessary to reach an audience beyond the anthro- in Hong Kong. Ritsumeikan Journal of Asia Pacific Studies
pological world, anthropologists typically do not pursue 8(December):80–85.
such audiences, writing almost entirely for themselves and Hannerz, Ulf
their students. This is not the case elsewhere: in societies 1996 Transnational Connections. London: Routledge.
without such a large anthropological establishment, anthro- Mathews, Gordon
pologists must write for an audience of scholars in other dis- 2009 Hong Kong Chinese Professors within the “Western” Uni-
ciplines or the general public, or else they will have almost no versity Model. In Higher Education in East Asia: Neoliberalism
readers. and the Professoriate. Gregory S. Poole and Ya-chen Chen,
In a globalizing world of globalizing universities, we eds. Pp. 99–106. Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Sense.
are moving away from global anthropologies toward global 2010 On the Referee System as a Barrier to Global Anthropology.
anthropology. This is inevitable in the coming decades, I The Asia-Pacific Journal of Anthropology 11(1):52–63.
think, but it will also bring into increasingly sharp relief the 2015 East Asian Anthropology in the World. American Anthro-
conflicts of evaluation that I earlier described. One can only pologist 117(2):364–383.
hope for the emergence of a global anthropology based not Ribeiro, Gustavo Lins
in native-speaker English but in universal English, enabling 2006 World Anthropologies: Cosmopolitics for a New Global Sce-
more and more of the world’s anthropologists to communi- nario in Anthropology. Critique of Anthropology 26(4):363–
cate with one another. One can also hope that world stan- 386.
848 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique of the
Mediation Processes


Anthropologizing the World and Worlding the

Yasmeen Arif to disentangle my issues from those that came before. My
Department of Sociology, University of Delhi, India issues are endorsements, largely, of those positions as much
as they are overlaps.
In anthropology’s immense archive, the geographical catalog A brief note on my “location”—I teach in India in a
is a significant one. This catalog has mapped the anthropolo- department of sociology and was trained there as well in
gist onto specific geographical localized specializations, and traditions conventionally belonging to sociology and socio-
over time it has added the contours of the global and the cultural anthropology, and while both features signal par-
planetary as well. In that movement between the local and ticularities of institutional history and intellectual profile,
planetary, the discipline and its foot soldiers have sensed my trajectories have been somewhat atypical. My disserta-
a politics as much as a challenge in knowledge production tion fieldwork was located in another region of the “Global
practices—in empirical, conceptual, and institutional terms. South” (Lebanon), and my work since then has covered
At this time, that challenge seems to formulate itself thus: on India, Africa, and Lebanon. My research commitments are
the one hand, how does a geographically located discipline in questions of violence, in queries of life and affect, and
encompass the planet (“anthropologize the world”) and, on in studies of the urban, money, and a few other concerns.
the other hand, what is the imagination of a geographical For more than a decade, I have been engaged as a contribut-
“world” for a located anthropologist (“worlding the anthro- ing member of the WAN, the World Anthropologies Net-
pologist”)? Direct as that double articulation may seem, I work (http://www.ram-wan.net), and I have written about
do not intend to simplify, for instance, the complexity of world anthropologies and world anthropology in relation to
how ethnographically located epistemologies negotiate the questions of history, theory, philosophy, and epistemology
issues of universalizing theory or how anthropological issues in anthropology.
no longer remain located (cf. Arif 2015). But then, these
are not new problems. Critical anthropology has certainly * * * * *
addressed them; however, I reiterate them here in order to The roundtable hosted at the 2015 AAA Annual Meeting in
provide a milieu for the queries and responses I develop in Denver, Colorado, interrogated the internationalization of
what follows. anthropology in a two-part question (see Narotzky, this is-
“Anthropologizing the World and Worlding the An- sue), and I interpret those parts here as underscoring a basic
thropologist” is thus a phrasing that emerges from the title of query: What does it mean to separate and connect world an-
the 2015 AAA roundtable: “Between World Anthropologies thropologies and world anthropology? The “World Anthro-
and World Anthropology.” First, “World Anthropologies” pology” section in American Anthropologist, initiated in 2014,
commemorates the publication, ten years ago, of Arturo provides a backdrop for an engagement. I cannot adequately
Escobar and Gustavo Ribeiro’s edited volume of the same summarize the enormous wealth of information, views and
name (Escobar and Ribeiro 2006) and the concerns of anthro- perspectives, passions and politics, and power and position-
pological knowledge production that the volume brought ings that have been written about by many anthropologists
into focus. From that volume, I retain the importance of covering a potentially infinite range of nuance and concern
engaging with both the intellectual and political project of in the last couple of years. Bringing them to this platform of
pluralizing anthropology. Second, “World Anthropology,” visibility is an achievement, a signal of world anthropology’s
the title of this section of American Anthropologist (AA), un- coming of age. Yet, if I were to place these essays in front of
derlines a label that I use (with some extrapolation) to frame that mirror we know from fairy tales—the one that is able to
a disciplinary coherence for an anthropology of an intercon- reflect how things really look—I would have to speak about
nected world. This is a coherence that I seek to excavate a slight sense of déjà vu (quite like the child that saw the
from the pluralized horizon of anthropologies in order to naked emperor and uttered the unsayable). The reflection
propose an analytical distance, but not a separation, from the that I find (yet again) is the area studies paradigm. The clas-
politics, pluralities, and inequities of its global institutional sificatory system of world anthropology has an undeniable
mapping. In both of these threads, this discussion learns from resonance with that of area studies. We discuss countries,
the immeasurable diversity of issues that both of the above for example: Ireland, Argentina, or Mexico. We recognize
formulations have expressed, and at the least, it will be hard regions: South Asia, Latin America, East Asia, and so on.
World Anthropology 849

