Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tim Ingold on why anthropology is not ethnography

Radcliffe Brown quoted by Tim Ingold

"‘A pig does not become a hippopotamus … On the other hand a society can and does change its structural type without any breach of continuity.’"

And in his own words...

"THE OBJECTIVE of anthropology, I believe, is to seek a generous, comparative but nevertheless critical understanding of human being and knowing in the one world we all inhabit. The objective of ethnography is to describe the lives of people other than ourselves, with an accuracy and sensitivity honed by detailed observation and prolonged first-hand experience. My thesis is that anthropology and ethnography are endeavours of quite different kinds."



Gordie said...

Can't read the file. I think the security settings might be stopping people.

Dylan said...

Yes youre right, that link does seem to nolonger grant access.

this is a link to the cached file of the article i got from google a minute ago

Dylan said...

ps for your search terms youll find it easier knowing this is Professor Tim Ingold 2007 Radcliffe-Brown Lecture in Social Anthropology at the British Academy

Gordie said...

Thanks, Dylan. I have the cache now. I see he's talking about "idiographic v. nomothetic". Personally, I've always found that a rather 19th century distinction (it comes from Kant) and a throwback to the days when scientists still believed that science would eventually deliver a unified theory of everything, and felt that science was 'better' if it uncovered general laws.

I think it's important that anthropology should be able to make comparisons and connections between societies, but I'm not sure that we have to do that by finding underlying structures, especially since cultural forms mutate and evolve far more readily than biological ones, as Radcliffe Brown acknowledges.