The Intradisciplinary Affinities of Postmodern Anthropology Part I. The Consequences of Merging Ethics, Politics and Methodology in 1960s Critical Anthropology

  • Miloš Milenković Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
history of anthropology, intradisciplinary interdisciplinarity, critical anthropology, postmodern anthropology, knowledge politics, anthropology of anthropology


The paper offers an alternative interpretation of the genesis of the literary turn in anthropology, as an "interim solution" in the context of the ideological incorrectness of radical anti-colonial theories in a liberal democracy. Critical anthropology in the 1960s and 1970s drew considerable inspiration from reformational currents in neo-Marxist sociology and social philosophy, arousing ideological opposition among the numerous participants of methodological debates. This opposition would prove crucial for their subsequent modest development. This activistic ideological ballast actually slowed down the development of potent externalist analyses of the social determination of anthropology and academe in general, leaving room for studies of ethnographic writing. Anticipating, in terms of themes and trends, "nonmethodological" solutions to methodological problems, it had a direct effect on the substitution of poetics and contextual reflection for methodological regulation. Thus, paradoxically, extremely externalistically oriented analyses, which attempted to merge ethical, political and methodological debates, reduced the methodological focus of the disciplinary community from issues of research objectivity and the reliability of ethnographic records to issues concerning style and the writing of anthropology. In this context, debates on relativism, realism, representation, authority and reflexivity, typical of 1980s postmodern anthropology, have become a socially acceptable alternative to the critical and neo-Marxist anthropology of Afro-Americans, feminists or of the otherwise oppressed/studied when they in turn become nativistic anthropologists. The "literary turn" in postmodern anthropology is generally interpreted as an externalist critique of traditional ethnographic realism, offering an ethical and political interpretation of reflexivity as per se more correct than traditional positivist ethnography.


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How to Cite
Milenković, Miloš. 2009. “The Intradisciplinary Affinities of Postmodern Anthropology Part I. The Consequences of Merging Ethics, Politics and Methodology in 1960s Critical Anthropology”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 4 (3), 103-15.

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