Within those locations, we certainly understand a range of empirical that grounds theory, is still largely generated in
topics of research or issues of concern: language, identity, the metropolitan centers.1 This power to create evidence is
folklore, colonialism, and globalization, as well as history, the power to dictate what Anthropology (with a capital “A”)
hegemony, dominance, and the metropole. This is a reduc- is, its correctness and truth value, who speaks for the disci-
tion, yet it illustrates how anthropology has not taken us pline and who does not, who will critique it (and how) and
far from the cartographic imaginations that the area studies who must not, how roles are to be cast and played, and how
paradigm spawned. others are to be structurally recognized and positioned—for
Regions, countries, and locations design the boxes in example, as the subaltern, the native, the authentic, the ex-
which we pack anthropological knowledge. Ethnographic pert, and the anthropologist of and from the “Global South.”
fieldwork itself is a located exercise that structures The choice of evidence that a disciplinary journal (like AA)
anthropological ontology. Anthropological work is about publishes is taken as given and technically correct. To this ev-
embedded locations in “areas” or “regions” that have their idence, the other world anthropologists may pose their testi-
meanings captured in the specificities that anthropologists monials. This is reminiscent of our disciplinary past when pe-
typically frame as cultural, political, economic, and social. ripheral anthropologists were (and are) often treated as “na-
The salience of those factors remains without question. tive informants” whose work, while providing testimony to
However, a “World” anthropology that imagines an inter- bolster the theories emanating from the centers, cannot per
connected planet invokes the complementary question of se participate in theorizing. Concepts that will give meaning
where anthropologists are to be located in an epistemological to description must always emerge from a centered thinking
cartography and in an ethnographic imagination that circum- (and I might add, from those who are also located in the cen-
scribes a mesh-worked world. To be sure, anthropology ter). Conversely, “appointing” the native as expert does not
has long approached global interconnections and planetary necessarily address the problem of what world anthropology
links. In all respects, without a sense of a planetary imagina- could or should be—oppositional positioning is not what I
tion, the economies, politics, cultures, and socialities of the suggest here. The effect for the decentered anthropologist,
contemporary can hardly be reckoned with. But imagining whose scholarship is taken as testimonial and not evidence,
an ethnography of the world requires rethinking the is constant negotiation with faith, with “truth telling,” and
cartography that situates an anthropological ontology and, with appeals to credibility—and that testimonial divide is a
more specifically, the positioning of anthropologists in that problem that needs attention. How can peripheral anthro-
cartography. pologists be anthropologists without iterating the evidence
For concerns limited to this article, the problem is a is the core of that problem. That is why I still insist on taking
transparent one. We are now imagining a global stage where a fresh look at the kinds of subject positions that are being
neither the major characters nor the script has really changed. cast when international anthropology mirrors area studies.
Increasingly, however, localized anthropologists are called Anthropology seems destined to treat geographical lo-
upon to play marginal or “supporting” roles. That is, out- cality as the ontological ground that leads to classifications
side of the hegemonic centers, anthropologists are mostly even when its horizons become necessarily international.
called upon to provide supporting ethnographic fill to bolster World anthropology must be world anthropologies, where
metropolitan theory. Critique—not just opposition, which the plural is a list of insurmountable borders and stark
can change the terms of that theory—is also a privilege often outlines. There are structural reasons for this, as Derrida
protected within the metropole, again to be supported by the states above, “reasons that are essential and not contin-
outside. Jacques Derrida’s (Derrida and Steigler 2002:93– gent.” Most fundamentally, the located anthropologist who
94) words below suggest for us a nuanced reading of a works outside the centers is mapped—that is, geographically
familiar set of words—testimony and evidence—in order to essentialized.2 I question how much of those essentialized
lay bare the relationship between world anthropology and histories are informing the geographies of the future, and
world anthropologies: that is why I ask for another glance at what epistemological
“identity” stereotypes are continuing to be sustained and
A testimony has never been or should never be mistaken for what else might be created. Though many of them emerge
evidence. Testimony, in the strict sense of the term, is advanced out of the ressentiment of wounded peripheries or identi-
in the first person by someone who says, “I swear,” who pledges
to tell the truth, gives his word, and asks to be taken at his word
ties, it would be useful to reflect on whether or not we
in a situation where nothing has been proven—where nothing are quickly being co-opted and turned into a roster of pre-
will ever be proven, for structural reasons, for reasons that are given stereotypes while we scramble for citizenship in world
essential and not contingent. It is possible for testimony to be anthropology. The challenge for me is not so much the cre-
corroborated by evidence, but the process of evidence is absolutely ation of a world map of contiguous but separate territories
heterogeneous to that of testimony, which implies faith, belief,
sworn faith, the pledge to tell the truth, the “I swear to tell the but, rather, the issue of sharing a common discipline that
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” can work without a built-in sense of hierarchy and yet be
sensitive to how the world map now stands in terms of the is-
I suggest that what is regarded as anthropological ev- sues and research plans that fuel anthropological knowledge
idence, which for me encompasses theory as well as the production.
850 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

