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New Left Review I/64, November-December 1970


Jairus Banaji

The Crisis of British Anthropology

Two events have transformed the background of post-war anthropology: the colonial revolution leading to the rise of struggles against imperialism, now on the defensive, and, at a different level, the growth of structural anthropology. The one reflects the other, for the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss is an extended post-mortem on the massive perceptual illusion through which a nascent imperialism brought ‘savages’ into being, freezing them conceptually in their subhuman otherness even as it disrupted their social formations and liquidated them physically. Yet over the last two decades, against this backdrop of displacements, British anthropology has been slowly and steadily disintegrating, its future distracted between disparate sectors of the ‘human’ sciences. This article represents a preliminary and tentative attempt to outline the crisis.

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