History of the Present
In 1950 don of British anthropology, Evans Pritchard warned that anthropology would have to choose between being history or being nothing. What did he mean by that statement? How prescient was he in charting the direction that anthropology would take in the 21st century? This course explores the changing form and content of historical reflection in the making of anthropology as a discipline, a set of practices, and mode of inquiry. It starts from the notion that anthropological knowledge is always grounded in implicit and explicit assumptions about the ways in which the past can be known, how people differently use their pasts, and what counts in different societies as relevant and debatable history. We will look at how different understandings of the relationship between history, culture and power and the concepts that join them -- habitus, structural violence, cultural debris, imagined community, social memory, genealogy, tradition -- have given shape to critical currents in ethnographic method and social theory. This course is required for MA and PhD students in Anthropology.