* * * * * world anthropology in order to understand it, reflexively and

This inevitably draws me to the grand question: What is expansively, and to craft and sustain an inclusive, integrated
world anthropology? Why is it necessary that there be a discipline and not a fragmented, disintegrated intent. In my
separate section of an established journal in the discipline to classroom, I would want to think about and also convey
identify this paradigm? One answer is that this section comes the place(s) that method and epistemology have in creating
out of a political recognition of the disparities involved in the knowledges and theories that I discuss and that I aspire
anthropological knowledge production. Or, perhaps, this to make in what we can call anthropological knowledge.
section can begin to answer questions like the following: This is not knowledge that should be just another utterance
How do we craft an object of inquiry called world anthro- in a cacophony of voices and languages, nor should it be a
pology relevant to the discipline in the contemporary? What dilution of integrity (or quality) in the name of multiplicity. It
subject matter or research agendas capture the sense of lived should certainly not be a “diaphanous mouthpiece of eternal
life emerging on a horizon that differs from our conven- pedagogy.”3
tional landscapes? What theories, methods, epistemologies, The postcolonial spaces we inhabit are aspirational
and politics are most equitable and suited to the task? How spaces in which some of us insist on the right and respon-
do we move on from the area studies paradigm, or what sibility to articulate knowledge claims, more so in univer-
is the project of world anthropology in this vista, and how sities than in other places. These are spaces in which we
do we frame the interactions and collaborations that this ought to have faded away self–other binaries such as center–
horizon makes possible (cf. Arif 2015)? periphery, colonizer–colonized, and hegemonic–resistant
Tracing the above contours in the negotiation between that prevail upon us in this paradigm. These are spaces in
world anthropology and world anthropologies, I turn to the which we could try to envision a relationship of other to
concern embedded in the second query that the roundtable other or, in more self-respecting ways, that of self to self.
prompted: namely, knowledge and power in the interna- Through our scholarship and our pedagogies, we seek to
tionalization process. While we find our places on a global hear, learn, know, and then speak. Most of all, we speak in
map and learn to construct a world anthropology that re- order to know who will hear—namely, who our audience
sponds to the contemporary, how do we bring the world might be, who our collaborator might be, and who our stu-
into our classroom? How do we find our classificatory posi- dent might be. To know our audience would mean claiming
tions in terms of world anthropology? Keeping in mind the the privilege of speaking and that would imply the power
same tropes of testimony and evidence, imagine a classroom and privilege of choice in what we can teach and speak about.
in an American or Northern university (and a few select Apart from the ignominies that market sensitivities and
ones in the “South”), a room full of students from across the dictums from on high have placed on professional and in-
world learning from the comprehensive syllabus on Anthro- stitutional lives, it is not an unimportant concern that we
pology with a capital A (the evidence I mentioned earlier need to question anthropological syllabi, too. We need to
alongside the testimonials from various locations) and then look at their tenets and evidence in the same way we con-
proceeding outward to the world, some returning to their sider the politics and positionings of anthropological knowl-
own territories while others travel far, fitted with appro- edge production. As we consider our discipline’s future, it
priate language training, area-focused research proposals, would seem necessary, if not urgent, to engage with how
and reading lists. All seek to contribute to Anthropology the “world” now presents itself as an ethnographic horizon. I
with a capital A. Meanwhile I, in my classroom, speak to imagine that location will remain salient and that it will need
many, but they are almost always from India. Most will stay, to remain salient. I admit that it is probably my work in af-
study, and work in India, by choice, necessity, or lack of fect, violence, and life that gives me the necessary support to
opportunity and funding to travel outside for training or re- speak of an anthropology of the world. But I suspect that the
search. Do I treat Anthropology with a capital A as evidence language of humanity, technology, money, life, law, ethics,
and provide local knowledges as testimony to Anthropol- suffering, and emotions (to mention just a few) will appear
ogy? Will I be a local hero if I teach Gandhi, incorporate again as concepts that demand a worlding of the anthropol-
the Vedas, or read indigenous or “foreign” anthropologists ogist. The classroom will have to be the significant place
on localized topics in India, pay some selective attention where these internationalizations and worldings take place.
to relatable ethnographies, and turn my back on the theo- They will have to be the located places in, and from which,
rists from the metropoles? In everyday practice, like most to embed the space of the world. At the same time, it will
in similar positions, I combine all of these perspectives but, be important to imagine a “world and worldly” audience of
whichever way I turn, I hear the insistence of Derrida’s words readers and listeners who are not mapped onto essentialized
again, “I do not wish to transform myself into a diaphanous categories.
mouthpiece of eternal pedagogy” (Derrida 1988:4) if that To end this brief reflection, I again emphasize the need to
pedagogy makes an eternal classification of periphery and feel the texture of the anthropological fabric that the relation-
center. ship between world anthropology and world anthropologies
I am drawing attention to the question of pedagogy as weaves and, in that fabric, the need to unravel threads that
one aspect of the tension between world anthropologies and might still be making its pattern. In other words, my intent
World Anthropology 851

in this article is to underscore the theme of the AAA 2015 in learn from as many as possible. Just in India alone, where many
Denver (and that of Minneapolis 2016), where evidence and languages are spoken, I wonder what language I could choose as
testimony do not dictate the negotiations of the strange and a reasonable representation.
familiar—where the relationship of “familiar” to “strange” is
not a slash but a hyphen, not a separation but an ensemble. REFERENCES CITED
Arif, Yasmeen
* * * * * 2015 The Audacity of Method. Economic and Political Weekly
NOTES 50(1):53–61.
1. I note that the official theme of the AAA 2016 Annual Meetings Derrida, Jaques
focuses on “evidence.” Perhaps we can paint a picture of evidence 1988 Otobiographies: The Teaching of Nietzsche and the Pol-
with the colors of my intonations mentioned above, too. I thank itics of the Proper Name. In The Ear of the Other: Otobi-
Emily Metzner for pointing out this potentially fertile connection. ography, Transference, Translation. Christie Macdonald, ed.
2. A small but potent example is when anthropologists outside the Avitell Ronell, trans. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
center are referred to with a qualifier like “Indian,” “Latin Amer- Derrida, Jacques, and Bernard Steigler
ican,” or “African.” 2002 Echographies of Television. Jennifer Bajorek, trans. Pp.
3. The important question of English as the possible lingua franca of 93–94. Cambridge: Polity.
anthropology is a troubling one. The follies of the colonial past are Escobar, Arturo, and Gustavo Lins Ribeiro
many and, while language troubles are some of them, I would still 2006 World Anthropologies: Disciplinary Transformations within
abide by a language that allows me to speak to, listen, read, and Systems of Power. New York: Berg.

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique
of the Mediation Processes


On the Construction of (a) World Anthropology(ies): A View

from Brazil
Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima other projects are in dialogue? Sandra López Varela (2015)
Professor of Ethnology at the National Museum, Federal University quite effectively called attention to the presuppositions and
of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil consequences of internationalization as another key element
of the debate, and it is on her work that I base my discussion
Reflections regarding the role played by the World Coun- of internationalization. The widespread use of the term in
cil of Anthropological Associations (WCAA) in structur- polysemic ways prevents dialogue and promotes a false and
ing an “international circuit” of (national) anthropological homogenized interpretation of this social phenomenon, but
associations seem to me to be opportune and necessary. following López Varela’s reflexive approach has much to
The project of the council is the dissemination of a more offer.
symmetrical and pluralistic view of world anthropologies.
The number of affiliated anthropological associations has A (SPECIFIC) BRAZILIAN PERSPECTIVE
more than doubled during 12 years of the WCAA’s exis- ON (NON)INTERNATIONALIZATION
tence. World anthropologies evidently exist within global I was trained in Brazil, my home country, and have conducted
and local economic, political, cultural, and ideological, as almost all of my research here as well. As a result, I am not
well as institutional, frames that have changed substantially exactly well positioned to act as a mediator between scien-
within this span of time. I situate my views in a Brazilian tific communities, whether Brazilian and US, Brazilian and
perspective, considering aspects of change at the national European, Brazilian and African, or Brazilian and Asian. Like
scale. many other researchers, however, I have long had contacts
If we follow Susana Narotzky’s lead, we should be ad- with colleagues in other countries and, indeed, throughout
dressing the effects of intra-associational power (such as Brazil, which is in and of itself a very diverse place. In the
within the AAA). What sorts of anthropological produc- 1980s, I began studying Brazilian state formation through
tion and anthropologists are found within these associations? indigenist policies and internal processes of colonialism and
Who seeks to have their production recognized as part of the imperialism and examining the role of Brazilian anthropol-
scope of world anthropology(ies)? What sort of globaliza- ogy in nation-building processes (Souza Lima 1991, 2005;
tion is possible and effectively desired (and by whom)? What cf. Peirano 1981, 1991, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2008a, 2008b).
852 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

But my reflections can only be adequately situated if I talk of relationships, and a recurrent presence in the “hegemonic
about my engagement, alongside that of my professors and centers” (in institutions, networks, and journals). Rarely is
colleagues, in the radical critique of the military dictatorship the anthropological production from nonhegemonic centers
that then ruled Brazil and in the struggle to re-democratize incorporated as a contribution to the general anthropolog-
our country (Souza Lima 2004). I am conscious of the fact, ical theoretical corpus (but see Oliveira 2008 for a dense
however, that my work has had little to no impact on the and critical evaluation of this type of approach). More often,
discipline’s international circles for several reasons. and influenced by the remains of the area studies perspec-
Some of these reasons have to do with language and tive, a colonial subfield of anthropology, anthropological
the costs of translation. English is today the world’s “lingua production from nonhegemonic centers is incorporated as
franca,” or the “language of empire.” Brazilian anthropology ethnographic data. In this case, the author presents herself
has never had systematic funding allocated to translation. as the “discoverer” of an intrinsic facet of the social life of
Other reasons involve the costs—in time and resources—of the peoples of a given region of the planet, a facet that is
attending international events. Scholars from abroad often then placed into dialogue with theories developed by other
find they require a sort of academic (re)socialization to be researchers of the same area and that is portrayed as a sin-
recognized within US and European spaces. Indeed, we need gularity that may be generalized. Authors who follow this
to learn the habitus of these spaces as well as the “proper” path in search of recognition in the hegemonic centers are
and “appropriate” forms of self-presentation within them, often stripped of their ethnographic data, making it speak
both orally and textually. with a degree of generality that transforms their theories
Moreover, internationalization was not a priority for me from “native theory” to that of “theory built on natives” (or,
personally. I didn’t systematically seek to establish relation- as is probably more fashionable today, “theory built with
ships with researchers in the United States, Canada, France natives,” although coauthorship is not granted). Without
(a privileged locus for Brazilian academics), or England. My such investments, publications translated into English, an
relationships with researchers from these countries were expensive task, can become obsolete. In these and other
created as a consequence of my research within a broader ways, many Brazilian researchers have managed to situate
framework of internationalization that took place in Brazil as themselves in international research circuits and debates in
part of the financing objectives of postgraduate studies and anthropology and sociology.
research. Thus, as with so many of my generation, inser- Factors related to the hierarchies of legitimacy and
tion in networks of “balanced exchange” with anthropolo- adequate objects of investigation within each national an-
gists of other countries (either intentionally or as a “natural thropological context must also be taken into account.
effect” of certain patterns of interaction) was itself a circum- As a nonhegemonic center, the anthropological field in
stantial effect of how anthropology was being produced in Brazil has often only belatedly recognized and legitimized
Brazil. the work of those Brazilian anthropologists who fled
In the 1980s, it was quite commonplace for those of us from internationally dominant canons. This was the case
situated in the nation’s internal hegemonic centers of learn- even when they were in direct dialogue with the so-
ing (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and later Brası́lia) to be wholly cial groups under investigation and with intellectuals in
trained in Brazil, while colleagues from nonhegemonic in- other countries who also only had their works gain greater
stitutions and regions were generally trained outside the recognition at a later date. In truth, I dare say, few
country. Not all of these foreign-trained anthropologists, Brazilian anthropologists have had their work widely rec-
however, became part of bi- or multinational networks. ognized within the discipline’s mainstream, in spite of inter-
None of us were obliged to do this in Brazil, and there was national relations.
much that needed to be done internally in order to stabilize
anthropology as a field of scientific knowledge in Brazil. No FORMS OF INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS: ONE
matter how much we consumed (and still consume) other KIND OF INTERNATIONALIZATION
anthropologies, particularly the hegemonic anthropologies Brazilian anthropology connected with nonhegemonic an-
of the Global North, we were conscious of the fact that our thropologies on two occasions prior to the creation of the
training in Brazil was comparable in quality to that offered by WCAA. The construction of deep networks of relationships
the centers of the discipline overseas. However, even though between Brazilian and Argentinian anthropologists intensi-
many of Brazil’s foreign-trained anthropologists have repeat- fied when Argentinian researchers migrated to Brazil in the
edly returned to their alma maters, they have generally not 1970s to escape the military dictatorship in their country.
had their own production duly recognized by these institu- They studied in Brazilian institutions of higher education,
tions either, still being perceived as “subaltern” practitioners where they completed undergraduate and graduate degrees
of the discipline. and where some of them subsequently pursued careers. In
A wider and more symmetrical circulation of certain the 1980s, the Post Graduate Program in Social Anthropol-
anthropologists, stretching beyond national boundaries or ogy/National Museum-UFRJ (PPGAS/MN) of Brazil part-
thematic enclaves, has come about only as a result of the nered with the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) to offer
above-mentioned resocialization, the systematic cultivation MA and PhD entrance exams for the Graduate Program
World Anthropology 853

in Social Anthropology/National Museum to undergradu- agencies to assess Brazilian institutions’ levels of interna-
ate students at UBA. This has resulted in a steady stream tionalization. Over the last decade, however, these criteria
of Argentinian researchers moving through the National have changed. The presence of foreign students attending
Museum, a flow that has continued even after the agree- graduate school in Brazil and, especially, publication in for-
ment lapsed. In fact, it has expanded to other institutions. eign language books and journals evaluated by government
In the same period, the Brazilian Anthropological Associ- funding agencies as “international” have become the most
ation (ABA) organized regional anthropology conferences, important indexes those agencies use to qualify a given in-
such as ABA-South that in 1991 became an independent stitution and its programs as "internationalized." In Brazil,
biennial meeting, organized by the anthropological insti- as elsewhere in the world, these criteria have begun to
tutions of the Mercosur countries. The Mercosur Anthro- gain overwhelming importance in the institutional evaluation
pology Meeting (Reunión de Antropologı́a del Mercosur, process.
RAM) held its 11th biannual conference in 2015 in Montev- In the particular case of anthropology, nowadays the
ideo. RAM meetings are spaces for engaging in dialogue and criteria currently used by Brazilian governmental agencies
building relationships that may be strengthened by funding and potential donors as signs of internationalization include
for networked projects undertaken with partner countries. ethnographic research conducted outside Brazil and the es-
Today many Brazilian anthropologists do research through- tablishment of research projects and networks consisting of
out the region—but especially in Argentina. This has en- researchers from at least two different countries. Being able
sured a shared and symmetrical space for anthropological to show this sort of “internationalization” is what leads to
production. getting the highest marks in performance evaluations car-
More recently, Brazilian and Portuguese anthropolo- ried out by government agencies, and this, in turn, results
gists came together under an initiative of João Pacheco de in access to greater resources.
Oliveira, then-president of ABA (1994–1996), who orga- By taking these steps, largely under pressure of Brazil’s
nized, in close dialogue with Cristiana Bastos, a seminar in scientific research funding establishment, and by establish-
Rio de Janeiro that included large numbers of Portuguese ing new relationships of exchange and shared production,
anthropologists. Some of these scholars, such as Miguel Vale Brazilian anthropology has stretched beyond simple partic-
de Almeida and João de Pina-Cabral, would later under- ipation in international meetings and events. It has begun
take research in Brazil. This event was inspired by research to establish denser bi- or multilateral contacts outside of
done by Portuguese anthropologists in Brazil, such as Cris- Brazil. It is in this general scenario that ABA’s presidents
tiana Bastos, and Brazilian anthropologists who researched have participated in the WCAA.
Portugal, such as Bela Feldman-Bianco and Omar Ribeiro
Thomaz.4 The Luso-African-Brazilian Social Science Confer- THE WAN, THE WCAA, AND BEYOND
ences, which began in 1990 in Coimbra, Portugal, actually The World Anthropologies Network (Red de Antropologı́as
preceded this initiative. del Mundo, http://www.ram-wan.net/) has sought to chal-
lenge the hegemonic role played by the former colonial
A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO metropolitan and US anthropologies by fostering a plural-
INTERNATIONALIZATION istic and heteroglossic anthropological scene through coali-
The same year the WCAA was created (2004), during Gus- tion and the exploration of new political-epistemological
tavo Lins Ribeiro’s tenure as head of ABA (2002–2004), possibilities (Ribeiro 2006; Ribeiro and Escobar 2006). This
ABA launched the Virtual Brazilian Anthropology (Vibrant) movement has gained strength through the leadership of
journal. Its explicit purpose was to disseminate Brazilian researchers who are situated outside of the United States
anthropology internationally through translation of Brazil- but who were often trained at doctoral programs in anthro-
ian texts into other languages (mostly into English, Spanish, pology within the United States. A key moment for this
and French). Its effect on Brazilian anthropology greatly movement was the establishment of the World Council of
exceeded that achieved by institutional associations. It was Anthropological Associations during the meeting of the ABA
a great success in its attempt to overcome language barri- in Recife in 2004.
ers and culturalist regionalization, and it enabled inclusive I believe that the movement launched by the World
transnational dialogues and intellectual socialization beyond Anthropologies Network, together with the WCAA, has
Brazil’s borders. The creation of Vibrant also anticipated been very important and has helped lead to the creation of
what governmental funding agencies in Brazil would later the AAA’s Committee on World Anthropologies (CWA).
demand: international connections and publications. This Solidarity among associations and the formation of joint po-
gave Brazilian anthropology a good leg up on much of the sitions regarding questions that have come up in various
rest of our country’s academic scene in an age of increasingly countries have effectively demonstrated that the WCAA
compulsory internationalization.5 has fulfilled its role as a macroinstitution linking national
The training of professors and researchers in hegemonic associations. What it has not done, however, is to cre-
countries and frequent visits by foreign speakers have long ate effective changes in epistemologies or in the balance
been some of the main criteria used by Brazilian government of symbolic power between the anthropological production
854 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

of hegemonic and nonhegemonic members, even within NOTES

its members’ national contexts. If anthropological associa- Acknowledgments. I’d like to thank Susana Narotzky for her in-
tions share a global stage more often today, with researchers vitation to participate in the stimulating roundtable that she organized
and research projects moving with greater ease among na- during the 144th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological
tions and growing transnational interdependence in the pro- Association: “Between World Anthropologies and World Anthro-
duction of anthropology, this is, I believe, mostly due to pology: Toward a Reflexive Critique of the Mediation Processes.” I
mounting global pressures for internationalization. Interna- would also like to thank Bela Feldman for suggesting me as a pos-
tionalization, however, does not necessarily result in a more sible roundtable participant, Monica Heller for the AAA’s support,
equitable distribution of anthropological power. A decade and Carla Fernandez for providing last-minute aid before my presen-
is not enough time for a small group of actors to put in tation. Also, I am extremely grateful to Susana Narotzky, Virginia
place enormous changes (even within the narrow field of Dominguez, and Emily Metzner for their careful and generous read-
anthropology) and, through said changes, to overcome dis- ing and editing of the text, first translated into English by Thaddeus
parities, especially across different national anthropologies Gregory Blanchette.
in their national contexts and in the global division of labor
and power among nations and among anthropologies. Nev- 1. Both Feldman-Bianco and Bastos did their doctorates in the United
ertheless, Gordon Mathews (this issue) has shown us how States. To see some of their shared work from later years, consult
much has already been done. The World Anthropologies Bastos et al. 2002.
roundtable at the 2015 AAA meeting in Denver that spurred 2. Vibrant has been produced with resources ceded by the Brazilian
this series of articles and the World Anthropology section government’s support for scientific journals. Toward the end of
of American Anthropologist in which they appear are clearly 2015, in spite of its unquestionable success and its role in in-
manifestations of these first steps. ternationally disseminating the anthropology produced in Brazil,
Thinking about the situation from a Brazilian perspec- Vibrant had its financing cut due to a supposedly technical prob-
tive, I am under the impression that the WAN began with lem: the journal was not indexed in ISI-Web of Knowledge or in
a strong intellectual drive. As an institutional space within Scopus, a criterion that was waived for other Brazilian journals.
which national associations of anthropology are supposed to Vibrant is currently in the process of being indexed, but the delay
meet to pursue similar objectives, and largely due to its ex- is enormous. What resources are available are very limited, in
pansion from 14 to 49 associations, the WCAA leadership any case, and continued publication of the journal wouldn’t be
has been mostly dealing with operational and institutional possible without the inestimable dedication of its principal edi-
challenges and has been doing so on a voluntary basis, on top tor, Peter Fry (and the no less important fact that he is an English
of demanding academic posts. How to maintain and expand anthropologist living in Brazil since the 1970s), and of Carmen
this critical coalition in the face of a growing crisis of interna- Rial, aside from ABA support and contributions. Through a call
tionalization and lack of resources is a challenge that must be for aid, it received (as in other situations) numerous letters of sup-
met organizationally, theoretically, and epistemologically. port and temporary financial aid from Critique of Anthropology, via
It will be necessary for us to go beyond the standard reflec- the good services of Stephen Nugent. This has been an example of
tions and begin working with common research agendas. the more important aspects of Brazilian anthropology’s recent
We need to engage and integrate students and professionals global interconnectedness, which has deepened with Carmen
from multiple nations in these projects, taking as our cue the Rial’s important participation in publishing WCAA’s quarterly
global ecumenical trend currently being preached by mul- newsletter.
tilateral institutions and international technical cooperation
programs in developing transnational corporations. This has REFERENCES CITED
to be done both in the hegemonic centers of decision making Bastos, Cristiana, Miguel Vale de Almeida, and Bela Feldman-
and in the places where the rubber meets the road, so to Bianco, eds.
speak. This engagement and cooperation should not only 2002 Trânsitos coloniais: Diálogos crı́ticos Luso-Brasileiros [Colo-
take in the selection and investigation of research objects but nial transits: Critical Luso-Brazilian dialogues]. Lisbon: Im-
also involve the intersection of critiques and dialogues with prensa de Ciências Sociais.
activism. López Varela, Sandra L.
Finally, let me say that if ethnography is the main force 2015 Internationalization for Economic Growth: Aspiring to a
for change and theory in our discipline, perhaps these new World-Class Mexican Research and Education Environment.
movements will be important for the development of pluri- American Anthropologist 117(4):768–776.
national and collaborative ethnography. We can see some Oliveira, Luis Roberto Cardoso de
of these mechanisms already functioning in large projects 2008 Dialogical and Power Differences in World Anthropologies.
undertaken with EU financial support and, thus, foresee fu- Vibrant 5(2):268–276.
ture possibilities for these on a more global scale. But for Peirano, Mariza
all this to work out, we must first surmount some of the 1981 The Anthropology of Anthropology: The Brazilian case.
real obstacles to these projects—which always comes back PhD dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Harvard
to financing and sponsorship. University.
World Anthropology 855

1991 The Anthropology of Anthropology: The Brazilian Case. na antropologia [World anthropologies: Toward a new
Série Antropologia 110 [Anthropology Series 110]. Brası́lia: global stage in anthropology]. Revista Brasileira de Ciências
University of Brası́lia. Sociais [Brazilian Journal of Social Sciences] 21(60):147–
1998 When Anthropology Is at Home: The Different Contexts of 185.
a Single Discipline. Annual Review of Anthropology 27:105– Ribeiro, Gustavo Lins, and Arturo Escobar, eds.
129. 2006 World Anthropologies: Disciplinary Transformations within
2004 “In This Context”: The Many Histories of Anthropology. Systems of Power. London: Berg.
Série Antropologia 352 [Anthropology Series 352]. Brası́lia: Souza Lima, Antonio Carlos de
University of Brası́lia. 1991 On Indigenism and Nationality in Brazil. In Nation-States
2005 A Guide to Anthropology in Brazil. Vibrant 2(1):54–87. and Indians in Latin America. Greg Urban and Joel Sherzer,
2008a Brazil: Otherness in Context. In A Companion to Latin eds. Pp. 237–258. Austin: University of Texas Press.
American Anthropology. Deborah A. Poole, ed. Pp. 56–71. 2004 Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples in Brazil: Ethical En-
Malden, MA: Blackwell. gagement and Social Intervention. Practicing Anthropology
2008b Anthropology with No Guilt—A View from Brazil. In 26(3):10–14.
Other People’s Anthropologies: Ethnographic Practice on the 2005 Indigenism in Brazil: The International Migration of State
Margins. Aleksander Bošković, ed. Pp. 186–198. New York: Politics. In Empires, Natives and Nations: Anthropology and
Berghahn. State-Making. Benoı̂t de L’Estoile, Federico Neiburg, and
Ribeiro, Gustavo Lins Lygia Sigaud, eds. Pp. 196–222. Durham: Duke University
2006 Antropologias mundiais: Para um novo cenário global Press.

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique
of the Mediation Processes


Anthropology as Discursive Space

Monica Heller The tension between the two opens up a space for re-
University of Toronto flection. If we can accept that discursive production (in this
case, production of anthropology as a discursive space) is
This collection of articles raises some important questions always going to have to deal with real-world inequalities,
and identifies some important gaps. The questions it raises then perhaps our attention ought to be focused on managing
are at the core of the problematics of world anthropology or those inequalities. We might just have to be content with
anthropologies—and so, I will argue, are the gaps. But let’s the in-between space of struggle. Or, better, we can see
tackle the questions first. building a space to struggle as a positive contribution not
The first question has to do with the tension between only to the decolonization of knowledge and of knowledge
the singular anthropology and the plural anthropologies; this is, production but also to understanding the conditions of in-
indeed, the central point of Susana Narotzky’s introduction. equality that make decolonization necessary both for social
To what extent can we—and should we—be orienting our justice purposes and for the realization of the full potential
efforts to building a discursive field that bridges difference? of the discipline.
Should we instead be trying to find ways of recognizing Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima offers one path in this
forms of knowledge (and modes of knowledge production) direction: pick a research agenda, any research agenda, and
that may well be incommensurable and possibly conflicting? try to make it work. Stop focusing on the institutionalization
The first, as Gordon Mathews poignantly notes, risks turn- of world “anthropology” or “anthropologies” (as important
ing a movement that is meant to decolonize into one that is a step as that has been) and turn it to some substantive
all about gatekeeping. This is, of course, inevitable in any objective—to answering some shared question. See what
effort to define a common frame: someone’s idea of what happens, and struggle with it. Meanwhile, Yasmeen Arif of-
counts as anthropology ends up being institutionalized, as fers two paths. The first is to use teaching as a way to bring
does someone’s idea of what counts as a good way to ex- new voices and positionalities to bear on what we might want
press and debate anthropological knowledge. The second to imagine anthropology could be. Teaching, she argues,
risks depriving us of access to what arguably counts most in allows for the locating within fields of power/knowledge
anthropology: ways of being in the world that most of us had that a good struggle needs to understand and take into ac-
no idea existed or could exist. count. (I think research does that as well, if perhaps slightly
856 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

differently, but that is open for discussion.) Arif’s second of knowledge gets produced as a result. Parenthetically, it
path is understanding the importance of navigating accepted could also be enlightening to take a look from this perspective
social categories critically: it may well be that relations of at transnational anthropological efforts that are currently in
power have created specific social categories as a means place, such as the rather large teams the European Union
of legitimizing who gets to be in the center and who gets tends to favor.
marginalized. As we know, such categories may well be Mathews points to the second gap I want to highlight:
socially constructed, but that doesn’t make them any less the absence of real engagement with what it means to have
socially real. Grappling with how to take their social reality to speak (or write) to each other across the divides of the dis-
into account without reproducing the ideologies that natu- cursive spaces into which we are socialized—some of which
ralize and reify them is yet another space we can enter in get to impose their rules on others. This is, of course, an
order to build a new mode of anthropological knowledge old, old, debate in science, politics, commerce, and cul-
production. ture. We have used, for example, Latin and Sanskrit as
Arif’s point leads to the second question that this set scientific linguae francae. “Vernacular” (read nation-state)
of articles raised for me. Who actually are the interlocu- “languages” (that is, the named and codified forms produced
tors here? Who are the actors with skin in the game? Arif by national elites) challenged them. At the end of the 19th
asks why we blindly reproduce the same divisions as Cold century in Europe, Germany, France, and England competed
War area studies (in which, I note, somehow the United for top spot, while many intellectuals spent time inventing
States always gets to be an area all on its own). Mathews International Auxiliary Languages (like Esperanto) to get
alludes to university job markets; Souza Lima discusses the around that problem (depending how you count, about 500
evaluation mechanisms behind contemporary audit culture such languages are thought to have been proposed in Europe
internationalization and demonstrates out that current forms between 1870 and 1915). Computer languages are another
of institutionalized world anthropologies still use national or such solution.
areal associations. He also shows how Brazil, as a state, shapes English has been characterized as the contemporary lin-
the construction of “Brazilian anthropology”—an anthropol- gua franca of scientific knowledge production, with all the
ogy that turns to the rest of the Portuguese-speaking world attendant debates one might expect about just how equitable
as a way to decenter the field, thereby reinscribing itself in access to it really is. Much of that debate centers around the
even older imperial formations. Clearly, older imperial and power of the native speaker to act, as Mathews says, as a
newer nation-state formations are materially important: our gatekeeper to the sacred realm of publication and conference
associations run along those lines, as do our funding agencies presentation. But we do not need to accept the terms of the
(yes, even the European Union) and our education markets. debate. We concocted the notion of national languages, of
But perhaps it is time to consider what is gained and what mother tongues, and of native speakers—and we can un-
is lost in reproducing them, as well as what might need to concoct them. They belong to the category of things that we
happen so that alternative modes of materially constructing have invented in order to legitimize inequality and to mask
the market can get some purchase. the real reasons why some people (so-called native speakers)
Here I wish to point to two gaps. The first is that all these get to judge the communicative performance of others. Let
articles, it seems to me, are really talking about one subfield us not fall into the trap of reproducing naturalized ideologies
of anthropology: the sociocultural one. This is perhaps not of language. Let’s cut to the chase of what kinds of values
surprising insofar as outside of the United States and Canada, we are actually debating and what kinds of tools we need
that is pretty much what anthropology is. Of course, far be in order to do so without the smokescreen of language as a
it from me to suggest things should be otherwise. Indeed, as naturalized object getting in our way.
a linguistic anthropologist, it actually does me a lot of good Put differently, let’s not confuse language with discur-
to have to engage with sciences du langage in France and the sive space. If I offer that concept as a way to think through the
world it influences; with various philologies in other parts pitfalls and affordances of the idea of world anthropology–
of Europe; or with applied linguistics in Britain and much anthropologies, it is because I think it allows us to both imag-
of Asia and Latin America (to suddenly get all area studies ine what conversations we want to be having with whom and
on you). At the same time, it also does me a lot of good to how the space itself is traversed with relations of power that
engage with archaeology, biological anthropology, and even we need to take into account. We can look at the conditions
sociocultural anthropology. In particular, for the purposes of its existence, the resources that circulate there and across
of our discussion here, some of these are fields with a long its boundaries, we can look at how the boundary works and
tradition of transnational teamwork, with a great deal to say who gets to decide. This is in many ways simply another step
about what it takes to make such teams work and what kinds in the reflexive turn.
World Anthropology 857

Roundtable: Between World Anthropologies and World Anthropology: Toward a Reflexive Critique
of the Mediation Processes


Global Anthropology versus Anthropologies

Junji Koizumi model, the center is not necessarily single either—and,
Secretary-General at the International Union of Anthropological and more importantly, centers and peripheries always exist in
Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), and Osaka University, Japan relation to each other. Many peripheries are also centers
in relation to peripheries surrounding them, although the
The question of anthropology versus anthropologies is essential. existence of a center of centers and the reach of its global
Yasmeen Arif puts it in the context of Jacques Derrida’s power are critical issues we need to focus upon and clarify.
distinction of evidence and testimony. This is enlightening, This succession of center–periphery chains does not uni-
and the notion that “the process of evidence is absolutely laterally proceed from the center of centers in the Global
heterogeneous to that of testimony” is intriguing. Still, we North toward the peripheries. This is clearly shown by
can also argue that, even if “the power to dictate what Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima’s discussion of “Brazil’s in-
Anthropology (with a capital ‘A’) is” is decided by a position ternal hegemonic centers of learning” (Rio de Janeiro, São
of centrality, it also comes from the testimony of those Paulo, and Brası́lia). According to him, scholars in these
who believe in a unified anthropology. Similarly, though centers are wholly trained in Brazil while those in nonhege-
pluralistic “anthropologies” may derive from the testimony monic positions are generally trained outside the country.
of those in a marginal, subaltern, and native position (among Examples of these reverse relations of center and periphery
others), the notion of “anthropologies” may also be based in local and global terms may be found elsewhere, even if the
on the evidence as to the plurality of anthropologies whose opposite is the case in many countries in East Asia (except
existence is undeniable. Anthropologies are anthropologies Japan), where doctoral degrees from one of the preeminent
whether or not there is someone who “swears to tell the universities in the “West” play a major role in positioning a
truth.” scholar in internal academic systems.
Another way to address this issue of anthropology versus This suggests that the world of anthropological knowl-
anthropologies may be to place it in the context of the ques- edge may not be organized in a bipolar dichotomy with
tion of anthropological universalism and particularism, even “center” and “periphery” at its two extremes. Gordon
if it may look less interesting and perhaps almost banal. On Mathews argues that the “West’s relative economic decline”
the one hand, the orientation toward a singular anthropology will lead “gradually and indirectly but inescapably to the
comes in part from a universalistic sense that without an relative decline of Western and US anthropology as well”
integrated notion of anthropology we may eventually lose and that other anthropologies “will increasingly contest US
the base on which world anthropologies get together. The anthropological world hegemony.” I am not sure if this eco-
orientation toward anthropologies, on the other hand, derives nomic determinism holds because, while the economy may
from a particularistic sense that we inevitably underline a provide one of the necessary conditions for academic devel-
hegemonic anthropology at the center of knowledge pro- opment, it is not the only determinant. Mathews goes on
duction if we share a singularized notion of anthropology. to point out that we will increasingly live in a multipolar
The question of anthropology versus anthropologies seems to world of anthropological power and influence with a range
represent this tension between a universalist orientation for of competing anthropological centers. This is probably true,
having a single voice in anthropology, often anti-relativistic and we need to act to make this happen, but just as impor-
and implicitly hegemonic, and a particularist orientation for tant is to think about the nature of such competition and
seeking a more horizontal formation of world anthropolo- concomitant cooperation among diverse anthropologies in
gies, often explicitly counterhegemonic. such a multipolar world.
This opposition of universalism and particularism is At the present stage, a diversity of anthropologies is
related in a complex way to the issue of center and pe- only beginning to come into sight, as the global journal Déjà
riphery, which often comes up in the argument over world Lu of the WCAA, now in its fourth issue, best illustrates.
anthropologies. The notion of center and periphery tends to The journal, even if it is edited and published by only a
be put in a dichotomous frame in regards to the world system handful of colleagues, including Gordon Mathews and Gus-
of knowledge production—the “Western” anthropology tavo Lins Ribeiro, is a potent tool for expanding the scope
at the center and anthropologies of the Global South and of anthropology and bringing ideas, concerns, data, and
other regions at the periphery. Even if the current situation scholars together in a way that previously would not have
is close to this center–periphery (or center–peripheries) been possible due to lack of communication. New lines of
858 American Anthropologist • Vol. 118, No. 4 • December 2016

communication and a stable basis for strengthening anthro- achievement of seeing ourselves amongst others, as a
pological diversity were established by the founding of the local example of the forms human life has locally taken,
WCAA in Recife in 2004. At the same time, the revitaliza- a case among cases, a world among worlds.” If we could
tion of the IUAES that Narotzky mentions started with the begin to see anthropology as “an anthropology among
17th World Congress of the IUAES in Manchester in 2013, anthropologies,” we could escape the dichotomy of a single
and it has been accelerated by subsequent Inter-Congresses global anthropology versus multiple global anthropologies
in Chiba, Japan, in 2014; Bangkok, Thailand, in 2015; and and instead build momentum for global anthropology as
Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2016. The revitalization will surely opposed to global anthropologies. This global anthropology
continue and become more conspicuous through the Inter- would represent something constantly new, born only from
Congress in Ottawa, Canada, in 2017, and the 18th World multiple anthropologies with an orientation toward a world
Congress in Florianópolis, Brazil, in 2018. anthropology—“a global body of knowledge that will engage
Along with these regular events, the IUAES and WCAA, multisited and historically embedded theories in an ongoing
two complementary organizations growing ever closer to conversation that will need to negotiate the power effects of a
each other, agreed to conduct a simultaneous vote among multipolar world,” in Susana Narotzky’s words (this issue). If
their respective memberships on proposals to consolidate we enter into this process, we necessarily enter into debates
their mutual relationship. Ballots were cast this summer, and negotiations. We may encounter contradictions, irrec-
and both memberships approved a proposal for an integrated oncilable differences, and even conflicts, not only among
bicameral organization with IUAES and WCAA chambers. anthropologies but also among anthropologists, but such a
With these vote results, serious talks and intense joint ac- process may provide a way out of the static “cartographic
tivities will inspire further collaboration, leading to a more imaginations that the area studies paradigm spawned,” as Arif
effective, rational, and powerful formation for the world puts it.
anthropologies movement. So far, the IUAES and WCAA A relativist stance toward multiple global anthropolo-
have worked together to organize global conference panels gies with a simple attitude of tolerance or curiosity for
on topics of global interest and to collect and disseminate different anthropologies will not do. Anti-relativism for a
news significant to global anthropology, as well as to support single global anthropology that actually tries to impose a
endangered anthropological programs and beleaguered in- supposedly shared universal value can be more problematic
stitutions, oppose budgetary cuts, protest undue arrest and than present hegemonic anthropology. What we have yet
imprisonment, protect indigenous rights, and so forth. Déjà to obtain is an “anti anti-relativistic” (Geertz 2000) world
Lu delivers anthropological articles throughout the world, anthropology, which would simultaneously embrace diversi-
and a new WCAA project called the Global Survey of An- fying anthropological ideas and practices along with a marked
thropological Practice (GSAP) is gathering rich information propensity for a global anthropology that will always be in
on histories, institutions, problems, and practices of an- the making.
thropologies in individual countries, exposing the reality of
anthropologies in specific settings and positions. REFERENCES CITED
The world anthropologies movement can count these Geertz, Clifford
among its achievements of import. Still, the real debate 1983 Introduction. In Local Knowledge: Further Essays in In-
for world anthropologies has hardly begun. Clifford Geertz terpretive Anthropology. Clifford Geertz, auth. Pp. 3–16.
(1983:16) once wrote in a famous elegant phrase that “to see New York: Basic.
ourselves as others see us can be eye-opening,” and world 2000 Anti Anti-Relativism. In Available Light: Anthropological
anthropologies seem to be largely at this “eye-opening” Reflections on Philosophical Topics. Clifford Geertz, auth.
stage. Geertz went on to describe “the far more difficult Pp. 42–67. Princeton: Princeton University Press.